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Writing Assessment: A Position Statement
Conference on College Composition and Communication November 2006 (revised March 2009, reaffirmed November 2014, revised April 2022)
Writing assessment can be used for a variety of purposes, both inside the classroom and outside: supporting student learning, assigning a grade, placing students in appropriate courses, allowing them to exit a course or sequence of courses, certifying proficiency, and evaluating programs. Given the high-stakes nature of many of these assessment purposes, it is crucial that assessment practices be guided by sound principles that are fair and just and specific to the people for whom and the context and purposes for which they are designed. This position statement aims to provide that guidance for writing teachers and administrators across institutional types and missions.
We encourage faculty, administrators, students, community members, and other stakeholders to reflect on the ways the principles, considerations, and practices articulated in this document are present in their current assessment methods and to consider revising and rethinking their practices to ensure that inclusion and language diversity, teaching and learning, and ethical labor practices inform every level of writing assessment.
Foundational Principles of Writing Assessment
This position statement identifies six principles that form the ethical foundation of writing assessment.
- Writing assessments are important means for guiding teaching and learning. Writing assessments—and assignments to which they correlate—should be designed and implemented in pursuit of clearly articulated learning goals.
- The methods and criteria used to assess writing shape student perceptions of writing and of themselves as writers.
- Assessment practices should be solidly grounded in the latest research on learning, literacies, language, writing, equitable pedagogy, and ethical assessment.
- Writing is by definition social. In turn, assessing writing is social. Teaching writing and learning to write entail exploring a range of purposes, audiences, social and cultural contexts and positions, and mediums.
- Writers approach their writing with different attitudes, experiences, and language practices. Writers deserve the opportunity to think through and respond to numerous rhetorical situations that allow them to incorporate their knowledges, to explore the perspectives of others, and to set goals for their writing and their ongoing development as writers.
- Writing and writing assessment are labor-intensive practices. Labor conditions and outcomes must be designed and implemented in pursuit of both the short-term and long-term health and welfare of all participants.
Considerations for Designing Writing Assessments
Based on the six foundational principles detailed in the previous section, this section enumerates key considerations that follow from these principles for the design, interpretation, and implementation of writing assessments, whether formative or summative or at the classroom or programmatic level.
Considerations for Inclusion and Language Diversity
- Best assessment practice is contextual. It is designed and implemented to address the learning needs of a full range of students in the local context, and involves methods and criteria that are locally developed, deriving from the particular context and purposes for the writing being assessed. (1, 2)
- Best assessment practice requires that learning goals, assessment methods, and criteria for success be equitable, accessible, and appropriate for each student in the local context . To meet this requirement, assessments are informed by research focused on the ways assignments and varied forms of assessment affect diverse student groups. (3)
- Best assessment practice recognizes that mastery is not necessarily an indicator of excellence . It provides opportunities for students to demonstrate their strengths in writing, displaying the strategies or skills taught in the relevant environment. Successful summative and formative assessment empowers students to make informed decisions about how to meet their goals as writers. (4, 5)
- Best assessment practice respects language as complicated and diverse and acknowledges that as purposes vary, criteria will as well. Best assessment practices provide multiple paths to success, accounting for a range of diverse language users, and do not arbitrarily or systematically punish linguistic differences. (3, 4, 5)
Considerations for Learning and Teaching
- Best assessment practice engages students in contextualized, meaningful writing. Strong assessments strive to set up writing tasks and situations that identify purposes that are appropriate to, and that appeal to, the particular students being assessed. (4, 5)
- Best assessment practice clearly communicates what is valued and expected of writing practices. It focuses on measuring specific outcomes defined within the program or course. Values, purposes, and learning goals should drive assessment, not the reverse. (1, 6)
- Best assessment practice relies on new developments to shape assessment methods that prioritize student learning. Best assessment practice evolves. Revisiting and revising assessment practices should be considered periodically, as research in the field develops and evolves, and/or as the assessment needs or circumstances change. (3)
- Best assessment practice engages students in the assessment process, contextualizing the method and purpose of the assessment for students and all other stakeholders. Where possible, these practices invite students to help develop assessment strategies, both formative and summative. Best assessment practice understands that students need multiple opportunities to provide feedback to and receive feedback from other learners. (2, 4, 5)
- Best assessment practice helps students learn to examine and evaluate their own writing and how it functions and moves outside of specifically defined writing courses. These practices help students set individualized goals and encourage critical reflection by student writers on their own writing processes and performances. (4, 5)
- Best assessment practice generates data which is shared with faculty and administrators in the program so that assessment results may be used to make changes in practice. These practices make use of assessment data to provide opportunities for reflection, professional development, and for the exchange of information about student performance and institutional or programmatic expectations. (1, 6)
Considerations for Labor
- Best assessment practice is undertaken in response to local goals and the local community of educators who guide the design and implementation of the assessment process. These practices actively seek feedback on assessment design and from the full range of faculty who will be impacted by or involved with the assessment process. Best assessment practice values individual writing programs, institutions, or consortiums as communities of interpreters whose knowledge of context and purpose is integral to assessment. (1, 6)
- Best assessment practice acknowledges how labor practices determine assessment implementation. It acknowledges the ways teachers’ institutional labor practices vary widely and responds to local labor demands that set realistic and humane expectations for equitable summative and formative feedback. (4, 6)
- Best assessment practice acknowledges the labor of research and the ways local conditions affect opportunities for staying abreast of the field. In these practices, opportunities for professional development based on assessment data are made accessible and meaningful to the full range of faculty teaching in the local context. (3)
- Best assessment practice uses multiple measures to ensure successful formative and summative assessment appropriate to program expectation and considers competing tensions such as teaching load, class size, and programmatic learning outcomes when determining those measures. (2, 6)
- Best assessment practice provides faculty with financial, technical, and practical support in implementing comprehensive assessment measures and acknowledges the ways local contexts influence assessment decisions. (5, 6)
Contexts for Writing Assessment
Ethical assessment at all levels and in all settings is context specific and labor intensive. Participants working toward an ethical culture of assessment must critically consider the condi tions of labor, as well as expectations for class size, participation in programmatic assessment (especially for contingent faculty members), and professional development related to assessment. In addition, these activities and expectations should inform all discussions of workload for assessment participants to ensure that the labor of assessment is appropriately recognized and, where appropriate, compensated.
Ethical assessment does not only consider the immediate practice of faculty engaging in classroom, programmatic, or institutional assessment, but it also builds on the assessment practices students have experienced in the past. Ethical assessment considers how it will coincide with other assessment practices students encounter at our institutions and keeps in sight the assessment experiences students are likely to experience in the future. A deliberately designed culture of assessment aligns classroom learning goals with larger programmatic and institutional learning goals and aligns assessment practices accordingly. It involves teachers, administrators, students, and community stakeholders designing assessments grounded in classroom and program contexts, and it includes feeding assessment data back to those involved so that assessment results may be used to make changes in practice. Ethical assessment also protects the data and identities of participants. Finally, ethical assessment practices involve asking difficult questions about the values and missions of an assignment, a course, or a program and whether or not assessments promote or possibly inhibit equity among participants.
Admissions, Placement, and Proficiency
Admissions, placement, and proficiency-based assessment practices are high-stakes processes with a history of exclusion and academic gatekeeping. Educational institutions and programs should recognize the history of these types of measures in privileging some students and penalizing others as it relates to their distinctive institutional and programmatic missions. They should then use that historical knowledge to inform the development of assessment measures that serve local needs and contexts. Assessments should be designed and implemented to support student progress and success. With placement in particular, institutions should be mindful of the financial burden and persistence issues that increase in proportion to the number of developmental credit hours students are asked to complete based on assessments.
