Silouette of a man standing by the sea creating large soap bubbles using two long sticks

Creative and Authentic Learning Assessment Infused with a Dose of Fun

by Dr. Jeni Henrickson, DLINQ Instructional Designer

Two of the many challenges educators faced this past year were how to creatively and authentically assess learning in online spaces, and how to infuse joy and fun in learning during a period of high stress and uncertainty. At OLC this year, I sought out sessions that tried to address these challenges. Three sessions that stood out and that shared real-world practices and examples of student learning in action were:

  • Stories from the Herald & Guardian: Utilizing Simulations, Role-Playing, Storytelling, and Games in Teaching, presented by Keegan Long-Wheeler and Adam Croom, University of Oklahoma. In this session, the presenters shared many examples of using simulations and games in the classroom, including an entrepreneurship project in an undergraduate course where students used a simulated online environment to compete in the development of a business of their choosing. The presenters also shared examples of students designing their own games as a learning activity.
  • Combine Creativity and Open Pedagogy for an Engaging Student Experience, presented by Melody Buckner, University of Arizona. In this session, the presenter shared the authentic assessment she uses in a course on promoting diversity, in which students developed a proposal and research question, conducted a video interview, crafted a cultural snapshot, created an annotated bibliography and presentation, peer reviewed each other’s work, and ultimately, used Pressbooks to share a publicly accessible publication of their work.
  • 360 Degrees of Learning: Using Immersive Virtual Learning Technologies and Approaches, presented by Elisabeth McGee and a team from the University of St. Augustine. In this session, the presenters shared how they used 360° technology and interactive “choose your own pathway” platforms to create experiences that immersed students in authentic learning environments such as hospitals, educational settings, homes, and workspaces. The examples they showcased required a high degree of technical knowledge and time to set up (students, however, were able to engage with most of the activities without a high degree of technical knowledge).

Some of the takeaways from these sessions that I think can be applied to many courses across disciplines include:

  • Authentic assessment allows learners to build real-world connections in ways that can be both personally meaningful and fun.
  • Allowing students to maintain some degree of choice in their assessments promotes greater engagement and enthusiasm for learning.
  • Scaffolding students through a big assessment or project helps students gain confidence and develop stronger outcomes. For example, breaking up a project into smaller chunks that the instructor and/or student peers can review and provide feedback on over a period of time before the student submits the final project.
  • Teaching the process of creating something, and allowing students the space and time to explore that process, can be extremely valuable.
  • Building in self-assessment opportunities is a key component to authentic assessment.
  • Though technology can streamline processes and enhance creative endeavors, there are low-tech ways to approach authentic assessment as well, including drawing and writing using a pencil and paper. Students can capture photos of those drawings/writings and share them online, if needed.