Research Output
Advocating for Change - Enabling Authentic Assessment at Scale
  Background: Authentic assessment aims to connect learning to real-world issues which are meaningful to the learner (Villarroel et al 2018; Gillard-Cook; West 2014; Rule 2007). This paper reports an evidence-based authentic assessment on a Bachelor of Nursing module at Edinburgh Napier University for circa 600 second year nursing students. The module is centred around student-led co-produced real-world drama (Kyle et al. 2023) focusing on (1) human rights, (2) advocacy, (3) safeguarding and (4) interprofessional teamworking.

Rationale: Nurses are called upon to advocate for the needs of others. The purpose of this assessment was to enable the practice of professional advocacy. For their summative assessment, students wrote evidence informed rationale (500 words) supporting an advocacy resource (e.g. leaflet, video, podcast, poster, or social media post) which they created and submitted. The formative assessment consisted of ongoing peer/tutor feedback in flipped classroom tutorials; formative and summative assessment approaches were evaluated via mid and end of module surveys, plus feedback during online weekly module team meetings.

Evaluation: Students found this assessment highly relevant to practice, engaging their personal and professional motivations (Mcarthur 2022; Villarroel et al 2018). Choosing a topic enabled them to enact genuine advocacy, alongside learning how to create innovative resources to facilitate far-reaching communication. Although learners and educators expressed initial discomfort with the unfamiliar - e.g. supporting authentic assessment with large cohorts and managing preferences for the ‘familiar’ and ‘passive’ - this discomfort fostered active formative debate about demonstrating and enacting advocacy and what constitutes authentic assessment in the world of health and social care. The overall pass rate for the module was 87% (n=456/577 submissions) with student satisfaction of 80% on it's first run.

Conclusions: Authentic assessment at scale is possible, effective, and highly meaningful. It enables broader reference beyond the professional world to the wider world, social justice and the public good (Mcarthur 2022). Staff and student perceptions of authenticity may vary; therefore, choice, and ongoing formative debate is important in nurturing the freedom to explore and execute personal learning experiences (Friere, 1970), alongside developing independence and crucially, professional confidence. The success of this assessment approach has led to sharing a student created resource (video) advocating for greater understanding of neurodiversity (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)), at a Scotland-wide event. Learner artefacts are also fed back into subsequent iterations of the module as assessment exemplars, therefore sustaining our unique co-produced (learner, tutor and public) authentic education and assessment approach.

Key References
Friere, P. (1970). Studies in Socialist Pedagogy. Monthly Review Press. New York and London.

Kyle, R. G., Bastow, F., Harper-McDonald, B., Jeram, T., Zahid, Z., Nizamuddin, M., & Mahoney, C. (2023). Effects of student-led drama on nursing students' attitudes to interprofessional working and nursing advocacy: A pre-test post-test educational intervention study. Nurse education today, 123, 105743.

Mcarthur, Jan. (2022). Rethinking authentic assessment: work, well-being, and society. Higher Education. 85. 10.1007/s10734-022-00822-y.

Rule, Audrey. (2006). Editorial: The Components of Authentic Learning. Journal of Authentic Learning. 3.

Villarroel, V, Bloxham, S, Bruna, D, Bruna, C and Herrera-Seda, C (2018) ‘Authentic assessment: Creating a blueprint for course design’, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 43 (5): 840-854. Available at:

  • Type:


  • Date:

    20 June 2024

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Mahoney, C., Bastow, F., & Finnan, G. (2024, June). Advocating for Change - Enabling Authentic Assessment at Scale. Presented at International AHE Conference 2024, Manchester


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