Can assessment be authentic if you ‘don’t believe in learning outcomes’?

Showcase Presenter: Susan Shaw

For many years the AUT commitment to ‘standards-based’ assessment distinguished it among higher education institutions. Our vision was that quality learning outcomes, learning opportunities and assessment events would be aligned to provide relevant and meaningful learning experiences and continually refined through a reflexive design process. The learning outcomes themselves can be seen as a contractual relationship between learners and teachers that evolve to reflect the content and context in which students learn, interact and are ultimately employed. The outcomes should also inform educational design and practice, enabling them to be authentically assessed. Despite this philosophical approach and intention views that learning outcomes are irrelevant bureaucratic statements unrelated to assessment remain to some degree. This showcase is part of a wider project to develop a holistic appreciation of educational practice, in which learning outcomes and assessments are seen as design features that evolve to facilitate learning. The analysis of a large dataset tracking the development of learning outcomes and assessments, and the rationale for changes, across a Faculty over several years provides insights into how constructive alignment is enacted. The findings provide a conversational catalyst for sharing strategies and developing a vocabulary to encourage authentic approaches to assessment in the context of reflective curriculum design. 

Attendees at this showcase will engage in an interactive experience of snapshots that illustrate the alignment between learning outcomes and assessments. Key questions about authenticity arising from these snapshots will be posed as catalysts for brief, focussed discussions. Attendees should gain tools in the form of strategies and vocabulary for facilitating conversations with educators about constructive alignment and its contribution to authentic assessment. 

Susan Shaw is the Associate Dean (Academic) of Health and Environmental Sciences at AUT, with responsibility for educational practice (curriculum design, teaching practice, and student learning experience). Her team has developed innovative tools for tracking the evolution of curricula and managing large data sets relating to student success and progression.