Authentic assessment is evaluation of students’ ability to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills. Unlike forced choice methods such as multiple choice, fill in the blank, and matching, authentic assessments include tasks in which students must compare, evaluate and demonstrate their knowledge in context. While authentic assessment advocates strong content knowledge, the emphasis is on using the knowledge and understanding transferable skills that will enable students to solve problems “that are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field" (Grant Wiggins, Assessing Student Performance. 1993).
The DBQ Project promotes strong writing and thinking about history. Our DBQs require students to evaluate primary and secondary sources, to analyze and evaluate their importance and to take a position and defend a point of view of their own. As part of the process, students learn vocabulary and gain strong content knowledge about history as they collaborate with peers, explore ideas verbally, and ultimately analyze and write an evidence-based analytical essay. These skills resemble what professional historians do, but perhaps more importantly, they provide the skills of a thoughtful citizenry capable of using factual data to formulate and defend ideas. Our rubric helps teachers evaluate students’ ability to analyze documents, to categorize them into broad categories and to write a clear, evidence-based essay.