Whether for admissions, placement, or proficiency, recommended practices for any assessment that seeks to directly measure students’ writing abilities involve, but are not limited to, the following concerns:
- Writing tasks and assessment criteria should be informed and motivated by the goals of the institution, the program, the curriculum, and the student communities that the program serves. (1, 2)
- Writing products should be measured against a clearly defined set of criteria developed in conversation with instructors of record to ensure the criteria align with the goals of the program and/or the differences between the courses into which students might be placed. (1, 2)
- Instructors of record should serve as scorers or should be regularly invited to provide feedback on whether existing assessment models are accurate, appropriate, and ethical. (4, 6)
- Assessments should consist of multiple writing tasks that allow students to engage in various stages of their writing processes. (4, 5)
- Assessment processes should include student input, whether in the form of a reflective component of the assessment or through guided self-placement measures. (5)
- Students should have the opportunity to question and appeal assessment decisions. (5, 6)
- Writing tasks and assessment criteria should be revisited regularly and updated to reflect the evolving goals of the program or curriculum. (1, 3)
Classroom assessment processes typically involve summative and formative assessment of individually and collaboratively authored projects in both text-based and multimedia formats. Assessments in the classroom usually involve evaluations and judgments of student work. Those judgments have too often been tied to how well students perform standard edited American English (SEAE) to the exclusion of other concerns. Instead, classroom assessments should focus on acknowledging that students enter the classroom with varied language practices, abilities, and knowledges, and these enrich the classroom and create more democratic classroom spaces. Classroom assessments should reinforce and reflect the goals of individual and collaborative projects. Additionally, classroom assessment might work toward centering labor-based efforts students put forth when composing for multiple scenarios and purposes. Each of the six foundational principles of assessment is key to ensuring ethical assessment of student writing in a classroom context.
Recommended practices in classroom assessment involve, but are not limited to, the following:
- Clear communications related to the purposes of assessment for each project (1, 2)
- Assessment/feedback that promote and do not inhibit opportunities for revision, risk-taking, and play (4, 5)
- Assessment methodologies grounded in the latest research (3)
- Practices designed to benefit the health and welfare of all participants by respecting the labor of instructors and students (6)
- Occasions to illustrate a range of rhetorical skills and literacies (3, 4)
- Attention to the value of language diversity and rejection of evaluations of language based on a single standard (5)
- Efforts to demystify writing, composing, and languaging processes (3, 4)
- Opportunities for self-assessment, informed goal setting, and growth (5, 6)
- Input from the classroom community on classroom assessment processes (5, 6)
Assessment of writing programs, from first-year composition programs to Writing Across the Curriculum programs, is a critical component of an institution’s culture of assessment. Assessment can focus on the operation of the program, its effectiveness to improve student writing, and how it best supports university goals.
While programmatic assessment might be driven by state or institutional policies, members of writing programs are in the best position to guide decisions about what assessments will best serve that community. Programs and departments should see themselves as communities of professionals whose assessment activities communicate measures of effectiveness to those inside and outside the program.
Writing program assessments and designs are encouraged to adhere to the following recommended practices:
- Reflect the goals and mission of the institution and its writing programs. (1)
- Draw on multiple methods, quantitative and qualitative, to assess programmatic effectiveness and incorporate blind assessment processes of anonymized writing when possible. (1, 3, 6)
- Establish shared assessment criteria for evaluating student performance that are directly linked to course outcomes and student performance indicators. (1, 2)
- Occur regularly with attention to institutional context and programmatic need. (3, 6)
- Share assessment protocols with faculty teaching in the program and invite faculty to contribute to design and implementation. (4, 5, 6)
- Share assessment results with faculty to ensure assessment informs curriculum design and revisions. (1, 2)
- Recognize that assessment results influence and reflect accreditation of and financial resources available to programs. (6)
- Provide opportunities for assessors to discuss and come to an understanding of outcomes and scoring options. (4, 5)
- Faculty assessors should be compensated in ways that advantage them in their local contexts whether this involves financial compensation, reassigned time, or recognized service considered for annual review, promotion, and/or merit raises. (6)
- Contingent instructors are vital to programs and, ideally, their expertise should be considered in assessment processes. If, however, participation exceeds what is written into their contracts/labor expectations, appropriate compensation should be awarded. (6)
There is no perfect assessment measure, and best practices in all assessment contexts involve reflections by stakeholders on the effectiveness and ethics of all assessment practices. Assessments that involve timed tests, rely solely on machine scoring, or primarily judge writing based on prescriptive grammar and mechanics offer a very limited view of student writing ability and have a history of disproportionately penalizing students from marginalized populations. Ethical assessment practices provide opportunities to identify equity gaps in writing programs and classrooms and to use disaggregated data to make informed decisions about increasing educational opportunities for students.
Individual faculty and larger programs should carefully review their use of these assessment methods and critically weigh the benefits and ethics of these approaches. Additionally, when designing these assessment processes, programs should carefully consider the labor that will be required at all stages of the process to ensure an adequate base of faculty labor to maintain the program and to ensure that all faculty involved are appropriately compensated for that labor. Ethical assessment is always an ongoing process of negotiating the historical impacts of writing assessment, the need for a clear portrait of what is happening in classrooms and programs, and the concern for the best interests of all assessment participants.
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Ball, Arnetha F. “Expanding the Dialogue on Culture as a Critical Component When Assessing Writing.” Assessing Writing, vol. 4, no. 2, 1997, pp. 169–202.
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Helms, Janet E. “Fairness Is Not Validity or Cultural Bias in Racial-Group Assessment: A Quantitative Perspective.” American Psychologist , vol. 61, 2006, pp. 845–859, https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0003-066X.61.8.845.
Huot, Brian, and Peggy O’Neill. Assessing Writing: A Critical Sourcebook . Macmillan, 2009.
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Johnson, David, and Lewis VanBrackle. “Linguistic Discrimination in Writing Assessment: How Raters React to African American ‘Errors’, ESL Errors, and Standard English Errors on a State-Mandated Writing Exam.” Assessing Writing, vol. 17, no. 1, 2012, pp. 35–54.
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Lindsey, Peggy, and Deborah Crusan. “How Faculty Attitudes and Expectations toward Student Nationality Affect Writing Assessment.” Across the Disciplines: A Journal of Language, Learning, and Academic Writing , vol. 8, 2011, https://doi.org/10.37514/ATD-J.2011.8.4.23.
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This statement was generously revised by the Task Force to Create CCCC Guidelines for College Writing Assessment: Inclusive, Sustainable, and Evidence-Based Practices. The members of this task force include:
Anna Hensley, Co-chair Joyce Inman, Co-chair Melvin Beavers Raquel Corona Bump Halbritter Leigh Jonaitis L iz Tinoco Rachel Wineinger
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Effective writing pedagogy depends on assessment practices that set students up for success and are fair and consistent.
Ed White and Stanford Lecturer Cassie A. Wright have argued influentially that good assessment thus begins with assignment design, including a clear statement of learning objectives and comments on drafts (“response”); thus:
ASSESSMENT DESIGN + RESPONSE + EVALUATION = ASSESSMENT (White 1984; White and Wright 2015)
Assessment theory further supports the idea that good writing assessment is:
Local , responding directly to student writing itself and a specific, individual assignment
Rhetorically based , responding to the relationship between what a student writes, how they write and who they are writing for
Accessible , legibly written in language that a student can understand, and available in a time frame that allows them to take feedback into consideration for subsequent writing assignments
Theoretically consistent such that assignment expectations, teaching, and feedback are all aligned
(O’Neill, Moore, and Huot 57)
For these reasons, we must think about assessment holistically, in terms of how we articulate our evaluation criteria , give feedback to students, and invite them to respond to others’ and their own writing .
O’Neill, Peggy, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot. A Guide to College Writing Assessment. Logan: Utah State UP, 2009. Print.
White, Edward M. Teaching and Assessing Writing. Proquest Info and Learning, 1985. Print.
White, Edward M., and Cassie A. Wright. Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A Writing Teacher’s Guide. 5th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. Print.
A Guide to Standardized Writing Assessment
Overview of writing assessment, holistic scoring, evolving technology, applications in the classroom.
In the United States, policymakers, advisory groups, and educators increasingly view writing as one of the best ways to foster critical thinking and learning across the curriculum. The nonprofit organization Achieve worked with five states to define essential English skills for high school graduates and concluded thatStrong writing skills have become an increasingly important commodity in the 21st century. . . . The discipline and skill required to create, reshape, and polish pieces of writing “on demand” prepares students for the real world, where they inevitably must be able to write quickly and clearly, whether in the workplace or in college classrooms. (2004, p. 26)
My daughters are not alone. Increasingly, students are being asked to write for tests that range from NCLB-mandated subject assessments in elementary school to the new College Board SAT, which will feature a writing section beginning in March 2005. Educators on the whole have encouraged this development. As one study argues,Since educators can use writing to stimulate students' higher-order thinking skills—such as the ability to make logical connections, to compare and contrast solutions to problems, and to adequately support arguments and conclusions—authentic assessment seems to offer excellent criteria for teaching and evaluating writing. (Chapman, 1990)
Achieve, Inc. (2004). Do graduation tests measure up? A closer look at state high school exit exams . Washington, DC: Author.
