This two-pronged quantitative, non-experimental design study, conducted at an urban secondary school of 472 students in Los Angeles, California, was designed to gain understanding of the potential impact of interdisciplinary authentic assessment and the manner and complexity with which such tasks push students to think. Since limited research has been conducted around the results of such practices at the secondary school level, this research serves as a pilot study to examine (a) cognitive levels of Bloom's Taxonomy present within four interdisciplinary authentic assessment tasks, following an ongoing professional development intervention and (b) student performance on these assessments of varying cognitive complexity. Panel analysis of objectives from the assessments under study revealed that 94% of objectives measured student understanding beyond knowledge and comprehension levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Sixty two percent of these objectives measured understanding within the top three cognitive levels (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). Middle to upper taxonomy levels were identified most frequently, particularly the application, analysis, and synthesis levels of the taxonomy at 32%, 34%, and 22%, respectively. Student performance did not increase or decrease substantially with cognitive demand; instead, students on average performed near proficiency level (3.0, on 1.0 to 4.0 scaled rubrics) on each cognitive level, indicating that students may be able to meet challenges at varying levels of cognitive demand. From this pilot study, interdisciplinary authentic assessment appears to be an appropriate and necessary challenge for secondary school curricula, particularly with increasing pressure for accountability around standardized test performance. Such assessments should be coupled with traditional assessments to develop multiple levels of understanding. Since issues such as lack of reliability, inconsistency in assessment design and grading, and potential for grading bias remain important challenges with authentic assessment, and since there is little existing expertise in the area of interdisciplinary curriculum development, more collaboration, accessibility, and instruction around such methods in schools should be encouraged. Although challenges with interdisciplinary authentic curricula are many, schools should rethink approaches to assessment and may need policy incentives to do so. Education policy should not limit itself to a focus on traditional testing alone.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Leadership, administration, and policy; Educational evaluation; Educational tests and measurements

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Lund, Christopher A.;