Using Authentic Assessments in Introduction to Environmental Science at Spelman College

Thursday 2:00pm E Building 220
Oral Session Part of Thursday Oral Session B


Jessica Terrien-Dunn, Spelman College
Aaliyah Beard, Spelman College
Karen Brakke, Spelman College
KatieAnn Skogsberg, Centre College
Introduction to Environmental Science is a required course for Environmental Science and Environmental Studies majors at Spelman College. It is also commonly taken by non-science majors because it fulfills their laboratory science requirement. While the laboratory is a chance for students to complete hands-on activities and calculations, the laboratory activities generally do not focus on allowing students to combine environmental science concepts and their personal interests and experiences. During the spring semester of 2023, authentic assessments were utilized in the lecture sections of Introduction to Environmental Science at Spelman and students chose how they completed the assignment within given guidelines. Authentic assessments are engaging and have relevance to real-world experiences for students (Conrad and Openo, 2008 and references therein). The goals of the authentic assessment assignments in lecture were to enhance learning and allow students to creatively approach environmental concepts in a manner that aligns closely with their interests and/or experiences. For example, students were assigned an artifact assignment to identify how the Three Scientific Principles of Sustainability (Solar Energy, Biodiversity, and Nutrient Cycling) apply to a real-world scenario or location. They were required to represent this scenario using an artifact, which may have been a photo essay, drawing, interview, etc. and, in addition, included a glossary of related terms and an explanation of how each term is applied in the artifact. Initial data suggest students scored higher on exam questions directly related to the authentic assessment assignments. In addition, students were given an adapted Autonomy and Competence in Artifact Development Scale survey developed by Aaron Godlaski (2022) based on the Basic Psychological Needs Satisfaction Scale (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Gagné, 2003) in order to assess their experience with the artifact assignment.