Boomer, G. (1985). The assessment of writing. In P. J. Evans (Ed.), Directions and misdirections in English evaluation (pp. 63–64). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Council of Teachers of English.
Chapman, C. (1990). Authentic writing assessment . Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 328 606)
Cooper, C. R., & Odell, L. (1977). Evaluating writing: Describing, measuring, judging . Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Duke, C. R., & Sanchez, R. (1994). Giving students control over writing assessment. English Journal, 83 (4), 47–53.
Fiderer, A. (1998). Rubrics and checklists to assess reading and writing: Time-saving reproducible forms for meaningful literacy assessment . Bergenfield, NJ: Scholastic.
Murphy, S., & Ruth, L. (1999). The field-testing of writing prompts reconsidered. In M. M. Williamson & B. A. Huot (Eds.), Validating holistic scoring for writing assessment: Theoretical and empirical foundations (pp. 266–302). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Ruth, L., & Murphy, S. (1988). Designing tasks for the assessment of writing . Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Skillings, M. J., & Ferrell, R. (2000). Student-generated rubrics: Bringing students into the assessment process. Reading Teacher, 53 (6), 452–455.
White, J. O. (1982). Students learn by doing holistic scoring. English Journal , 50–51.
• 1 For information on individual state assessments and rubrics, visit http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/org_list.cfm?category_ID=SEA and follow the links to the state departments of education.
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Research Questions in Language Education and Applied Linguistics pp 431–435 Cite as
Writing Assessment Literacy
- Deborah Crusan 3
- First Online: 13 January 2022
Part of the Springer Texts in Education book series (SPTE)
Although classroom writing assessment is a significant responsibility for writing teachers, many instructors lack an understanding of sound and effective assessment practices in the writing classroom aka Writing Assessment Literacy (WAL).
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Crusan, D. (2010). Assessment in the second language writing classroom . University of Michigan Press.
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Crusan, D., Plakans, L., & Gebril, A. (2016). Writing assessment literacy: Surveying second language teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and practices. Assessing Writing, 28 , 43–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asw.2016.03.001
Article Google Scholar
Lee, I. (2017). Classroom writing assessment and feedback in L2 school contexts . Springer.
Weigle, S. C. (2007). Teaching writing teachers about assessment. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16 , 194–209. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2007.07.004
Authors and affiliations.
Department of English Language and Literatures, Wright State University, Dayton, OH, USA
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
Correspondence to Deborah Crusan .
Editors and affiliations.
European Knowledge Development Institute, Ankara, Türkiye
Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), Dubai Men’s College, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Research Questions
In what ways have second language writing teachers obtained assessment knowledge?
What are the common beliefs held by second language writing teachers about writing assessment?
What are the assessment practices of second language writing teachers?
What is the impact of linguistic background on writing assessment knowledge, beliefs, and practices?
What is the impact of teaching experience on writing assessment knowledge, beliefs, and practices?
What skills are necessary for teachers to claim that they are literate in writing assessment?
How can teaching be enhanced through writing assessment literacy?
In what ways might teachers’ work be shaped by testing policies and practices?
How does context affect teacher practices in writing assessment?
Should teachers be required to provide evidence of writing assessment literacy? If so, how?
Crusan, D., Plakans, L., & Gebril, A. (2016). Writing assessment literacy: Surveying second language teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and practices. Assessing Writing , 28 , 43–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asw.2016.03.001 .
Claiming a teacher knowledge gap in all aspects of writing assessment, the authors explore ways in which writing teachers have obtained writing assessment literacy. Asserting that teachers often feel un(der)prepared for the assessment tasks they face in the writing classroom, the researchers surveyed 702 writing teachers from around the globe to establish evidence for this claim; the researchers found that although teachers professed education in assessment in general and writing assessment in particular, these same teachers worried that they are less than sure of their abilities in rubric creation, written corrective feedback, and justification of grades, crucial elements in the assessment of writing. The study also uncovered interesting notions about linguistic background: NNESTs reported higher levels of writing assessment literacy.
Fernando, W. (2018) . Show me your true colours: Scaffolding formative academic literacy assessment through an online learning platform. Assessing Writing, 36 , 63–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asw.2018.03.005
In this paper, the author focuses on student writing processes and examines ways those processes are affected by students’ formative academic literacy assessment. Does formative academic literacy promote more engagement with composing processes and if so, what evidence supports this proposition? To investigate, the author asked students to use an online learning platform to generate data in the form of outlines/essays with feedback, student-generated digital artefacts, and questionnaires/follow-up interviews to answer two important questions: “(1) How can formative academic literacy assessment help students engage in composing processes and improve their writing? (2) How can online technology be used to facilitate and formatively assess student engagement with composing processes?” (p. 65). Her findings offer evidence for and indicate that students benefit from understanding their composition processes; additionally, this understanding is furthered by scaffolding formative academic literacy assessment through an online platform that uncovers and overcomes students’ difficulties as they learn to write.
Inbar-Lourie, O. (2017). Language Assessment Literacy. In: E. Shohamy, I. Or, & S. May (Eds.), Language Testing and Assessment: Encyclopedia of Language and Education (3rd ed.). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
While this encyclopedia entry does not specifically address writing assessment literacy, it provides an excellent definition of language assessment literacy (LAL) and broadly informs the field of this definition and argues for the need for teachers to be assessment literate. Calling for the need to define a literacy framework in language assessment and citing as a matter still in need of resolution the divide between views of formative and dynamic assessment. Operationalization of a theoretical framework remains important, but contextualized definitions might be the more judicious way to approach this issue, since many different stakeholders (e.g. classroom teachers, students, parents, test developers) are involved.
Lam, R. (2015). Language assessment training in Hong Kong: Implications for language assessment literacy. Language Testing, 32 (2), 169–197. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265532214554321
Although this article is not specifically about writing assessment literacy, its author makes the same arguments for training of teachers as those who argue for writing assessment literacy for teachers. These arguments bring home the lack of teacher education in assessment in general and writing assessment in particular. Lam surveys various documents, conducts interviews, examines student assessment tasks, and five institutions in Hong Kong, targeting pre-service teachers being trained for the primary and secondary school settings. Lam uncovered five themes running through the data from which he distills three key issues: (1) local teacher education program support for further language assessment training, (2) taking care that the definition of LAL is understood from an ethical perspective, and (3) that those who administer the programs in Lam’s study collaborate to assure that pre-service teachers meet compulsory standards for language assessment literacy.
Xu, Y., & Brown, G. T. L. (2016). Teacher assessment literacy in practice: A reconceptualization. Teaching and Teacher Education, 58 , 149–162.
The authors synthesized 100 studies concerning teacher assessment literacy (TAL) to determine what has and has not worked in the advancement of TAL. Following this and based on their findings of their comprehensive literature review, the authors developed a conceptual framework of Teacher Assessment Literacy in Practice (TALiP), which calls for a crucial knowledge base for all teachers, but which the authors call necessary but not sufficient. They then go on to categorize other aspects that need to considered before a teacher can be fully assessment literate, calling the symbiosis between and among components reciprocal. Along with the knowledge base, elements include the ways in which teachers intellectualize assessment, contexts involved especially institutional and socio-cultural, TALiP (the framework’s primary notion), teacher learning, and ways (or if) in which teachers view themselves as competent assessors. The framework has implications for multiple platforms: pre-service teacher education, in-service teacher education, and teacher training challenges encountered when attempting expansion of TAL.
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Crusan, D. (2021). Writing Assessment Literacy. In: Mohebbi, H., Coombe, C. (eds) Research Questions in Language Education and Applied Linguistics. Springer Texts in Education. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-79143-8_77
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-79143-8_77
Published : 13 January 2022
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Assessing student writing, what does it mean to assess writing.
- Suggestions for Assessing Writing
Means of Responding
Rubrics: tools for response and assessment, constructing a rubric.
Assessment is the gathering of information about student learning. It can be used for formative purposes−−to adjust instruction−−or summative purposes: to render a judgment about the quality of student work. It is a key instructional activity, and teachers engage in it every day in a variety of informal and formal ways.
Assessment of student writing is a process. Assessment of student writing and performance in the class should occur at many different stages throughout the course and could come in many different forms. At various points in the assessment process, teachers usually take on different roles such as motivator, collaborator, critic, evaluator, etc., (see Brooke Horvath for more on these roles) and give different types of response.
