UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Episode 5: Authentic assessment Part 2 transcript

P: Hi Jan!

J: Hi Peter! What’s up?

P: Well, for this episode, I’d like to talk about another common question I get from instructors, and that’s how they can go about integrating active learning into their courses, which is loosely defined as having students somehow engage with the content of a course, rather than just listening to an instructor talk about it.

J: Oh ya. That’s definitely a good one.

P: Totally. And to help answer it, I also actually want to build from some of what we talked about in our earlier episodes about learning objectives and authentic assessment.

J: Oh ya? What are you thinking?

P: Absolutely. Let’s start with learning objectives, which, as we know, are descriptions of what students will be able to do at the end of a lesson or course. These descriptions also have to be observable and measureable, so instructors know that students are able to actually do them.

J: Yup, that’s right.

P: Right. And for this episode, let’s pretend that we’re working with a learning objective for a wetlands restoration course, so something like “students will be able to explain 7 elements of a successful wetlands restoration project.”

J: That sounds good to me. It’s definitely measureable and observable.

P: Right. And so with that learning objective, instructors can then think about how they’d like to have students go about explaining those elements to others through some kind of active learning exercise; thus completing the objective.

J: That makes total sense. What are some examples of what that could look like?

P: Well, one option could be to have students work in pairs to come up with those 7 elements, create some kind of visual, like a poster or PowerPoint slide, and then have those pairs present their findings to the class.

J: I like that. So not only are instructors able to see that students are able to complete the learning objective, but students are also engaged in an active learning exercise that directly supports that objective.

P: Exactly.

J: Very cool. Do you have any other examples?

P: I do! Instructors could also have students create videos where they explain those elements to a friend or the instructor herself. This could work really well for online courses, too.

J: Good stuff! You also mentioned something about authentic assessment earlier, too. How does relate to active learning?

P: And that’s a key question. In a nutshell, it means using an active learning exercise that can map to what students might encounter in a real-world work situation.

J: Ooh I see! So just thinking about the whole process here, it means using the learning objective for, say, a class meeting, to help guide the active learning exercise that can help students meet that objective. But then making sure the exercise mirrors something students might encounter in the real-world makes it an authentic assessment.

P: Exactly.

J: Got it! What would that look like in this case?

P: I’m glad you asked! With the example from the wetlands restoration course, the instructor could have students pretend their audience is one they might encounter in the field, such as a group of engineers, neighbors, city officials, or anyone else they might actually have to present to one day.

J: I see! So students get practice for what they might encounter in a real job, but in a space where it’s ok to make mistakes and learn from them.

P: Exactly. And it’s entirely possible and okay for instructors to use active learning exercises that don’t directly map to something students will encounter in the field, but making that connection can create some really cool learning experiences for students.

J: I like it!

P: Me too! And that’s about it. If listeners would like to leave suggestions for a future episode, there’s a link to a survey at the bottom of the podcast page.