Conclusions & Recommendations
The literature base clearly identifies and describes assessment methodologies, previously used and currently in use in higher education, which exhibit attributes and characteristics of authentic assessment as defined. The literature further describes methodologies used in traditional classroom settings which may be portable to online teaching and learning environments and explains why some assessment methodologies used in traditional face-to-face instructional systems are not appropriate for and cannot be easily ported to online learning environments.
Assessment methodologies to be considered for inclusion in the proposed online assessment paradigm met the following criteria:
(a) the methodologies exhibit attributes or characteristics of authentic assessment;
(b) they are found in both the literature and the survey data;
(c) they are rated as effective or extremely effective in measuring learning, engaging the learner, integrating into the learning process, and promoting further learning by the group of instructors participating in the study;
(d) they are appropriate for use in online introductory computer science, information technology, or similar computer applications courses; and
(e) the reasons instructors reported for using these assessment types also exhibit characteristics of authentic assessment.
The study found the following
assessment methodologies that meet these criteria:
(a) projects or assignments submitted electronically, such as spreadsheets, documents, databases presentations, program coding, and other objects;
(b) collaborative testing, in which learners respond individually to questions after group deliberations and teaching one another;
(c) outcome- or performance-based assessment, in which learners are assessed on demonstration of skills or abilities; and
(d) interactive assessment, in which instructors and learners correspond through e-mail or chat sessions.
Clearly objective questions, projects or activities submitted online, and outcome- or performance-based assessments were most favored among this group of instructors who teach introductory computer science, information technology or similar computer applications courses. Objective questions do not fully meet the criteria for authentic assessment, but projects or activities submitted online and outcome- or performance-based assessments are strong authentic assessment methodologies. Interactive assessments also ranked high in use as an online assessment methodology; however, only about half of those instructors who have used this type of assessment felt it was effective.
It is recommended that
to create an online assessment paradigm for an introductory computer science
or information technology course and to meet the authentic assessment criteria
established by Wiggins (1998) and Bridges (1995), these four assessment
types be considered as the most likely candidates:
(a) projects or assignments submitted electronically,
(b) collaborative testing,
(c) outcome- or performance-based assessment, and
(d) interactive assessment.
Other assessment types that received high effectiveness ratings may also be included to provide a balanced authentic assessment paradigm that measures learning, engages the learner, is integrated into the learning process, and promotes further learning.
There remain unanswered questions, the most prominent of which are, “Why do instructors use assessment methodologies that apparently do not meet the criteria for authentic assessment? And Why do instructors not make better use of assessment methodologies that are authentic in nature?” Authentic assessment seems to be the key. Could it be that instructors do not understand the meaning of authentic assessment? How would instructors have to modify their instruction and assessment methods in order to incorporate into their courses authentic assessment that is effective in measuring learning, engages the learner, is integrated into the learning process, and promotes further learning? An underlying question that has evolved from the study is whether instructors must be more diligent with assessment in an online environment than in face-to-face classroom instruction? In addition, does the online environment mitigate the use of different paradigms of assessment, and if so, how will instructors begin to learn of these paradigms and integrate them into their teaching and learning systems?
Colleges and universities must accept the challenge to adopt current effective teaching methodologies, including authentic assessment as an integral part of teaching and learning, in order to meet the educational demands of learners. Faculty must learn to use the four authentic assessment methodologies identified in the study to assess both what learners know and what they can do with their knowledge. It is imperative that colleges and universities institute extensive ongoing programs for faculty and staff development that include current effective teaching and learning strategies.
Further research is recommended to answer these remaining questions in light of recent developments in online learning environments. Clearly additional research is also recommended to identify assessment methodologies which have come into use in online instructional and learning systems within the past year and to fine tune assessment methodologies as higher education institutions become more involved in online teaching and learning.
If the study is replicated, it is recommended that the online survey instrument be redesigned to omit questions related to off-line assessments and the analysis software be reprogrammed not to allow respondents to rate the effectiveness of assessment types and submit comments unless they have first selected the Used button for those assessment types. It is further recommended that more thorough profile data be collected on respondents to provide background for interpreting reasons given for using and judging specific assessment types.
in the New Educational Institution
The findings of this study are being used to develop an online model for authentic assessment in an introductory computer science course. Although all the methodologies rated as effective for measuring learning in the study do not meet the criteria for authentic assessment, modifications and blends of these assessment types will make it possible to form a usable and acceptable model that will evolve over time. Drummond (2000) describes future educational institutions and systems with a holistic view of instruction and learning processes when he states:
Successful educational institutions in the future will of necessity integrate the worlds of education, work, and leisure with leading edge electronic technologies as they become available. The new model for educational activity will be that which is delivered by the institutions and acquired by the students in an anytime, anyplace, on-demand fashion. The educational institution of the future, at the post-secondary level at least, will not be a campus we drive through and view the ivy covered halls of wisdom, but it will be a learning experience we participate in while we drive along the highway, relax at home, work at our desks, fly to distant locations, collaborate with fellow learners, and accomplish all the other tasks required of us to be productive, useful, and educated citizens of the world. It will always be at our fingertips, or at least no more than a click away. (p. 34)
One of the major challenges of this new “at-our-fingertips” learning environment will be how to assess learner achievement in an online course in which learner and instructor seldom or never see each other in face-to-face contact. The assessment must be authentic as defined by Wiggins (1998), Bridges (1995) and others and must be effective in that it measures learning, engages the learner, is integrated into the learning process, and promotes further learning. The assessment paradigm developed as a result of this study will be a step forward.