One of the major purposes of writing assessment is to provide feedback to students. We know that feedback is crucial to writing development. The 2004 Harvard Study of Writing concluded, "Feedback emerged as the hero and the anti-hero of our study−powerful enough to convince students that they could or couldn't do the work in a given field, to push them toward or away from selecting their majors, and contributed, more than any other single factor, to students' sense of academic belonging or alienation" (http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~expos/index.cgi?section=study).
Source: Horvath, Brooke K. "The Components of Written Response: A Practical Synthesis of Current Views." Rhetoric Review 2 (January 1985): 136−56. Rpt. in C Corbett, Edward P. J., Nancy Myers, and Gary Tate. The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook . 4th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000.
Suggestions for Assessing Student Writing
Be sure to know what you want students to be able to do and why. Good assessment practices start with a pedagogically sound assignment description and learning goals for the writing task at hand. The type of feedback given on any task should depend on the learning goals you have for students and the purpose of the assignment. Think early on about why you want students to complete a given writing project (see guide to writing strong assignments page). What do you want them to know? What do you want students to be able to do? Why? How will you know when they have reached these goals? What methods of assessment will allow you to see that students have accomplished these goals (portfolio assessment assigning multiple drafts, rubric, etc)? What will distinguish the strongest projects from the weakest?
Begin designing writing assignments with your learning goals and methods of assessment in mind.
Plan and implement activities that support students in meeting the learning goals. How will you support students in meeting these goals? What writing activities will you allow time for? How can you help students meet these learning goals?
Begin giving feedback early in the writing process. Give multiple types of feedback early in the writing process. For example, talking with students about ideas, write written responses on drafts, have students respond to their peers' drafts in process, etc. These are all ways for students to receive feedback while they are still in the process of revising.
Structure opportunities for feedback at various points in the writing process. Students should also have opportunities to receive feedback on their writing at various stages in the writing process. This does not mean that teachers need to respond to every draft of a writing project. Structuring time for peer response and group workshops can be a very effective way for students to receive feedback from other writers in the class and for them to begin to learn to revise and edit their own writing.
Be open with students about your expectations and the purposes of the assignments. Students respond better to writing projects when they understand why the project is important and what they can learn through the process of completing it. Be explicit about your goals for them as writers and why those goals are important to their learning. Additionally, talk with students about methods of assessment. Some teachers have students help collaboratively design rubrics for the grading of writing. Whatever methods of assessment you choose, be sure to let students in on how they will be evaluated.
Do not burden students with excessive feedback. Our instinct as teachers, especially when we are really interested in students´ writing is to offer as many comments and suggestions as we can. However, providing too much feedback can leave students feeling daunted and uncertain where to start in terms of revision. Try to choose one or two things to focus on when responding to a draft. Offer students concrete possibilities or strategies for revision.
Allow students to maintain control over their paper. Instead of acting as an editor, suggest options or open-ended alternatives the student can choose for their revision path. Help students learn to assess their own writing and the advice they get about it.
Purposes of Responding We provide different kinds of response at different moments. But we might also fall into a kind of "default" mode, working to get through the papers without making a conscious choice about how and why we want to respond to a given assignment. So it might be helpful to identify the two major kinds of response we provide:
- Formative Response: response that aims primarily to help students develop their writing. Might focus on confidence-building, on engaging the student in a conversation about her ideas or writing choices so as to help student to see herself as a successful and promising writer. Might focus on helping student develop a particular writing project, from one draft to next. Or, might suggest to student some general skills she could focus on developing over the course of a semester.
- Evaluative Response: response that focuses on evaluation of how well a student has done. Might be related to a grade. Might be used primarily on a final product or portfolio. Tends to emphasize whether or not student has met the criteria operative for specific assignment and to explain that judgment.
We respond to many kinds of writing and at different stages in the process, from reading responses, to exercises, to generation or brainstorming, to drafts, to source critiques, to final drafts. It is also helpful to think of the various forms that response can take.
- Conferencing: verbal, interactive response. This might happen in class or during scheduled sessions in offices. Conferencing can be more dynamic: we can ask students questions about their work, modeling a process of reflecting on and revising a piece of writing. Students can also ask us questions and receive immediate feedback. Conference is typically a formative response mechanism, but might also serve usefully to convey evaluative response.
- Written Comments on Drafts
- Local: when we focus on "local" moments in a piece of writing, we are calling attention to specifics in the paper. Perhaps certain patterns of grammar or moments where the essay takes a sudden, unexpected turn. We might also use local comments to emphasize a powerful turn of phrase, or a compelling and well-developed moment in a piece. Local commenting tends to happen in the margins, to call attention to specific moments in the piece by highlighting them and explaining their significance. We tend to use local commenting more often on drafts and when doing formative response.
- Global: when we focus more on the overall piece of writing and less on the specific moments in and of themselves. Global comments tend to come at the end of a piece, in narrative-form response. We might use these to step back and tell the writer what we learned overall, or to comment on a pieces' general organizational structure or focus. We tend to use these for evaluative response and often, deliberately or not, as a means of justifying the grade we assigned.
- Rubrics: charts or grids on which we identify the central requirements or goals of a specific project. Then, we evaluate whether or not, and how effectively, students met those criteria. These can be written with students as a means of helping them see and articulate the goals a given project.
Rubrics are tools teachers and students use to evaluate and classify writing, whether individual pieces or portfolios. They identify and articulate what is being evaluated in the writing, and offer "descriptors" to classify writing into certain categories (1-5, for instance, or A-F). Narrative rubrics and chart rubrics are the two most common forms. Here is an example of each, using the same classification descriptors:
Example: Narrative Rubric for Inquiring into Family & Community History
An "A" project clearly and compellingly demonstrates how the public event influenced the family/community. It shows strong audience awareness, engaging readers throughout. The form and structure are appropriate for the purpose(s) and audience(s) of the piece. The final product is virtually error-free. The piece seamlessly weaves in several other voices, drawn from appropriate archival, secondary, and primary research. Drafts - at least two beyond the initial draft - show extensive, effective revision. Writer's notes and final learning letter demonstrate thoughtful reflection and growing awareness of writer's strengths and challenges.
A "B" project clearly and compellingly demonstrates how the public event influenced the family/community. It shows strong audience awareness, and usually engages readers. The form and structure are appropriate for the audience(s) and purpose(s) of the piece, though the organization may not be tight in a couple places. The final product includes a few errors, but these do no interfere with readers' comprehension. The piece effectively, if not always seamlessly, weaves several other voices, drawn from appropriate archival, secondary, and primary research. One area of research may not be as strong as the other two. Drafts - at least two beyond the initial drafts - show extensive, effective revision. Writer's notes and final learning letter demonstrate thoughtful reflection and growing awareness of writer's strengths and challenges.
A "C" project demonstrates how the public event influenced the family/community. It shows audience awareness, sometimes engaging readers. The form and structure are appropriate for the audience(s) and purpose(s), but the organization breaks down at times. The piece includes several, apparent errors, which at times compromises the clarity of the piece. The piece incorporates other voices, drawn from at least two kinds of research, but in a generally forced or awkward way. There is unevenness in the quality and appropriateness of the research. Drafts - at least one beyond the initial draft - show some evidence of revision. Writer's notes and final learning letter show some reflection and growth in awareness of writer's strengths and challenges.
A "D" project discusses a public event and a family/community, but the connections may not be clear. It shows little audience awareness. The form and structure is poorly chosen or poorly executed. The piece includes many errors, which regularly compromise the comprehensibility of the piece. There is an attempt to incorporate other voices, but this is done awkwardly or is drawn from incomplete or inappropriate research. There is little evidence of revision. Writer's notes and learning letter are missing or show little reflection or growth.
An "F" project is not responsive to the prompt. It shows little or no audience awareness. The purpose is unclear and the form and structure are poorly chosen and poorly executed. The piece includes many errors, compromising the clarity of the piece throughout. There is little or no evidence of research. There is little or no evidence of revision. Writer's notes and learning letter are missing or show no reflection or growth.
Chart Rubric for Community/Family History Inquiry Project
All good rubrics begin (and end) with solid criteria. We always start working on rubrics by generating a list - by ourselves or with students - of what we value for a particular project or portfolio. We generally list far more items than we could use in a single rubric. Then, we narrow this list down to the most important items - between 5 and 7, ideally. We do not usually rank these items in importance, but it is certainly possible to create a hierarchy of criteria on a rubric (usually by listing the most important criteria at the top of the chart or at the beginning of the narrative description).
