M4 – A Marriage between Traditional and Authentic Assessment

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.

5 thoughts on “M4 – A Marriage between Traditional and Authentic Assessment

  1. The visual assignment sounds great and really seems to pull in the ability to assess how well they are grasping the material. I find that with a class of 85, I have to pick assessments that are not going to be overwhelming for me as faculty to grade. But thanks for sharing how you use different types of assessments.

    1. I agree, Imelda. I can’t imagine trying to do an assessment like the Visual Assignment with 85 students! I struggle with time management when grading these types of assignments even when I only have 25 students. I always have to remind myself that they are getting some invaluable skills and the time that I am putting into it is worth it in the long run (or so I like to think!)

  2. Michele, the self-assessment generated with their own development of noir soubds terrific. Art appreciation, evaluation, interpretation, and assessment is performed oftentimes by folks who have not necessarily been in the artists’ shoes. Involving students increating their own project/images gives them the tools to experience first hand, and yes, even think via feeling art, which is a great way for them to never forget the content and the forms. In my theater, film, and performance art course they go through a similar experience, I would love to talk to you about these processes. Thanks for a great posting.

    1. Thanks, Maria. I agree that it is great for students to have an experience that forces them to be creative in some way even if they don’t consider themselves to be particularly talented in that realm. I try to impress upon them that it is all about a mode of thinking, not about the final product being visually perfect.

  3. I love the way in which you smoothly incorporate the authentic and the traditional assessments! To be sure, film lends itself to authentic assessments because the medium and content are so accessible. I fret somewhat about how to make abnormal behavior in real life accessible because we just can’t bring in people who are suffering from anxiety and depression and such and exhibit them before a class. However, it tunrs out that film makers have done this for us with so many of the accurate representations of psychopathology that exist on the screen. I think I will be trying to incorporate many more films into my course requirements and using analyses of them in addition to traditional assessment methods. I think the films will be more formative than summative.

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