Designing an Authentic Assessment of Elementary Citizenship Competency Through Real-World Democratic Deliberation

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
As education systems increasingly emphasize the development of competency, teachers need support in building their assessment literacy in how to design classroom assessments of competency. Teachers who aim to plan classroom assessment and instruction to support their students as they learn democracy together (Biesta & Lawy, 2006) will not find a cohesive, useful framework operationalizing what the citizenship competencies associated with this learning entail. In this design-based research study, a researcher and teachers designed and administered an authentic assessment (e.g., Gulikers et al., 2004; Koh & Luke, 2009) of citizenship competencies that grade 6 and 7 students may have developed in deliberating together as participants in a real-world public consultation process in their city. Data was collected through student self-assessments, artifacts of the design process, observation, and semi-structured interviews with students, teachers, and city representatives. Thematic analysis identified potential contributions to theory and practice from this first three-stage cycle of design in what will be a multi-cycle design process. The practical significance of this study is in the creation of an exemplar of practice and a graphic organizer, adapted from the conceptual framework, which together provide procedural scaffolding and provocations for discussion to help teachers develop their assessment literacy in designing authentic assessments of competency. Theoretical significance is in some promising contributions to our understanding of how citizenship competency might be operationalized for assessment. Findings included: a) the value of using a situated approach over a generic framework to operationalize what competency might entail in a real-world context b) the ability to prioritize and deliberate as potentially transferable citizenship competencies, c) the value of supportive task framing through graphic organizers and games in supporting young students in their authentic participation as citizens, and d) the capability of students as partners in conversations about the assessment of their competency. A contribution to the problem of practice was made in the design of an exemplar of practice and graphic organizer that are intended to be used as provocations and scaffolding for professional conversations about the design of authentic assessments of competency. Findings described in the exemplar of practice include: a) student reports of fairness and clarity of the assessment, b) the challenge of assessing student learning when socio-emotional dynamics impact student comfort in civic engagement with other students, c) the challenge of using a multi-pronged approach to assessment in a realistically busy classroom and teaching context, and d) the great value of exploring competency requirements in a real-world context before designing assessment and instruction. Recommendations are made to enhance use of authentic assessment strategies in teacher-education and teacher professional learning and to provide significantly more support for teachers in this work. Recommendations for future research include field-testing the exemplar of practice and graphic organizer with Bachelor of Education students, a second iteration of design with a new class in the next phase of the city public consultation process, and a study with a purpose to design an authentic assessment of citizenship competency in a high school context that requires grading.
design-based research, assessment, competency, situated learning, deliberation, citizenship
Waatainen, P. J. (2022). Designing an Authentic Assessment of Elementary Citizenship Competency Through Real-World Democratic Deliberation (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from