Once we have our final list of criteria, we begin to imagine how writing would fit into a certain classification category (1-5, A-F, etc.). How would an "A" essay differ from a "B" essay in Organization? How would a "B" story differ from a "C" story in Character Development? The key here is to identify useful descriptors - drawing the line at appropriate places. Sometimes, these gradations will be precise: the difference between handing in 80% and 90% of weekly writing, for instance. Other times, they will be vague: the difference between "effective revisions" and "mostly effective revisions", for instance. While it is important to be as precise as possible, it is also important to remember that rubric writing (especially in writing classrooms) is more art than science, and will never - and nor should it - stand in for algorithms. When we find ourselves getting caught up in minute gradations, we tend to be overlegislating students´- writing and losing sight of the purpose of the exercise: to support students' development as writers. At the moment when rubric-writing thwarts rather than supports students' writing, we should discontinue the practice. Until then, many students will find rubrics helpful -- and sometimes even motivating.
Assessing and Evaluating for Learning
Exploring assessment principles and practices from a learner-centred perspective.
In this module, we explore the written assessment method and some tools such as essays and reports, along with some tools that can be used for marking written assessments (e.g., rubrics).
- 1 What counts as an essay?
- 2.1 Definition of an Essay
- 2.2 Use of written assessment
- 3.1 Constructing an essay
- 3.2 What makes a good essay question?
- 3.3 Good and Bad essay questions/statements
- 4 Reflection
- 5.1 Good or bad?
- 5.2 Marking Criteria
- 5.3 Essay Rubrics
- 5.4 Tips for Marking Essays
- 5.5 Assessing Reports
- 5.6 References
- 5.7 Additional Resources
What counts as an essay?
Consider the following questions
Definition of an Essay
Here is a wordy definition but it does cover the essential components of an essay.
"A test item which requires a response composed by the examinee, usually in the form of one or more sentences, of a nature that no single response or pattern of responses can be listed as correct, and the accuracy and quality of which can be judged subjectively only by one skilled or informed in the subject."
Catherine Haines takes a much broader perspective in her book Assessing students’ written work. Marking essays and reports .
“The essay is defined here as any planned piece of written coursework which is submitted for assessment.”
Use of written assessment
Compare your list with the one brainstormed by a workshop group:
- Challenging to literacy skills
- Valuable tool for future employment – need to write descriptive instructions
- Important for clear communication
- Reflect more clearly on what they have learned (time to think)
- Information recall
- Shows which students are learning/retaining information
- Teaches to be more accurate in transferring information
- Have to absorb the information and express it
- Can file it, pull it out and recall
- Environmental challenge – using more paper (?electronic versions)
- Students who can tell you but can’t get info from brain to paper
- Does not take into account how people think – can be creative but not easy to convey
- Takes long time to mark
Constructing an essay
The following questions are useful to consider when constructing an essay question
It is helpful to always start with your learning outcome and consider how your essay question helps to demonstrate your learning outcome.
When writing your question or statement keeping the what and where in mind how do you bring together the why and who ? What tools do you need to link the purpose /learning outcome with the appropriate level required?
Language is the key tool here, thinking about your choice of instruction words and the level at which they are pitched.
Blooms Taxonomy and Assessment Instruction Definitions can act as useful guides to choosing how you word your essay question or statement.
What makes a good essay question?
Based on Stalnaker's definition, an essay question should meet the following criteria:
Requires examinees to compose rather than select their response. Elicits student responses that must consist of more than one sentence. Allows different or original responses or pattern of responses. Requires subjective judgment by a competent specialist to judge the accuracy and quality of responses.
Good and Bad essay questions/statements
Consider the following examples.
Good or bad?
Reiner et al (2002) considered Example A not to be an effective essay question because it did not require the student to compose a response, only list one; there was potential for identical responses and it did not require any complexity of thought. Example B was considered a much better question as it met all the required criteria.
Full information can be found in pages 7 and 8 of the handbook by Reiner et al, Preparing Effective Essay Questions.
In setting the question or statement it is also important to think about how the essay question will be marked.
- Are there clear criteria?
- Is it shaped or open to interpretation?
- How will marks be allocated? (Where will the emphasis be placed?)
Very simply put, a rubric is a grid used to help define marks given to an assessment according to specific criteria. If carefully developed it has the advantages of ensuring consistency across a wide range of scripts and helps overcome potential bias; such as a marker giving more credit to someone who has focused on the markers favourite areas.
The web page Why Rubrics? What's all the Hype? From TeAchnology.com: The Online Teacher Resource can provide a more detailed definition. Scroll down to the section on what are Rubrics? for a general introduction.
If you put 'Rubrics' into the Search box on the top left of the TeAchnology website you you discover they offer an incredible amount of information on this topic. Aimed at primary and secondary education but the knowledge is transferable.
Click on the following links for examples of rubrics
- rubric for assessing student presentations
- assessment information summary rubric - this site also has links to a variety of other examples
Tips for Marking Essays
- Plan your time in advance
- Ensure you are clear about and are familiar with the marking criteria or mark allocations
- Provide feedback on common mistakes once
- Identify common mistakes and aim your feedback at these rather than writing the same comment on each script.
Kate Beattie & Richard James offer some useful advice on assessing essays .
A report has meaning for the people it is reporting to therefore emphasis should be on the tone, language and evidence required for the intended audience.
If used as an assessment tool, students are often asked to repeat many of these therefore it is important that the required format is initially learnt by the students.
There is also the potential to use a proforma or template to ensure that students focus on the relevant information required and don’t need to spend time on repetitive details.
Decide on the purpose of the report and what you want learner to achieve
Consider students submitting aspects of reports rather than a full report if many are required over the course.
You could also consider the potential for peer marking – then the teacher/facilitator can put time into moderation and further feedback.
Beattie, K., & James, R. (date unknown) Assessing essays . Melbourne: Centre for Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/pdfs/Assessing_essays.pdf
Haines, C. (2004). Assessing students’ written work. Marking essays and reports . London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Forster, F. Hounsell, D., & Thompson, S. (Eds). (1995). Tutoring and Demonstrating : A Handbook . Edinburgh: Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, The University of Edinburgh.
Race, P. (Ed.). (1999). 2000 Tips for Lecturers . London: Kogan Page.
Reiner, C. M., Bothell, T. W., Sudweeks, R. R., & Wood, B. (2002). Preparing effective essay questions: A self-directed workbook for educators : New Forums Press.
For more suggestions linked to Blooms taxonomy check out these useful instruction verbs
If you would like further reading on assessing essays - chapter six from Tutoring and Demonstrating : A Handbook has some good advice on marking essays from page 56 onwards.
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Essay Scoring Rubric
Your Writing Assessment essay will be scored based on the rubric in your DRWA Doctoral Writing Assessment classroom focusing on:
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- Organization of ideas uses a logical structure, clear paragraphs, and appropriate transitions
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To view the scoring criteria for each rubric category, visit the DRWA Doctoral Writing Assessment: Essay Score module in your DRWA classroom.
To test out of the required Graduate Writing I and Graduate Writing II courses, you must show mastery of the writing skills represented in the rubric in your DRWA Doctoral Writing Assessment classroom.
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When you want students to understand how writing is graded, turn to our vast selection of assessment examples. You'll find elementary and middle school models in all of the major modes of writing, along with rubrics that assess each example as "Strong," "Good," "Okay," or "Poor." You can also download blank rubrics to use with your own students.
Discover more writing assessment tools for Grade 2 , Grade 3 , Grades 4-5 , Grades 6-8 , Grades 9-10 , and Grades 11-12 —including writing on tests and responding to prompts.
