Lesson 5.4 Open Assessment and Open Badges

Open Assessment/ Authentic Evaluation

Open Assessment, or one may call it authentic assessment, is an important facet of open learning, since it empowers students to be active partners in evaluating their progress and the progress of their peers.

How well do multiple-choice tests really evaluate student understanding and achievement? Many educators believe that there is a more effective assessment alternative. These teachers use testing strategies that do not focus entirely on recalling facts. Instead, they ask students to demonstrate skills and concepts they have learned. This strategy is called authentic assessment.

Authentic assessment aims to evaluate students’ abilities in ‘real-world’ contexts. In other words, students learn how to apply their skills to authentic tasks and projects. Authentic assessment does not encourage rote learning and passive test-taking. Instead, it focuses on students’ analytical skills; ability to integrate what they learn; creativity; ability to work collaboratively; and written and oral expression skills. It values the learning process as much as the finished product. In authentic assessment, students do science experiments, conduct social-science research, write stories and reports, read and interpret literature, and solve math problems that have real-world applications.

Authentic assessment utilises performance samples – that is, learning activities that encourage students to use higher-order thinking skills.

There are five major types of performance samples:

Performance Assessment

Performance assessments test students’ ability to use skills in a variety of authentic contexts. They frequently require students to work collaboratively and to apply skills and concepts to solve complex problems. Short- and long-term tasks include such activities as: writing, revising, and presenting a report to the class, conducting a week-long science experiment and analysing the results, or perhaps working with a team to prepare a position in a classroom debate.

Short Investigations

Many teachers use short investigations to assess how well students have mastered basic concepts and skills. Most short investigations begin with a stimulus, like a math problem, a political cartoon, a map, or an excerpt from a primary source. The teacher may ask students to interpret, describe, calculate, explain, or predict. These investigations may use enhanced multiple-choice questions. Or they may use concept mapping, a technique that assesses how well students understand relationships among concepts.

Open-Response Questions

Open-response questions, like short investigations, present students with a stimulus and ask them to respond. Responses include: a brief written or oral answer, a mathematical solution, a drawing, a diagram, chart, or graph.


A portfolio approach documents learning over time. This long-term perspective accounts for student improvement and teaches students the value of self-assessment, editing, and revision. A student portfolio can include: journal entries and reflective writing, peer reviews, artwork, diagrams, charts, and graphs, group reports, student notes and outlines, rough drafts and polished writing.


Self-assessment requires students to evaluate their own participation, process, and products. Evaluative questions are the basic tools of self-assessment. Students give written or oral responses to questions like: What was the most difficult part of this project for you? What do you think you should do next? If you could do this task again, what would you do differently? What did you learn from this project?

Many teachers find that authentic assessment is most successful when students know what teachers expect. For this reason, teachers should always clearly define standards and expectations. Educators often use rubrics, or established sets of criteria, to assess student work. Because authentic assessment emphasises process and performance, it encourages students to practice critical-thinking skills and to get excited about the things they are learning. You may also want to read Open Assessment’ by Prof. Ulf Ehlers who introduces a number of reflections on Open Assessment that shall help you understand the potential impact of this practice in your daily work


Open Badges

One of the most interesting developments in Open Assessment is the Open Badges project by Mozilla. Through the project, everyone can issue ‘open badges’, which are digital indicators of skills learned inside or outside the classroom. Open Badges contain metadata indicating the badge issuer, the criteria for the badge, and other information, all of which is hard-coded into the image file itself. The technology supports a range of badge types, developed in conjunction with the badge issuer. They can be issued by traditional educational institutions, professional bodies, community learning organisations, after-school programmes, or online initiatives (including MOOCs). You may want to watch An Introduction to Open Badges before conducting learning activity 5.4.