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Guide to College Writing Assessment

Guide to College Writing Assessment

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Guide to College Writing Assessment
    Book Description:

    While most English professionals feel comfortable with language and literacy theories, assessment theories seem more alien. English professionals often don't have a clear understanding of the key concepts in educational measurement, such as validity and reliability, nor do they understand the statistical formulas associated with psychometrics. But understanding assessment theory-and applying it-by those who are not psychometricians is critical in developing useful, ethical assessments in college writing programs, and in interpreting and using assessment results. A Guide to College Writing Assessment is designed as an introduction and source book for WPAs, department chairs, teachers, and administrators. Always cognizant of the critical components of particular teaching contexts, O'Neill, Moore, and Huot have written sophisticated but accessible chapters on the history, theory, application and background of writing assessment, and they offer a dozen appendices of practical samples and models for a range of common assessment needs. Because there are numerous resources available to assist faculty in assessing the writing of individual students in particular classrooms, A Guide to College Writing Assessment focuses on approaches to the kinds of assessment that typically happen outside of individual classrooms: placement evaluation, exit examination, programmatic assessment, and faculty evaluation. Most of all, the argument of this book is that creating the conditions for meaningful college writing assessment hinges not only on understanding the history and theories informing assessment practice, but also on composition programs availing themselves of the full range of available assessment practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-733-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 INTRODUCTION: Embracing the Power of Assessment
    (pp. 1-13)

    This question, asked in an e-mail from a dean at a liberal arts college to the composition director, illustrates just how central writing and writing assessment have become to discussions about institutional assessment goals and practices that are occurring at colleges and universities across the country (and around the globe). When considered within a historical context, the contemporary embrace of writing as a means for evaluating learning outside of the composition classroom is not surprising. Writing, after all, has been linked to large-scale assessment ever since college entrance examinations evolved from oral tests of literacy abilities to written ones (Brereton...

    (pp. 14-34)

    Although many writing administrators and teachers are resistant to it, assessment is a powerful force—whether positive or negative—in the classroom and beyond it. Because assessment can have deleterious effects on curriculum, teacher agency, and student learning, it is important for writing teachers and WPAs not only to be well informed about the nuts and bolts of writing assessment practices but also to understand the social, technical, and historical forces that shape current writing assessment theory and practice.

    Understanding writing assessment and harnessing its power to improve teaching and learning requires understanding its history. The notion of writing assessment...

    (pp. 35-58)

    Theory and practice have had an uneasy relationship in college writing assessment (much like the relationship between theory and practice in teaching). Writing assessment scholars, such as Brian Huot (2002) Pamela Moss (1998), Bob Broad (2003), and more recently, Patricia Lynne (2004), have agreed that the emphasis in assessment is on practice without adequate attention to theory. Yet, as James Zebroski (1994) and others have explained, theory supports and informs practice whether or not that theory is articulated, whether or not practitioners understand the theory. In writing assessment, practitioners need to understand multiple layers of theories—theories about language, learning,...

    (pp. 59-79)

    As scholars interested in writing, we are used to thinking about context. Contemporary theories of interpretation require that, in our analyses of texts, we consider not only what the text says but how its meaning gets “made.” We examine both the local textual context—the particular genre, use of genre-appropriate conventions, how words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters work together to create an integrated whole—as well as the larger social contexts influencing the ways texts are written, distributed, and read. Likewise, when we examine writing or reading behaviors, we consider not just the behaviors themselves but the contextual factors that...

    (pp. 80-93)

    Placement is one of the most common reasons WPAs and writing teachers become involved in writing assessment outside the classroom. Many writing programs offer more than one starting point for students to satisfy the written communication requirement (or its equivalent) for their undergraduate degrees. Having multiple courses requires a selection process so students receive appropriate instruction. As we have noted throughout the volume, a fundamental practice of using information from writing assessment in a principled and valid way is to document that the decision(s) based on test data have positive educational benefits for individual students. This documentation of a use...

    (pp. 94-108)

    In this chapter, we discuss how to design appropriate assessments for evaluating writing proficiency. Like placement, discussed in the previous chapter, this type of assessment evaluates the performance of individual students beyond the classroom. Proficiency testing can be done for a variety of purposes—for example, exit from developmental or first-year composition courses, certification for writing in the major, graduation, or exemption from required writing courses. Sometimes a proficiency exam is tied to a specific writing course—such as a portfolio produced in a developmental writing course that is assessed beyond the individual course instructor to determine students’ readiness for...

    (pp. 109-136)

    Program assessment differs from other types of writing assessments because the focus is not on individual student performance but on collective achievement. So while a program assessment might include evaluation of student writing as a data-gathering method, it requires that the writing be considered in terms of what it says about student learning generally and how that learning is supported by curricula, instruction, and instructional materials. Also, though program assessment often incorporates information from one-time, episodic tests of student learning, it is most usefully viewed as a long-term enterprise, extending far beyond any one student’s first-year composition experience or any...

    (pp. 137-156)

    Evaluation of faculty is not usually considered part of the domain of writing assessment because its purpose is to assess teachers’ effectiveness, not students’ writing or writing programs. Yet, the faculty deliver the writing curriculum, conduct classroom evaluation and—within the framework we present in this book—participate in writing assessments beyond the classroom (e.g., placement testing, program review, or exit testing). Faculty are arguably the most significant factor in a program’s effectiveness and in students’ learning; therefore, a robust system for evaluating teachers and teaching is critical to an effective writing program and in assessing a program. We are...

  9. APPENDIX A: Timeline: Contextualizing Key Events in the History of Writing Assessment
    (pp. 157-160)
  10. APPENDIX B: Writing Assessment: A Position Statement, the Conference on College Composition and Communication Committee on Assessment
    (pp. 161-168)
  11. APPENDIX C: Sample Scoring Rubrics
    (pp. 169-173)
  12. APPENDIX D: Sample Classroom Observation Form
    (pp. 174-176)
  13. APPENDIX E: Sample Outcome-Based Student Survey
    (pp. 177-179)
  14. APPENDIX F: Sample Teaching Portfolio Table of Contents
    (pp. 180-180)
  15. APPENDIX G: Sample Course Portfolio Directions
    (pp. 181-183)
  16. APPENDIX H: Sample Course Portfolio Reading Guidelines
    (pp. 184-185)
  17. APPENDIX I: Getting Started Guide for Program Assessment
    (pp. 186-187)
  18. APPENDIX J: Sample Program Assessment Surveys
    (pp. 188-190)
  19. APPENDIX K: Sample Student Focus Group Outline
    (pp. 191-192)
  20. APPENDIX L: Selective Annotated Bibliography of Additional Readings
    (pp. 193-196)