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Response to Literature
- Julius the Baby of the World Book Review Strong One Great Book Book Review Good Dear Mr. Marc Brown Book Review Okay Snowflake Bentley Book Review Poor
- 4th of July Traditions Explanatory Essay Strong Happy Halloween Explanatory Essay Good Turkey Day Explanatory Essay Okay Forth of July Explanatory Essay Poor
- Get a Dog Persuasive Paragraph Strong Please Be Kind Persuasive Paragraph Good Let Me stay up with Shane Persuasive Paragraph Okay We need Bedder Chips Persuasive Paragraph Poor
- The Horrible Day Personal Narrative Strong Keeping the Dressing Personal Narrative Good Friday Personal Narrative Okay Dee Dees hose Personal Narrative Poor
- Mildew Houses Description Strong Grandpa's Face Description Good A Cool Restrant Description Okay Hot Dogs Description Poor
- How to Bake a Cake How-To Strong Make a Blow-Up Box How-To Good How to Feed a Dog How-To Okay A Kite How-To Poor
- Recycling Jars and Cans How-To Strong Getting to the Park How-To Good Planting a Garden How-To Okay How to Pull a tooth How-To Poor
- Zev's Deli Description Strong Our Horses Description Good My Favorit Lake Description Okay The Zoo Description Poor
- Thunderstorm! Narrative Paragraph Strong My Trip to the Zoo Narrative Paragraph Good My Lost Puppy Narrative Paragraph Okay My Trip Narrative Paragraph Poor
- The Sled Run Personal Narrative Strong The Funny Dance Personal Narrative Good Texas Personal Narrative Okay A Sad Day Personal Narrative Poor
- No School Persuasive Paragraph Strong Dogs Stay Home! Persuasive Paragraph Good A New Pool Persuasive Paragraph Okay A Bigger Cafaterea Persuasive Paragraph Poor
- New Sidewalks Persuasive Paragraph Strong Don't Burn Leaves Persuasive Paragraph Good The Ginkgo Trees Persuasive Paragraph Okay Turn Your Lights Off Persuasive Paragraph Poor
- The Year Mom Won the Pennant Book Review Strong A Story of Survival Book Review Good Keep Reading! Book Review Okay Homecoming Book Review Poor
- A Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World Book Review Strong A Letter of Recommendation Book Review Good Falling Up Book Review Okay The Cat Ate My Gymsuit Book Review Poor
- The Snow Leopard Report Strong The Great Pyramid of Giza Report Good Koalas Report Okay Ladybugs Report Poor
- The Platypus Report Strong The Click Beetle Report Good Martin Luther King, Junior’s Dream Report Okay Crickets and Grasshoppers Report Poor
- Talent Show and Tell Persuasive Essay Strong Art Every Day Persuasive Essay Good More Recess, Please Persuasive Essay Okay Let Us Eat Persuasive Essay Poor
- Help Save Our Manatees Persuasive Essay Strong A Fictional Letter to President Lincoln Persuasive Essay Good Endangered Animals Persuasive Essay Okay Why Smog Is Bad Persuasive Essay Poor
- Food from the Ocean Explanatory Essay Strong How to Make a S’More Explanatory Essay Good The Person I Want to Be Explanatory Essay Okay Sleepover Explanatory Essay Poor
- Something You Can Sink Your Teeth Into Explanatory Essay Strong Bathing a Puppy Explanatory Essay Good Trading Places Explanatory Essay Okay Fluffy Explanatory Essay Poor
- When I Got Burned on Dad’s Motorcycle Personal Narrative Strong My First Home Run Personal Narrative Good My Worst Scrape Personal Narrative Okay The Trip to the Woods Personal Narrative Poor
- Soggy Roads Personal Narrative Strong The Broken Statue Personal Narrative Good Space Monster Personal Narrative Okay Las Vegas Personal Narrative Poor
- Departure Personal Narrative Strong A January Surprise Personal Narrative Good A Day I'll Never Forget Personal Narrative Okay My Summer in Jacksonville, Florida Personal Narrative Poor
- Puppy Personal Narrative Strong A New Friend Personal Narrative Good My Summer in Michigan Personal Narrative Okay A Horrible Day Personal Narrative Poor
- Dear Mr. Rhys Biography Strong Turning 13 Biography Good My Resident Edith Biography Okay Police Officer Biography Poor
- Iron Summary (Strong) Summary Strong Iron Summary (Good) Summary Good Iron Summary (Okay) Summary Okay Iron Summary (Poor) Summary Poor
- Paper Recycling Explanatory Essay Strong Letter to France Explanatory Essay Good I Have a Dream . . . Too Explanatory Essay Okay Fire Fighter Explanatory Essay Poor
- Mount Rushmore’s Famous Faces Explanatory Essay Strong Youth Movements in Nazi Germany Explanatory Essay Good My Personal Values Explanatory Essay Okay The Influence of Gangs in Our Community Explanatory Essay Poor
- Malcolm X and Eleanor Roosevelt Comparison-Contrast Strong How to Make Tabouli Comparison-Contrast Good Yo-Yo’s Flood Del Mar Hills School Comparison-Contrast Okay The Gail Woodpecker Comparison-Contrast Poor
- Railroad to Freedom Book Review Strong If I Were Anne Frank Book Review Good To Kill a Mockingbird Book Review Okay Good Brother or Bad Brother? Book Review Poor
- The Power of Water Book Review Strong Summary Review: Arranging a Marriage Book Review Good Freaky Friday Book Review Okay No Friend of Mine Book Review Poor
- The Aloha State Research Report Strong Tornadoes Research Report Good Earthquakes Research Report Okay The Bombing of Peal Harbor Research Report Poor
- Wilma Mankiller: Good Times and Bad Research Report Strong Green Anaconda Research Report Good The Great Pyramid Research Report Okay Poodles Research Report Poor
- Using Hydrochloric Acid (Strong) Instructions Strong Using Hydrochloric Acid (Good) Instructions Good Using Hydrochloric Acid (Okay) Instructions Okay Using Hydrochloric Acid (Poor) Instructions Poor
- Dear Dr. Larson (Strong) Persuasive Letter Strong Dear Dr. Larson (Good) Persuasive Letter Good Dear Dr. Larson (Okay) Persuasive Letter Okay Dear Dr. Larson (Poor) Persuasive Letter Poor
- Smoking in Restaurants Persuasive Essay Strong Letter to the Editor (Arts) Persuasive Essay Good Toilet-to-Tap Water Persuasive Essay Okay The Unperminent Hair Dye Rule Persuasive Essay Poor
- Capital Punishment Is Wrong! Persuasive Essay Strong Letter to the Editor (Cheating) Persuasive Essay Good Letter to the Editor (Immigration) Persuasive Essay Okay Judge Not Persuasive Essay Poor
- Revisiting Seneca Falls Research Report Strong The Importance of Cinco de Mayo Research Report Good The Meaning of Juneteenth Research Report Okay Russian Missile Problem Research Report Poor
- Dear Ms. Holloway Business Letter Strong Dear Mr. McNulty Business Letter Good Dear Mr. Underwood Business Letter Okay Dear Mrs. Jay Business Letter Poor
- Scout Takes Another Look Literary Analysis Strong Rocket Boys: A Memoir Literary Analysis Good A Wrinkle in Time Literary Analysis Okay Being True to Yourself: The Call of the Wild Literary Analysis Poor
- Evening the Odds Argument Essay Strong Lack of Respect a Growing Problem Argument Essay Good The Right to Dress Argument Essay Okay Grading Students on Effort Argument Essay Poor
- Sinking the Unsinkable Explanatory Essay Strong The Best Preventive Medicine Explanatory Essay Good The Ozone Layer Explanatory Essay Okay Measurement Explanatory Essay Poor
- Isn't It Romantic? Definition Strong Good and Angry Definition Good Unsung Heroes Definition Okay Love Definition Poor
- People Power Personal Narrative Strong It's a Boy Personal Narrative Good A Senior Moment Personal Narrative Okay A Big Family Wedding Personal Narrative Poor
- Understanding Hmong Americans MLA Research Paper Strong Hmong: From Allies to Neighbors MLA Research Paper Good Welcome the Hmong to America MLA Research Paper Okay Hmong People MLA Research Paper Poor
Narrative Writing, Creative Writing
- Putin Meddles in U.S. Casseroles Satirical News Story Strong Cabinet Secretaries Now Cabinet Office Assistants Satirical News Story Good Area Man Teaches Ways to Check for B.O. Satirical News Story Okay Global Warming Is Weather-Dependent Satirical News Story Poor
- Poverty and Race as Predictors in the 2016 Presidential Election Statistical Analysis Strong Poverty and Race in the 2016 Election Statistical Analysis Good AP Stats Project Statistical Analysis Okay Stats Analysis Statistical Analysis Poor
- Renewable and Carbon-Neutral Problem-Solution Strong The Ethanol Revolution Problem-Solution Good Growing Energy Problem-Solution Okay Corn for the Future Problem-Solution Poor
- Generations of America Speech Strong Inauguration Speech of the 49th U.S. President Speech Good The Greatest Inauguration Speech Speech Okay What I Will Do for This Country Speech Poor
- True Leadership Personal Essay Strong A Thing of Beauty Personal Essay Good How I Will Contribute to College Personal Essay Okay What Education Means Personal Essay Poor
- Setting in Crane and O'Connor Literary Analysis Strong The Scouring of the Shire Literary Analysis Good Setting in Calvin and Hobbes Literary Analysis Okay On Golden Pond Literary Analysis Poor
- Jane Eyre and the Perils of Sacrifice Literary Analysis Strong Mrs. Reed as a Tragic Figure Literary Analysis Good A Lack of Love Literary Analysis Okay Bad Choices, Bad Results Literary Analysis Poor
How to Design an Effective Writing Skills Assessment Test
A writing skills assessment test comes in handy when hiring for various roles – from the more obvious ones like content writers or marketers to more nuanced business roles like product managers.
