Authentic assessment and feedback in a masters program
This paper will focus on the use of authentic assessment (Meyers and Nulty 2009) in a post-graduate program, examining graduates' perceptions of assessment and feedback. The aim of the research is to identify whether authentic assessments address the students' need for relevance, one of the key principles of adult learning (Knowles et al. 2006). Anonymous post-graduation surveys allow graduates to give us the benefit of their wisdom as practitioners, an important perspective in evaluating the relevance of assessment tasks. Authentic assessments motivate students because they are seen to be relevant to the students' professional lives rather than something that must only be done to get marks. Their relevance results in a meaningful learning experience (Killen 2007). In the program explored here, we encourage students to identify their own benchmarks of good practice, to selfassess and receive peer as well as lecturer feedback on their performance, to reflect on their learning, relate theory to practice and to develop action plans for improving their knowledge and skills. This promotes their capacity for lifelong learning (Boud 2007) A critical part of assessment for learning is the use of feedback and feedforward, where feedback refers to past performance (McDowall 2008) and feedforward looks at how to enhance future performance (Goldsmith 2010). Examples of authentic tasks in oral, written and online formats will be discussed in the paper. Such examples may be useful in other programs seeking to develop and assess skills and application of knowledge and skills to meet AQF/Teqsa requirements as well as the requirements of external accreditation bodies. 90% of graduates say they use most or all of the skills or knowledge they learn on the course. The most important outcomes for graduates were developing both their coaching and academic skills, exploring a wide range of information sources and exploring topics in depth, helping them reflect, develop their own action plans and grow, and giving them something to use in real life. In order to achieve these outcomes, graduates regarded the following as most important: clear task instructions, meaningful assessment task similar to a real world task, and marking criteria communicated in advance with a shared understanding of what constitutes a HD/D/C/P/F. Graduates regarded it as important for feedback to be constructive, specific, relevant and timely. In addition graduates praised feedback they had received as honest, respectful, insightful and highlighting how they could improve in future. The paper concludes that the use of authentic tasks and of feedforward as well as feedback does indeed enhance the learning experience of post-graduate students.