Authentic Assessment in CTE
Dick Jones, Center Specialist
Assessments drive learning! Leaders and teachers know that what gets tested gets taught. Using the authentic assessments in Career and Technical Education (CTE) is critical to achieving essential learning for career readiness and further studies. The primary learning goals for (CTE) are to 1) develop technical skills in a career field and, 2) improve academic foundations that keep student options open to further their education. Assessment practices must address this dual purpose of technical and academic.
High-quality assessments in Career and Technical Education are using the appropriate assessments for the situation. Just as a mechanic uses the right tool for the job, teachers in Career and Technical Education must use the proper assessment to meet the situation needs.
Frequently teachers are influenced by external assessment requirements or grading requirements that often drive teachers toward assessments that are not very authentic and may be inappropriate for instruction. These often become obstacles to deep learning in Career and Technical Education. Teachers must pay attention to academic Regents exams and CTE Technical assessments, but not let those assessments overly dictate effective student learning.
Educators use many different terms under the assessment umbrella name. Often used synonyms are tests, feedback, rating scales, rubrics, grades, and evaluation. All of these are forms of assessment. High-quality instruction and effective learning require many different forms of assessment to influence the learning process. An effective teacher knows the various forms of assessment and the appropriate situations for using those assessments to drive high-quality learning in CTE.
These are five key recommendations for CTE teachers and instructional leaders in providing high-quality assessments.
- Align the level of assessments to the degree of rigor and relevance that you expect of the student. The Rigor/Relevance Framework™ is an excellent tool to reflect on the level of assessments and guide teacher development of new assessments to elevate student learning.
- Readiness requires skills, knowledge, and behavior. Work toward a balanced assessment that measures not only what students know, but what they can do and the behaviors which define good work habits.
- Use effective rubrics to measure performance learning. Skills often cannot be reduced to a numerical grade. Find ways to rate students developing technical skills along a detailed scaled rubric.
- Use grading practices that lead to proficiency. Sometimes averaging grades over the course of the year hold students hostage to early and often poor learning practices. Use a grading system that identifies the highest and current level of technical proficiency.
- Provide feedback for learning with varied and frequent formative assessment. Student growth and improvement require feedback. Use a formal and informal formative assessment to influence continued student improvement.