Poor business writing can cost an organization an unhappy customer, at best, and missed business goals or a lawsuit at worst.
Testing candidates’ writing skills can ensure they have the proficiency to write, work smoothly with other colleagues and have a positive impact on customers, partners and other external stakeholders.
We’ll share a few pointers to help you design a writing skills assessment that surfaces applicants with great written communication skills. Here we go.
TL;DR – Key Takeaways
- A writing skills test is an assessment of candidates’ writing skills. It evaluates their core writing skills like grammar and syntax as well as their overall writing process for conciseness and a logical flow of information.
- A writing skills assessment can determine a job seeker’s writing proficiency , and filter out candidates that may ultimately cost the company a lot of time and money with poor-quality writing and communication errors among colleagues or even customers.
- To assess writing skills effectively, hiring teams should focus their testing on core capabilities like grammar, vocabulary, and clarity shown in their writing tasks.
- To design a good writing skills assessment , focus on making the test relevant for the role and ensure it evaluates all the writing skills the role requires.
- Follow best practices when administering a writing skills test , such as clearly defining the test objectives and evaluating the results fairly.
- Avoid common pitfalls like bias towards a particular writing style or disregarding cultural differences.
- Quickly build a custom writing skills assessment or use one of our ready-made templates to evaluate job-relevant writing skills and hire top-quality candidates.
What is a writing skills assessment test?
A writing skills test provides a way to measure candidates’ written communication skills and their overall writing process. A typical writing skills assessment will test a person’s grammar and sentence structure , spelling and punctuation , and the clarity of their business communication.
Depending on the role, the test taker may also need to demonstrate more advanced writing skills .
For example, an email marketer must be able to write in an engaging, persuasive way to get the reader to click on their email links – that’s conversion copywriting at play. A product manager must demonstrate a capacity to eloquently express their ideas, explain the business logic of a new feature and align cross-functional teams via written communication.
Today, not only copywriters and content team members need good writing skills. It’s also essential for all customer-facing roles like sales, customer service , and customer success. If employees lack basic writing skills they risk:
- Causing confusion in teams
- Slowing down or blocking workflows
- Upsetting colleagues
- Chasing away customers or partners
Why use writing skills assessment tests in hiring?
Hiring teams that select talent with good writing skills can save the business time and revenue , and boost productivity .
According to the 2023 State of Business Communication report by The Harris Poll and Grammarly, miscommunication costs US businesses approximately $1.2 trillion annually.
The report also highlights that employees typically spend half of their work week on written communication , such as writing emails, documenting processes, preparing presentations or communicating via a text-based chat. And that teams can lose up to one entire workday per week, resolving poor team communication issues!
Writing tests can help talent acquisition teams recruit quality candidates. But here’s an even better hack — job-specific writing skills assessments . The benefits of this form of written assessment recruiting tool include:
- Role-specific competency : Writing tests tailored to the specific tasks candidates will perform will test how they will actually manage in the role and can help the hiring team make more informed hiring decisions .
- Scenario-level proficiency : These tests allow you to gauge a candidate’s ability to write for specific audiences, scenarios, or industries and give managers a better idea of whether the candidate actually has the experience they list on the CV.
- Identifying training needs : Job-specific writing tasks can also help identify areas where successful candidates need training or development to streamline onboarding and upskilling efforts.
7 Core candidate writing skills to test
The fundamental skills a writing assessment should test for in a suitable candidate include:
- Grammar : Test takers are expected to understand the basics of a language, like how to structure sentences, so their written words don’t cause any confusion or misunderstandings.
- Vocabulary : Good vocabulary is a must-have skill in some roles, such as copywriting, or for those in exec or decision-making positions. Interestingly, knowing how to simplify language can be equally important to ensure your target audience gets your message clearly.
- Conciseness and clarity : Concise written communication is important in business to ensure your message makes sense and it doesn’t take others ages to decipher what you’re trying to say.
- Tone and style : Adapting the tone and style to a particular industry or brand style is an essential skill for a writer that enables them to speak from the ‘voice’ of the company and in a way that their industry expects.
- Persuasiveness: Persuasive writing skills are vital for people in marketing and sales roles. Today, most roles need to be able to communicate or provide an explanation in a persuasive way, such as a data scientist communicating insights to stakeholders.
- Research skills: Copywriters need independent research skills to create helpful, relevant content their audience can use to learn about new topics and support their buying decisions.
- Attention to detail: Attention to detail is an asset for internal and external communications. Receiving clear, professional communication is something that everyone appreciates.
Types of assessment tests to evaluate a candidate’s writing skills
Wondering what type of job-specific writing assessment test to choose? Well, many testing platforms offer customizable test types, such as:
- Multiple choice questions
- Portfolio assessments
- Homework assignments
Choosing the right one will depend on the job requirements .
For example, a task-based test, such as asking a shortlisted candidate to suggest new ad copy, is a great writing test for a copywriter.
If you’re hiring for a team lead or a more senior position in people operations, for example, a homework assignment based on communicating new benefits policy to employees will be key to assessing their writing skills in the HR context.
If you’re hiring a graphic designer , a portfolio assessment or review will be key to assessing their design skills. Or, for a marketing executive, a multiple-choice test on core marketing principles will work well.
The anatomy of an effective job-specific writing test
To test applicants’ writing skills effectively, use a job-specific writing test . This type of test should incorporate different components that test all the facets of a candidate’s writing skills. Your test should take into consideration best practices, such as:
Being relevant to the role
The tasks and questions that you include should simulate the real-world tasks that the successful candidate will actually perform on the job. For instance, for a freelance content writer for an HR SaaS tool, you could ask them to write a short article that explains a complex HR concept to a non-technical audience.
Make sure the writing skills test covers the full range of writing skills , including grammar, punctuation, style, tone, vocabulary, and structure. Plus, it should also assess the candidate’s ability to understand and explain complex concepts simply and concisely .
This is a goodie!
Incorporate tasks that are based on real-life scenarios . For example, writing emails is a core skill for sales managers and customer success professionals, so why not simulate the experience of reaching out to a customer via email? Instead of trusting applicants’ self-assessment, see their core skills in action and decide for yourself!
Plus, in this instance, you get two-for-one — not only assessing their writing abilities but also evaluating their understanding of your product and target audience.
If a candidate is applying for a new role, they are often still working full time and don’t have much spare time. So make sure your test is short, user-friendly , and accessible when it suits them to complete it.
Example of a scenario-based writing skills assessment (also known as a take-home task)
6 Top tips for incorporating writing skills assessment tests
A writing skills assessment is one component in the hiring process and forms part of the pre-employment assessments .
To ensure the candidate experience is a good one, the writing skills test should be an intuitive and easy step for applicants.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure the writing skills test is a positive candidate experience :
- Define the test objectives so you’re assessing the right capabilities for the role and the recruitment stage, and candidates are aware of what the parameters are.
- Make it easy for the test taker to access the test through an easily accessible link in an email or on the job ad .
- Provide adequate time for them to complete the test and respect their time with reasonable assessment expectations based on the test type (a basic skills test vs. paid homework assignment ).
- Ensure the test setup doesn’t exclude any candidates like requiring candidates to be online throughout a lengthy paid test.
- Once you’ve got the results, ensure the team evaluates their answers fairly and objectively, avoiding any personal bias, for instance.
- Provide feedback to candidates whenever possible as this supports a better candidate experience.
