1 December 2023

The Role of Authentic Assessment in Preparing Up and Coming Graduates for the Job Industry, 14th CALOHEA National Meeting at Universiti Sains Malaysia

Patitin Lertnaikiat
AUN Programme Officer;

Every year, every month, or even by the day, the job industry is always changing. In the academic landscape, higher education institutions (HEI) must keep up with the changes. Because who are the ones making sure graduates are prepared and ready for the working world? It is the HEIs. Such is why it is absolutely crucial to stay up to date with the demands of the job industry and provide suitable and high quality education, tailored to each student’s career plan and aspiration in life.

Now, the question is “how do we know the right education is being provided?”. The Measuring and Comparing Achievements of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education in Asia (CALOHEA) National Meeting (NM) and Universiti Sains Malaysia on 15 - 16 November 2023 sought to answer this question. During the event, two policy dialogues were conducted regarding the challenges of preparing industry-ready graduates and the potential role of Authentic Assessments. 

The AUN Secretariat would like to take this opportunity to highlight one of the speakers that provided a strong and thought-provoking presentation from the perspective of a policy maker.

Prof. Dr. Zaleha Abdullah Mahdy, Chairperson, Housemanship Education, Malaysian Medical Council:

Dr. Zaleha.JPG

How Authentic Assessment can create the “Future Ready” Curriculum

The role of authentic assessment is an idea that greatly fascinates Dr. Zaleha. It is what should be the target for making sure that programmes being delivered are useful in preparing future graduates for the working world. In this regard,  Dr. Zaleha explained the challenges and opportunities authentic assessment practices could offer. 

Starting with challenges, authentic assessment requires heavy resources, integration and change-oriented adaptation from different university departments. To explain, it is resource intensive as it requires time and experts to be successful. Following that, there also needs to be faculty training and development to ensure standardization and consistency in authentic assessment implementation. Another challenge is a good design with complexity to ensure success of these practices. Lastly, universities also have to investigate and address their internal staff’s potential resistance to change and the strategies of integrating authentic evaluation into existing curricula. 

On the other hand, there are also plenty of opportunities that come with authentic assessment. When the programmes have real-world relevance, universities can ensure that graduates are developing skills that align with the demands of the job industry. Employer recognition and validation is also a tremendous benefit for the careers of the students. There is also room to promote the development of soft skills and to enhance the engagement and motivation of the undergraduates. All of this together, will prepare the students for diverse work environments and for continuous improvement and adaptation in the future.

Next Dr. Zaleha shared some of the good practices of authentic assessments, based on her clinical programme that prepares medical undergraduates for future jobs. In the process of applying authentic assessment practices in HEIs and their programmes, universities should consider the following list of good practices:

  • Apprenticeship and work-based learning
  • Authentic presentations and discussions - cases, topics
  • Authentic role plays or scenarios - non-technical skill simulations
  • Case studies
  • Collaborative projects and team assessments, Interprofessional Education (IPE)
  • Feedback, debriefing, self and peer assessments
  • Portfolios and logbooks
  • Problem-based assessments
  • Reflective assessments
  • Skill-based simulations

While such proposed operational ideas hold a lot of benefits in preparing graduates for the future, there are also challenges along with potential in authentic assessment for student mobility, degree validation, and production of job-ready graduates. As mentioned earlier regarding the complex model of authentic assessment, targeted values should include academic standardization, degree validation, credential transfer and recognition as well as assessment scalability to different programme and student body sizes. 

Contrastly, in terms of its potential,authentic assessment  enables students to be motivated and engaged with the programme, and stimulates them to develop their adaptability and lifelong learning capabilities. It also has the impact of providing global competence and mobility while aligning with clinical needs. Students will also enjoy improved degree validation and portfolio (logbook) development.


In her presentation, Dr. Zaleha also discussed the role and impact of authentic assessment in relations to regional student mobility, degree validation and the assurance of job-ready graduates from ASEAN HEIs. As higher education must adapt to the ever-shifting real-world demands all the time, there are also plenty of opportunities and difficulties in national and higher education contexts related to authentic assessment in the region’s higher education. 

