Authentic Assessment in Social Studies, pp. 3 of 3


Assessment should be treated as ongoing and an integral part of the learning cycle. The results should be scrutinized to detect weaknesses in the assessment practices themselves as well as any special learner needs, misconceptions, or misunderstandings. The results of the ongoing analysis should serve to inform future planning and instruction.

A holistic assessment plan should address the full range of goals including attitudes, values, and dispositions along with knowledge and skills. Different assessment tools might be more or less appropriate at different stages of learning (preliminary, formative, summative), however the unit’s assessment components should build toward authentic applications. While this article and the assessment tools provided focus on social studies, the basic underlying principles as well as many of the tools can be easily modified and applied to other content areas.


Currently, teachers are faced with many obligations, responsibilities, new initiatives, and challenges. Many are prompted by changes in the curriculum and emphasis on standards and high stakes testing. The professional literatures, as well as national and international conference agendas extol the use of standards and the importance of accountability. It follows that if a teacher’s assessment plan for students matches curricular goals and is multi-faceted – and if the results are used to inform planning and modify instruction, student performance will be positively affected and thus teacher accountability will no longer be in jeopardy.

I encourage the teachers in Singapore to adopt, adapt, refine, and expand classroom practices that “bring the standards to life” for their students including assessment components that enhance their students’ sense of self-efficacy because they are aware of their academic successes and challenges and rebalance the accountability discourse with teacher and students as equal partners.


  1. Lueck, W.R. (1953). An introduction to teaching (pp. 301-303). New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  2. Newmann, F. (1997). Authentic assessment in social studies: Standards and examples. In G. Phye (Ed.), Handbook of classroom assessment (pp. 359-380). San Diego, California: Academic Press.
  3. Wiggins, A. (1989a). A true test: Toward more authentic and equitable achievement. Phi Delta Kappan, 70, 203-213.
  4. Wiggins, A. (1989b). Teaching to the (authentic) test. Educational Leadership, 46(7), 41-47.
  5. Parker, W. (1991). Reviewing the social studies curriculum. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  6. Brophy, J., Alleman, J., & Halvorsen, A. (2013). Powerful social studies for elementary students. Belmont, California: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
  7. Alleman, J., & Brophy, J. (1997). Elementary social studies: Instruments, activities, and standards. In G. Phye (Ed.), Handbook of classroom assessment, (pp. 344-345). San Diego, California: Academic Press.

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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