Assessing and Responding to Student Writing

Mar 10 2010

Assessing and Responding to Student Writing

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Principles of Effective Writing Assessment

The National Council of Teachers of English and the Council of Writing Program Administrators advocate that “effective, meaningful, and responsible writing assessment” should:

  • Place priority on the improvement of teaching and learning,
  • Demonstrate that students communicate effectively,
  • Provide the foundation for data-driven, or evidence-based, decision making,
  • Be informed by current scholarship and research in assessment,
  • Recognize diversity in language,
  • Positively impact pedagogy and curriculum,
  • Use multiple measures and engage multiple perspectives to make decisions that improve teaching and learning,
  • Include appropriate input from and information and feedback for students,
  • Be based on continuous conversations with as many stakeholders as possible,
  • Encourage and expect teachers to be trusted, knowledgeable, and communicative, and
  • Articulate and communicate clearly its values and expectations to all stakeholders.

Excerpted from NCTE-WPA White Paper on Writing Assessment in Colleges and Universities

These principles apply to both program and classroom contexts. Further, NCTE and CWPA emphasize that assessment should be appropriate, fair, and valid. In other words, the assessment should fit the context and the decisions that its results will guide. It should be fair to all assessed groups, and if assessments impact individuals (i.e., impact a grade, a graduation requirement, etc.), the expectations and purposes should be clearly articulated in advance. Finally, the assessment instrument should measure what it purports to measure.

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments, as part of the learning process, help both students and faculty determine what adjustments need to be made to facilitate student achievement of learning goals and course objectives. Formative assessments are most effective when they involve students. Students can participate in formative assessment through:

  • Goal setting
  • Self and peer assessment
  • Student record keeping
  • Reflection

“Responding to writing does not begin when you start to read student essays; it starts much earlier, at the point when the assignment is made.”
(Edward M. White, Assigning, Responding, Evaluating, p. 126)

What formative assessment strategies do you use in ENG 110? At what points in the writing process do you offer formative assessment?

Summative Assessment

Summative assessments gauge, at a particular point in time, students’ learning in relation to course objectives. Our project grades, course grades, and program assessment all can function as forms of summative assessment.

“Teachers’ comments can take students’ attention away from their own purposes in writing a particular text and focus that attention on the teachers’ purposes in commenting.”

Nancy Sommers, “Responding to Student Writing,” p. 148

How well do your summative assessments correspond with the course objectives? What strategies do you use to keep summative feedback focused on a project’s learning goals? On a student’s learning goals? When summative assessments also can function as formative assessments (as with project grades given early- to mid-semester), how do you draw students’ attention to the ways your feedback can inform their future writing?

Formative and Summative Assessment – Balancing both in ENG 110

Writing classes should balance both formative and summative assessments, and formative assessments should occur early enough to allow adjustments to the learning process.

What strategies do you use to manage the paper load associated with facilitating both formative and summative assessment?

Consistency Across Sections/Instructors

To enhance our program assessment, it’s valuable for faculty to routinely discuss how they would score sample papers. These conversations and exercises help us increase consistency in our assessment across sections and instructors. They also give us an opportunity to discuss the learning outcomes associated with our shared ENG 110 course objectives and the General Studies goals that our course supports. Furthermore, these discussions often prompt us to share how we support students’ development towards meeting the learning outcomes in our individual sections of ENG 110.

To facilitate today’s conversation, you received a copy of an ENG 110 assignment (that includes an information literacy component), a sample paper, copies of the program’s direct assessment rubrics, and a scoring rubric. Please take a few minutes to read and score the paper.

What characteristics of the student paper informed your scoring? Where your scores similar to those of others scoring the same paper? Through discussion, were you able to come to consensus?

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