I try to use a combination of traditional and authentic assessment strategies in all of my classes. I have found that students really enjoy and appreciate authentic assessments but seem to “need” traditional assessment in order to feel comfortable in a class. In Introduction to Film, I always incorporate analytical writing and test-taking. It is important that students come out of the class knowing certain terms so that they can speak with authority when moving on to other classes in the department. However, to my mind, the most important skill that I can teach them is how to take their gut response to a film—how they might normally talk about it to a friend—and use appropriate terminology to develop an analytical argument about it, rather than generate a thumbs up or down “review.” To me, this is an important kind of “authentic assessment” in that it teaches them how to turn a feeling or opinion into writing that is more thoughtful and objective. This skill set is useful not just when they write about film but when responding to any situation or art form.
The Visual Assignment in my film noir class is another type of authentic assessment. I believe that this assignment is one of the strengths of the course and students have really enjoyed it when I have taught it in the past. Here I ask students to create their own noir images that are inspired by a hardboiled detective novel by Raymond Chandler (one of the few that hasn’t already been made into a film). Students are asked to not just describe what noir style looks like but actually create it themselves and then write about why they made the creative choices they did. This is excellent practice for students who aspire to do visual work in the future but also for those who don’t. Every young person today uses visual media in some way and the assignment forces them to hone skills that they will use in their personal and professional lives, whether it be composing an Instagram picture or creating a Powerpoint presentation for a business meeting. The assignment is not about how “good” the images are but about facilitating the process of understanding and analyzing images which is integral to the success of any media literacy program.
I am always looking to improve my traditional assessment, specifically my test writing as I am very resistant to testing just for the sake of testing. As previously noted, I think it’s important for students to have a knowledge base when they leave my classes. However, I strive to make my tests as analytical as possible and not about memorizing facts that they will just forget once the semester is over.