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Volume 11, Issue 1: 2018

Slouching Toward Sustainability: Mixed Methods in the Direct Assessment of Student Writing

by by Jeff Pruchnic, Chris Susak, Jared Grogan, Sarah Primeau, Joe Torok, Thomas Trimble, Tanina Foster, and Ellen Barton, Wayne State University

The development of present-day assessment culture in higher education has led to a disciplinary turn away from statistical definitions of reliability and validity in favor of methods argued to have more potential for positive curricular change. Such interest in redefining reliability and validity also may be inspired by the unsustainable demands that large-scale quantitative assessment would place on composition programs. In response to this dilemma, we tested a mixed-methods approach to writing assessment that combined large-scale quantitative assessment using thin-slice methods with targeted, smaller-scale qualitative assessment of selected student writing using rich features analysis. We suggest that such an approach will allow composition programs to (a) directly assess a representative sample of student writing with excellent reliability, (b) significantly reduce total assessment time, and (c) preserve the autonomy and contextualized quality of assessment sought in current definitions of validity.

Comments on Student Papers: Student Perspectives

by Darsie Bowden, DePaul University

This paper reports on the results of a research project that examines how students responded to instructors’ comments on academic papers written for a first-year writing course at a large, Midwestern university. Data collected consisted of rough drafts with instructor comments, final drafts of the same papers, and two sets of interviews, one after students had received the teacher’s comments, and one after they had revised the final draft. In the interest of contributing to our understanding of what response to student writing does, this study explores student reflections on what they think, feel, and do in response to instructor comments. Findings suggest good reasons for the lack of one-to-one correspondence between an instructor’s comments and an improved final draft, and that we may need to look at factors other than revised drafts for evidence of student learning. Keywords: teaching writing, responding, instructor comments, writing process, learning

Argument Essays Written in the 1st and 3rd Years of College: Assessing Differences in Performance--

by by Irene Clark, California State University, Northridge, and Bettina J. Huber, California State University, Northridge

Building on earlier longitudinal studies and focusing on the concept of writing performance and the issue of transfer, this article discusses an assessment of thesis-driven argument essays written by students in their freshman and junior years at a large, urban, Hispanic serving university. The article addresses the question of whether students in the study were able to “transfer” what they had been taught in their first-year writing classes to writing tasks assigned in third year classes and indicates that modest gains did occur, particularly in the use of sources and evidence. It also discusses several factors contributing to improvement in student performance and to maximizing the possibility of transfer, in particular. Throughout, the emphasis is on process-oriented strategies and thesis-driven argument in the first-year writing class and the specificity and clarity of the writing prompts assigned in junior level classes. Examination of these paired essays, written in a similar genre by the same students reveals that improvement was greatest for students with less than adequate writing skills. The study thus suggests that “near transfer” of the ability to write a thesis-driven argument essay did occur between the first and third years for this student population.

Recommendations or choices? A review of Decisions, Agency, and Advising

by Kristen di Gennaro, Pace University