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Lesson 5: Critical reflection assessment

Authentic assessment

Authentic assessment is the model that we recommend for assessing critical reflection. Authentic assessment seeks to determine the skills or knowledge students utilize in problem solving real-life or analogous situations that may not have clear cut or obvious solutions (Ashford-Rowe, Herrington, & Brown, 2014). 

Below is a table outlining the differences between what we might call “traditional” assessment and authentic assessment adapted from a resource created by Indiana University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. 

Traditional assessment Authentic assessment Authenticity traits
Require one “right” answer  Require a high-quality product or performance and justifications for decisions  Correctness is not the only criterion; students must be able to justify their answers
Evaluation techniques are unknown to the student in advance Instructions/questions/purpose must be known to students in advance The tasks and standards for judgment should be known or predictable, rubrics should be provided and explained
Disconnected from real-world contexts and constraints Tied to real-world contexts and constraints, requires the student to engage in realistic scenarios The context and constraints of the task are like those encountered in real-life
Isolates skills and focuses on facts Requires an integration of multiple skills and knowledges The task is multifaceted and complex, even if there is a right answer
Easily scored Involve complex tasks that may not have one right answer Meaningful feedback and process are emphasized over reliable scoring
“One Shot” approach Iterative and build upon each other Students are given opportunity to integrate feedback and improve future performance
Provides a score Provide usable feedback on student’s skills and knowledge The assessment is designed to provide practical experience and improve future performance

Adapted from Indiana University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Authentic Assessment, n.d. 

Assessing critical reflection

In this way, the authentic assessment principles can inform the meaningful assessment of critical reflection. Below are some other characteristics of meaningful critical reflection assessment.   

Critical reflection assessment should be…

Assessment strategies are authentic in that they reflect the work of the disciplines or career field and respect integrity of epistemologies. 

Assessment is a developmental and sustainable process that fosters self-regulated learning, academic integrity, and the ability for students to be lifelong learners. 

Assessment can utilize self-assessment and critical reflection. It can also utilize peer-assessment.

Assessment is a continuous process that is embedded in the culture of the institution, and curriculum (at the program and course-level), as opposed to a course component meant solely to finalize a specific unit of student learning. 

It is supportive of learning as process, provides plenty of practice and feedback, and distributed and integrated; not an isolated performance of student skill/knowledge.

Assessment should include discussion about the assessment process between students and teachers to foster a learning partnership that can evolve based on student learning student feedback. 

Assessment should seek to foster student motivation and confidence by providing for student choice.

There is a balance between summative and formative assessment processes and also some degree of separation between grades and feedback distribution.  

Effective assessment requires a culture shift that moves away from focusing on evaluating student performance in isolation to evaluating student learning as part of a Plan and distribute assessments to provide opportunities to practice application of knowledge and skills and integrate learning, and to allow students to receive feedback on their learning. 

Fair assessment processes are transparent, providing students with clear expectations on what, how and why they are being assessed, and with quality information regarding their progress and status of their learning.

Assessment strategies are aligned with learning outcomes and instructional strategies.

Assessment strategies reflect and respect diversity (equity and inclusion). Assessment strategies should offer an intersectional approach. See additional resources for more information.

Making a rubric

Critical Reflection Rubric for UNIV 401

Created by Dr. Kyla Flanagan, PhD 

Download PDF

Rubric templates

Create your own rubric using the templates provided here.

Download (Word)

Additional resources

Conversations and Reflections on Authentic Assessment

Mount Royal University, Imagining SOTL.

By Dr. Kimberly Grant, PhD, Dr. Lisa Fedoruk, PhD, and Dr. Lorelli Nowell, PhD (2021)

View resource

Equity, diversity and inclusion resources

Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

View resources

Authentic Assessment

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Indiana University

View resource

Lesson checklist

  • Review authentic assessment table  

  • Review critical reflection assessment characteristics  

  • Watch video on creating rubrics for assessing critical reflection  

  • Create your own rubric using templates provided  

  • Check out additional resources 


Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J., & Brown, C. (2014). Establishing the critical elements that determine authentic assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(2), 205–222. 

More lessons

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Lesson 6: Digital critical reflection

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Lesson 1: Why critical reflection?

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Lesson 2: Designing critical reflection assignments