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Chapter 2: Writing Assessment as Field of Study The field—and study—of writing assessment is part of two disciplines: educational measurement community and composition studies. Share this: Twitter Facebook. The Council of Writing Program Administrators is a national association of college and university faculty with professional interests in directing writing programs.
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Council of Writing Program Administrators Conference. The Council of Writing Program Administrators CWPA is pleased to announce the call for submissions for its award recognizing outstanding scholarship by graduate students writing on issues in writing program administration. Submissions are due January 10, at pm PST. This award recognizes books whose authors or editors have made an outstanding contribution to the field of writing program administration.
My purpose in writing this volume was to look at the various ways in which assessment is currently constructed and to articulate a new identity for writing assessment scholars and scholarship. I chose articulation as the what I wanted to do for assessment in this volume because it describes a kind of attention assessment needs but has never received.
We need to talk about assessment in new ways, to recognize how ubiquitous it is within the process of reading and writing. Since we are constantly making judgments about the texts we read, we need to see how our judgments about texts get articulated into specific assessments or evaluations terms I use interchangeably throughout the volume and how these articulations affect students and the learning environment.
My use of re illustrates that assessment has been articulated already, and that part of my work is to articulate it in new ways. It is not entirely clear to me that assessment has ever been articulated in ways advocated here—ways that support rather than detract from the teaching and learning of writing. I use the parentheses around re to indicate this ambiguity. As is already clear in my discussion of articulation, assessment can be used to mean many things.
I wish I had some definitive idea of how we could define assessment. Of course, we could point to some limited notion of the word as being involved with evaluating the performance or value of a particular event, object, or idea. This limited definition, though, it seems to me, misses the larger impact of our judgments and would not necessarily be focused within the context of school, or more specifically, the teaching of writing.
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It is one thing for me to read a piece of writing and say whether or not I like it. I would contend that the type of classroom, subject, level of instruction, and other contextual factors would further define what impact my statement of value would have on an individual or others interested in that individual. The role I have or my identity in each of these situations also influences how someone might take or respond to my judgment.
I remember my daughter being in third or fourth grade and having me help her with a paper she was writing. It took a little effort for me to actually convince her that she could improve her writing by having someone respond to it and then rewriting. Although she knew what I did for a living, it really carried no weight with her. It was only after she had actually profited from my judgment and advice that she would actually seek it, something I might add that she no longer does.
My role as her father did not automatically identify me as an expert to her. On the other hand, as an instructor in a writing classroom, I am often aware of the great impact my judgment about writing could have on a particular student or the entire class. I also understand that the attention students accord my judgments is not unrelated to my role as the grade-giver in the class.
The idea that we as teachers may often not wish to state a specific judgment leads me to consider that an assessment in the formal sense may be more than just a specific judgment, but rather an articulation of that judgment. The form and the context of the articulation gives us some other ways to think and talk about a new understanding for assessment.
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Certainly, a statement I might make in class about something I value in writing or in a specific text could impact my students thinking or cause them to take up a specific action. For example, Warren Combs and William L.
Writing Assessment Ideas and Rationale
In other words, our statements as teachers in the context of a class can have a great deal of power or influence over students. Grades are probably the best example of this. While grades are but one kind of evaluation we can give students, they tend to carry more weight than other assessment articulations because they are more formal and codified. Grades are part of a larger system of values that have been used to identify or label people. In education, grades are a totalizing evaluative mechanism.
It is common for people to sum up their experiences as students by saying, I was an A or C student. In recent years, it has become common to see bumper stickers that proclaim My son or daughter is an A student at [blank] School, as if this says something inherently good about that child or his or her parents. Moves, then, to articulate our value judgments about student work in different ways illustrate the separation that exists between the judgment s we make and the statement s we can make about those judgments.
These principles also apply to tests about writing that function outside the classroom. In fact, we might argue that assessment outside the classroom is even more formal and more codified than that within the classroom. For example, in placement testing we actually decide for a student where she will be placed for the next fifteen weeks or, perhaps even more importantly, where she will begin her college or university level writing instruction.
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