Common pitfalls in results interpretation and how to avoid them
After applicants have completed their writing test, the hiring team will need to evaluate the results and select the most suitable candidate.
7 common mistakes to avoid
- Overemphasis on grammar : While correct spelling and being grammatically correct are important, they shouldn’t be the sole criteria for evaluating job seekers . It’s important to consider other aspects like creativity, clarity of ideas, and persuasiveness. Don’t let a few misspelled words hurt your chances of hiring a superstar (remember, there’s Grammarly!). Tip : Create a balanced candidate scorecard rubric that includes all the factors you’re looking for, not grammar and punctuation alone.
- Neglecting the task’s objective : Has the candidate achieved the primary objective of each task or deviated with their writing? Tip : Clearly define the objectives of each test task and measure the applicant’s writing against that.
- Bias towards particular writing styles : Evaluators might have a bias for certain writing styles, like a witty writing style, which could introduce personal bias. Tip : Make a point of remaining objective. Decide whether the style is actually appropriate for the specific task and audience rather than simply aligning with your personal preferences.
- Take into account cultural differences : When hiring globally, cultural and linguistic differences may affect a candidate’s writing style and word choice. For instance, the target language may not be their native or home language. Tip : Ensure evaluators are trained to recognize and accommodate these differences, keeping the focus on effective communication.
- Ignoring the importance of structure : The organization and flow of ideas within a piece of writing are crucial to effective communication. Tip : Include ‘structure and organization’ as a distinct component in your evaluation criteria .
- Over-reliance on automated tools : While automated tools can provide valuable initial assessments, they cannot fully assess elements like coherence, creativity, and communication effectiveness. Tip : Use automated tools, such as a skills assessment platform , as a first step, but always follow up with a comprehensive human-to-human evaluation.
- Inconsistent evaluation criteria : Changing evaluation criteria midway, or not having set evaluation criteria, can lead to the misinterpretation of results. Tip : Develop a standard grading rubric before administering the test and ensure every evaluator understands how to use it and uses it consistently for each answer they’re assessing.
Example of a grading rubric for a writing test
See your candidates’ skills in action with Toggl Hire
The best way to ‘try before you buy’ in hiring is to test candidates’ skills.
With job-specific assessments, your team can better predict how they’ll perform and improve the chances of hooking quality talent that adds value to your organization and business immediately.
Get started quickly with our collection of over 200 test templates or string together custom tests quickly in our user-friendly test library. Your next written communication guru is a few clicks away .
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.
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Teaching & Learning
Writing assessment criteria, purpose of criteria.
Assessment criteria provide students with information about the qualities, characteristics and aspects of an assessment task that will be used to measure their attainment of each of the learning outcomes. Criteria make it clear to students what factors will be taken into account when making judgements about their performance. It could be argued that the most direct way students experience what is needed to achieve the unit's learning outcomes is through the assessment criteria.
Therefore, the number of criteria for a single task needs to be suitably small in order to enable students to clearly understand what is expected of them. Criteria define the characteristics of the work or performance, but they do not define how well students must demonstrate those characteristics - that is the job of the standards descriptors .
Examples of a Criterion
Elements of a criterion.
From these examples, it is clear that each criterion starts with a verb. This verb indicates to students the level of cognition that is being looked for. The rest of the criterion is similar in many respects to a learning outcome in that it typically provides content (what students should be doing something with) and context. The key to a well-written criterion is that it works as an instruction to students, helping them to understand what they need to do and include in any assessment task (including exams) to meet expectations. When taken together as a group, the set of assessment criteria for any task could be read by anyone and they would have a reasonable level of clarity about what the task involves.
Assessment criteria provide for students the answer to the question, "What do I have to do?", and the standards descriptors provide the answer to the question, "How do I do that?".
The standards descriptors provide further information, in more detail, about what would be required to demonstrate achievement at the different levels. In this way, the pass description explains what students need to do to demonstrate that they meet the learning outcome (as measured by the criterion). The other levels describe a higher level of achievement than is required.
Desktop Guides and other support resources to help you set up and use a rubric in MyLO are available from the MyLO Staff Guides - search using the key word 'rubric'.
Assessment Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It
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If you’ve grown up in an English speaking school, or maybe depending on what job you have, you have probably heard the word assessment before. It’s a very helpful word in the English language that has a lot of practical potential.
This word does have a couple of different definitions, and both of them have utility in your writing and your everyday life. So it’s a great idea to understand both so you can successfully communicate with the people you need to.
So today’s word of the day is assessment. By the end of this short guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of the word assessment, its definitions, its etymology, and how to use it. Let’s get started.
What Is the Meaning of the Word Assessment?
The definitions of the word assessment, pronounced əˈsesmənt or əˈsɛsmənt, are relatively simple. And although the two definitions are similar, there are some distinctions that make them different. Here are the definitions of the word assessment.
- The act of considering or judging the information, quality, and quantity of something to determine its value or make a decision; the decision that is made from a consideration process
- A test that is designed to judge someone’s skill or knowledge in a subject or variety of subjects
The first definition centers around decision-making and assigning value to something. Assessment can be the act of judging someone or something, but the word can also refer to the final decision that the valuation, analysis , or assessment process leads to.
The second definition refers to a test. In this context, an assessment is a testing process wherein an assessor can judge the skill or aptitude of the assessed person.
How Is the Word Assessment Used?
The word assessment is used in a variety of different contexts. One of the most common is in schools and educational programs. In the United States, student assessments are given every year to test student performance and student learning.
Each student takes the same assessment, and the school district uses this information to determine curriculum changes, new learning outcomes, and even funding for schools. The students go through a reassessment process every year.
It’s also used in the wonderful world of taxes. An assessment for the purposes of taxation is the process of calculating the value of a piece of property or assets for tax purposes to find out how much it should be taxed.
What Are Some Collocations for the Word Assessment?
A collocation is a series of words that are often found together that occur more often than simply by chance. Essentially, collocation is a habitual part of speech that many people utilize.
Assessment is a very useful and fairly popular word, so it has some collocations associated with it. Here’s a list of some of the collocations for the word assessment.
- Tax assessment
- Assessment tools
- Act of assessing
- Risk assessment
- Formative assessment
Where Did the Word Assessment Come From?
To help bring more clarity to the definition of assessment, let’s look at the history of how it came to be or its etymology.
Let’s start with the root word of assessment: the word assess. The word assesses like many English words in that it finds its roots in Latin. The oldest ancestor of this word is a combination of two important pieces of the Latin language. The Latin sedere , which means “to sit,” was combined with the Latin prefix ad- , which means “to.”
These two parts were combined to make the Latin word assidere , which means “to sit by, or sit beside.” The past participle of assidere is the word assessus . This word was used to refer to the act of sitting by and supporting the office of a judge.
One of this person’s jobs was to determine the exact amount of a fine or tax that the judge decided was necessary.
The word evolved from Latin and took hold in France with the Old French assesser, which has the same definition. From Old French, the word found its way into Middle English in the form of the word assess.
By the 1800s, the word started being used in regard to taxes, and in the 1930s, people started using the word to mean “to judge the value of something.”
The suffix “-ment” is a common suffix when it comes to English words with a Latin root. It comes from the Latin mentum . It means “the result of.” So the word assessment literally means “the result of assessing.”
What Are Some Examples of the Word Assessment in a Sentence?
Seeing a word in context can help bring more clarity to its definition and how you can use it in your own life. Here are some example sentences that use the word assessment.
- Make sure your students are well-prepared for their assessments in two weeks.
- Hey Jimmy, it’s time for your quarterly assessment and report, so can you come into my office?
- After the guy came out and did a tax assessment on my house, he determined the market value of my house was way higher than I thought, and it’s going to cost me a lot in taxes.
- My assessment of him is that he’s a little sneaky, and I don’t think he’s right for her.
- After the assessment of my grandmother’s old antiques, let’s just say I knew I was going to be a rich man!
What Are the Synonyms of the Word Assessment?
Here are some synonyms of the word assessment that you might find in a thesaurus:
The Word Assessment
Now you know everything you need to know about the word assessment, its definition, its history, and how to use it. Use it confidently in your writing and your conversation. And if you need a refresher on this word, come back to this article for the information you need.
ASSESSMENT | Cambridge English Dictionary
ASSESS | Meaning & Definition for UK English | Lexico
Why Is Assessment Important? | Edutopia
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.