Skip to content

Authentic Assessment (I): What is authentic assessment and why use authentic assessments in your class?

My plan is to have a series of mini blogs to talk about authentic assessment, my Hub Affiliate program.  In this first one, I would introduce what is authentic assessment. I will share a couple of authentic assessments I’ve used in later blogs.  

In introducing authentic assessments, I would first like to share how I arrived at choosing authentic assessments as my Hub Affiliate project. 

Problem-Based Learning vs. Authentic Learning
I worked in industry for about 10 years before I quit my job to become an academic. I recalled that on many occasions when I was still working in industry, no small number of fresh graduates had trouble using what they learned in college to solve real-world problems.  In some cases, some would even “complain” that it was not clear what the tasks (problems) were so that they didn’t know what to do.  This observation seems to persist. Nowadays, one of the most frequently shared points by the guest speakers, who often are also recruiters, is “we want to provide solutions to our customers; toward that, we are looking for talents who are problem solvers.”

I have always believed that the business school’s education is about applications—if you cannot apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to solve a real-world problem, then you didn’t really learn it.  To help students apply their knowledge, I offer opportunities to engage with real-world settings.  This naturally lends me to either problem-based learning (PLB) or authentic learning (AL).  The former refers to a student-centered pedagogy, an instructional method that assumes the centrality of problems to learning wherein students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an authentic problem (Jonassen and Hung 2008).  The latter refers to a wide variety of educational and instructional techniques focused on connecting what students are taught in a classroom to real-world issues/problems, and applications (Education Reform, 2013), including but not limited to project-based learning, simulation-based learning, and etc.

Problem-Based Learning vs. Authentic Learning

Clearly, both PBL and AL share multiple traits such as students centered, real-world problem solving, to name a couple.  Yet AL seems to be broader and as such, I decided to focus on the assessment of AL, i.e., authentic assessment as my Hub Affiliate project.

Authentic Assessment

So what is authentic assessment and how is it different from traditional learning assessments? Authentic assessment is an assessment that has “…engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kind of problems faced byprofessionals in the field.” (Wiggins 1993, p.223).   More specifically, if we compare an authentic assessment vis-a-vis a traditional assessment, we can see how they differ on each of the five dimensions below.

Traditional vs. Authentic Assessments on Five Dimensions

In my next couple of blogs, I will share some of my “authentic” assessment assignments, and how I characterize each of them on the five aforementioned dimensions.


Authentic Learning. 2013. Education Reform. Last retrieved: July 26, 2021.

Jonassen, D. H. , & Hung, W. (2008). All Problems are Not Equal: Implications for Problem-Based Learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 2(2).
Available at:

Wiggins, G. P. (1993). Assessing student performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Extended Reading

Link to Authentic Assessment (II): Create Your Own Problem Set – a Combination of Group and Individual Assignment

Link to Authentic Assessment (III): Teaching with off-the-shelf Board Game(s)

%d bloggers like this: