Assessing writing is no doubt a challenge for educators. The authors we read this week tackled some big issues in respect to the assessment conundrum. I have picked out some of the more salient points each writer made and addressed them here.
Williams made an argument for standardizing writing assessment. Not only does Williams believe that individual teachers should be clear and consistent in their assessments of writing, he calls for teachers across the nation and in different disciplines to standardize notions of good, ok and poor writing. I have to wonder if this is possible and if this is desirable?
Wyngaard calls for the use of rubrics to assess student writing. However, her example rubric demonstrated that the criterion used to evaluate the writing was not objective or easily measurable. Instead, Wyngaard asks teachers to respond to students writing emotionally and viscerally. While I am in favor of the techniques she uses during the peer workshop stage of writing, I’m not yet sold on the idea of using strictly subjective and emotional language in rubrics.
Wolf describes the different ways portfolios can be used to assess student writing. One of the fundamental attributes of a portfolio is that it is assembled over time. I wonder how much or how little time this should be? Is it possible for example, to teach a 2 week unit in which students pull together journals, free-writes, and a formal piece of writing and call that a portfolio?
Spandel makes an excellent point in her chapter on assessment. She essentially says that as teachers make their rubrics and decide WHAT they will assess in student writing, we are making decisions about what we want students to write. In effect, if we never ask students to write persuasively, they will never have practice doing so.
I was interested to see how some of the pre-packaged writing lessons found on-line deal with assessment. For this lesson analyzing character development through writing, the only assessment of writing mentioned is a rubric for student’s journal entries. It is good to note though, that a rubric is provided and the language denotes a far more objective evaluation of the writing than Wyngaard suggests using.