Complex Models & Authentic Assessment

Multiple people sitting at table writing in notebooks or computers with coffee on the table

Learning Scenario

One of my passions in research, from my biochemistry degree, is infectious disease and the impact this has on society. I would want to teach this concept to students.

The authentic assessment project would be over the course of the class, but as the class would go on I would present general information on how the diseases worked, general knowledge of the science, to the students.

Authentic Assessment

In this project, I would ask them to predict the impact on their specific society (their school district or university area) from an infectious disease spreading. They would be put into groups and each given one infectious disease (for example, malaria or tuberculosis).

I would ask them to present data that they collected on one part of the subject (could be comparative data they found online for a similar society or predicted data from surveys they carry out). They would need to go into depth about the methods of the specific disease spreading, how they would set up a framework of action to contain its effects and what ways in which they would disseminate or control information about the infectious disease in their society. I would also give the students a list of contacts (local doctors, nurses and scientists who volunteered to assist) that they could ask questions of and who could assist them with the gaining of information about the project – with my overview.

The method of how they would present the information would be up to them and I would provide a generalised rubric for my expectations on content for them to follow. Throughout the stages of the class, they would be given the ability to present to another group of their peers and gain feedback (without my presence). Then they would present to the whole class and me, where we would provide feedback as well.

At the end of the project, when they are at the end and ready to present publicly, I would invite the volunteer local doctors/nurses and scientists to act as a panel. The panel’s assessment of the project would lead to one (or maybe two) projects displayed prominently in the local hospital or scientific facility.

After their full presentation, the final aspect would be to write up a reflection of the project.

This project would allow the students to work on a assessment that is authentic because it:

  • is realistic – based on their local society.
  • requires judgment and innovation – they are required to put together solutions for the potential infection impact.
  • tied to real-world contexts – based on the potential risks they see in the world.
  • needs to use a range of skills – they will need to work with data, presentation, research, collation and communication.
  • requires their ability to justify their solutions – the rubric and panel assessment of the project will not just be on the accuracy of the content but rather their ability to put the solutions together, the questions from the panel will also provide insight into their abilities to justify their work.

The project is ‘Gold Standard PBL (Larmer, Mergendoller, & Boss, 2015)’ by having the aspects of:

  • challenging problem or question – the impact of the specific infectious disease on their society.
  • skills of communication, critical-thinking and collaboration – all required by aspects of the project rubric and working in a group.
  • sustained enquiry – the project takes place over the course of the class.
  • authenticity – based on real-world potential risks and their own local society.
  • student voice & choice – the students can present and gather their information in their own methods of choice.
  • critique & revision – the multiple presentations and feedback would provide the ability to refine.
  • public product – the panel and the presentation of the projects in public spaces provides added motivation.
  • reflection – this provides solidification of their knowledge and the ability to create future goals for learning as well.


Authentic Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from

Larmer, J., Mergendoller, J. R., & Boss, S. (2015, April 21). Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements [Web log post]. Retrieved October 8, 2017, from

Wilbert, M. (2013, April 19). Authentic Assessment in Action. Retrieved October 08, 2017, from