Authentic Assessment in the One-Shot

What is authentic assessment and why use it?

Authentic assessment asks students to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate acquired and applied knowledge. This assessment not only measures the correctness of the answer but the application of skill through the student’s thought process. An example in the library setting would have students identify keywords from a topic they are actually going to research. Or, in a similar task, identify key resources to search based on their actual research needs.

 Traditional or objective assessments, such as surveys and pre- and post-tests, are most frequently used in the one-shot setting because they are quick to administer and grade, while authentic assessments are time consuming. However, with accrediting institutions requiring measurable proof of student learning, many institutions are turning to authentic assessment to provide the best information about what students are actually learning and how it relates to the real world (Whitlock, 36). In addition, with any active-learning approach, students are more engaged in the learning process when they see the direct application to their research assignment.


Authentic assessment verses traditional assessment.


 Traditional Assessment

  • Multiple choice
  • Fill-in the blank
  • True or False
  • Matching


Authentic Assessment

  •  Journals
  • Portfolios
  • Inventories
  • Research logs


 Creating Authentic Assessments

  1.  Identify learning outcomes – It’s important to tie the authentic activity’s learning outcomes to the class learning outcomes and ACRL standards. Well-crafted learning outcomes need to be achievable, observable, and measurable. There is much written on creating learning outcomes.


  1. Design authentic task – Whenever creating a learning activity, you it is best to start with “What do I want the students to do?” In authentic assessment, it is best to include “How will students demonstrate their understanding?” Tying these two ideas together with a task that relates to their assignment or the realworld creates an authentic activity. In many cases you can take an existing assignment and make it into an authentic task, such as the keyword activity mentioned above.


  1.  Criteria for assessment – Similar to designing the task, establishing criteria to evaluate the task starts with a similar question: “How will students demonstrate learning?” For research logs, students demonstrate learning by chronologically listing their research process on individually chosen topics, while adding detail as to what resources were searched, what strategy was used, and what results were found.


  1.  Create rubrics for assessment – Rubrics are a preferred scoring tool because they measure specific criteria that can be applied objectively and consistently. As with learning outcomes, it is important to share rubrics with students. Sharing rubrics with students helps them identify the purpose of the activity and what is expected of their performance.


Example of authentic assessment in one-shot settings

A great deal has been written about assessment in the information literacy classroom, with much of the literature focusing on object assessments in course, program or multi-class settings. Very little is published on using authentic (performative) assessment in the information literacy classroom and even fewer articles focus on authentic assessment in the one-shot setting. The best example of using authentic assessment in the one-shot setting is found in the article listed below. I’ve summarized the findings and linked to the library’s assessment guide. The guide includes information on a formalized assessment program with additional authentic assessment activities.


Carter, Toni M., “Use What You Have: Authentic Assessment of In-class Activities,” Reference Services Review 41.1 (2013): 49-61. Auburn University Library is a wonderful example of using authentic assessment in the one-shot setting. Librarians at Auburn first set-out to modify a keyword activity, regularly used in one-shots, into an authentic task that could be assessed for student learning. From this activity, the librarians also discovered what improvements could be made in their own teaching to improve student learning. After this article was published, the library went on to modify and create additional authentic assessments for their information literacy program. That information, along with additional information on their assessment program should we just add a hyperlink to the highlighted information can be found here:



Additional Readings

  • Cahoy, Ellysa Stern, and Robert Schroeder, “Embedding Affective Learning Outcomes in Library Instruction,” Communications in Information Literacy 6, no. 1 (2012): 73-90.
  • Carr, Julie Wallace, and Sarah Hardin, “The Key to Effective Assessment: Writing Measurable Student Learning Outcomes,” Recreational Sports Journal 34, no. 2 (2010): 138-144.
  • Stefl-Mabry, Joette, “Building Rubrics into Powerful Learning Assessment Tools,” Knowledge Quest 32, no. 5 (2004): 21-25.
  • Knight, Lorrie A., “Using Rubrics to Assess Information Literacy,” Reference Services Review 34, no. 1 (2006): 43-55. doi:101108/00907320510631571



  1. Carter, Toni M., “Use What You Have: Authentic Assessment of In-class Activities,” Reference Services Review 41, no. 1 (2013): 49-61.
  2. McCulley, Carol, “Mixing and Matching: Assessing Information Literacy,” Communications in Information Literacy 3, no. 2 (2009): 171-180.
  3. Whitlock, Brandy, and Julie Nanavati, “A Systematic Approach to Performative and Authentic Assessment. Reference Services Review 41, no. 1 (2013): 32-48.

Melissa Bauer
Kent State University, Stark Campus

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