On the opportunity side, technology integration is highly important nowadays in the current generation of online/distance learning, extended reality, and other cases of technology integration. Today, there are also ongoing talks on the potential of cross-border collaborations and IPE. For the students, there will also be more focus on developing soft skills and personalized learning. This will assist in developing graduates that are capable of entrepreneurship and innovation with creative thinking, risk taking, and adaptability.

Indeed, however, the venture is not without difficulties. As aforementioned, Dr. Zaleha stressed that there is always resistance to change. There are resource constraints and technological changes are rapid without pause. Balancing the breadth and depth of the curriculum is also important. Standardized testing and assessment practices across borders also need credential recognition, meaning there must be harmonizing of standards that are being practiced.

In this regard, Dr. Zaleha also shared the following work dimensions and recommendations that governmental agencies can explore in the process of driving internationalization and student mobility forward through authentic assessment:

  • Policy development - in support of internationalization and authentic assessment
  • Funding and grants - for internationalization and mobility
  • Curriculum development - towards cross-cultural competency
  • Faculty training and development - authentic assessment and cross-institution
  • Quality assurance and accreditation - developing international standards
  • Research and knowledge sharing - toward best practices and guidelines
  • International mobility programs - student and staff exchange
  • Technology integration in conducting assessment - eg. online examination

Authentic Assessment in Malaysia & Knowledge Sharing from Housemanship Education

In the context of Malaysia, the practice of authentic assessment has long been integrated in the country’s higher education sector. However, such a concept was not meticulously defined until recently. Dr. Zaleha also presented some of the initiatives already in place in Malaysia with shared good practices in line with authentic assessment. The evolving traits which define authentic assessment include, but not limited to:

  • Shift towards competency-based education
  • Integration of technology in assessment - simulation, online exams
  • Focus on soft skills - communication, critical thinking, creativity
  • Educational innovation and experimentation
  • Teacher professional developmentMobility programmes - yet to restart properly after the pandemic

In relation to the general list of good practices mentioned earlier, Dr. Zaleha noted that the effectiveness of different practices require adaptation to fit with each area, curricula and projects’ context and requirements.As her institution, Housemanship Education, provides supervised practical training, internship and capacity building programmes for medical undergraduates in Malaysia, Dr. Zaleha has been at the forefront of observing how authentic assessment contributes to ensuring future-ready capacity for the students. In this regard, she shared with the participants the challenges her team faced while promoting and integrating the model of authentic assessment in their training programmes, internship and curricula.

The first thing she noted was the difficulty of the students towards meeting the expected outcomes set by the newly implemented model. In this regard, the students do not know what and how they can do to meet such goals. Such creates anxiety and resistance among medical students of her institution’s programmes. For the academics and practitioners behind this change in Horsemanship Education, they were also faced with challenges of negotiating for a suitable authentic assessment method which both aligns with the student and the institution’s readiness, and ensures improved and relevant competency development among the graduates.
In connection to this venture, Dr. Zaleha shared with the meeting some of the concerns arising from her institution’s involvement in authentic assessment. Policy makers and aspiring practitioners of authentic assessment are encouraged to consider the following questions:

  • Do we really have a Future Ready Curriculum?
  • Are we truly training our medical undergraduates to fit the shoes of a houseman?
  • Despite the sophistication of our curriculum documentation, are we severely lacking an important element?
  • Are we actually practicing authentic assessment?
  • Were we better in the past than now?

Final Reflection: Interlinkage between Authentic Assessment with Student Ability and Employability 

Ultimately, when reiterating the maintenance of authentic assessment relevance in higher education, Dr. Zaleha emphasized on how the evolving demands of the 21st-century world and the dynamic nature of the workforce creates the need for new knowledge and skills crucial in the development and implementation of authentic assessment methods. To make sure authentic assessments remain relevant, effective, and aligned with the skills needed; there must be collaboration between educators, industry professionals and experts.
In the end, ASEAN higher education, including both its practitioners and graduates, will benefit from the interlinkage between authentic assessment with student mobility and employability. This is because Authentic Assessment, at its core, is deeply rooted in the idea of providing students with diverse, practical, and real-world learning experiences to acquire transferable skills that are greatly applicable in the dynamic and global job market.

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