The Student Conference: A Model of Authentic Assessment

Teresa L Larkin


In the global marketplace, the ability to communicate, both orally and in writing, is a skillset demanded by employers. Unfortunately, typical academic exercises that involve written and oral communication are often just that â?¦ academic exercises. To provide a more authentic and robust experience, a student conference activity has been developed for use in a second-level physics course entitled Physics for a New Millennium (PNM) at American University (AU). This activity involves writing a formal research paper using professional guidelines. In addition, students present their research paper during a class event modeled after an actual professional conference. A focus of this paper is to discuss the assessment strategies developed for the conference paper activity. A major goal of the assessment strategies designed for the conference paper and the associated presentation is to better capture (and then assess) what students are actually learning in the course. This paper will provide an overview of the student conference paper activity with emphasis on its value as an alternative assessment tool. To that end, a synopsis of how the conference paper activity has been designed will be shared. This synopsis will begin with a general discussion of assessment, assessment methods, and the â??language of assessment.â? Following this synopsis a model of non-traditional assessment using the student conference paper will be highlighted. Subsequently a description of the course curriculum and the specific structure for the writing activity will be outlined as they relate to the learning outcomes for the course. Shadowing the presentation of the course-specific learning outcomes, a description of the strategies used to uncover student learning will be shared. These strategies provide an opportunity for multiple assessment â??snapshotsâ? to be made throughout various phases of the learning process. To illustrate these snapshots, examples from actual student work will be presented and discussed. The assessment strategies developed for the student conference paper can be used as an alternative, or as a supplement, to more traditional pencil and paper examinations, quizzes, and homework assignments. Whether used as a stand-alone assessment tool or coupled with more traditional measures, the model presented here can provide an enhanced and more authentic way to capture what students are actually learning while the learning is taking place.


Alternative assessment, assessment models, authentic assessment, formative assessment, learning goals and objectives, learning outcomes, student writing, written and oral communication

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International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP) – eISSN: 2192-4880
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