October 31, 2011

Formative Student Writing Assessment

Everyone who has had an educational pedagogy course has studied formative and summative assessment.

Summative assessment is generally carried out at the end of a course, unit or project and in an educational setting, summative assessments are typically used to assign students a course grade.

Formative assessment is a self-reflective process intended to enhance, recognize and respond to the learning. It is a bi-directional process between teacher and student and should be designed to evaluate students on a frequent basis so that adjustments (by the teacher and by the student) can be made to help them reach target achievement goals.

Much research in the teaching of writing is about the use of formative assessment. Anyone who has taught writing knows how difficult (if not impossible) it is to have a final "test" to measure a student's ability to write.

Formative assessment improves student writing by monitoring it through the prewriting, writing, and revision processes.

I was looking over some notes I made and slipped into a book on assessment years ago. The notes still seem true today as I go into the fifth year of the Writing Initiative at PCCC. Here were my top 10 thoughts while reading that book.
  1. monitor, diagnose, and provide continual feedback to your students
  2. break large writing assignments into several smaller tasks
  3. vary your feedback methods
  4. discuss the myths and realities of writing in an academic setting
  5. make sure students self-assess and reflect orally & in writing on their progress
  6. teachers and students should create and use rubrics and checklists
  7. need to support students in all stages of the writing process
  8. each piece of writing a student creates, no matter how brief, formal or informal, is an opportunity to learn
  9. use individual, small-group, and large-group discussions
  10. feedback is key to a "writing workshop" approach
These are three of the relevant books on my shelf. They are probably intended for K-12 teachers but I find much of it relevant to teaching in higher education, especially at a community college. That is not meant as being at all negative about what we see in colleges today, but it does reflect on the observation that the same issues continue with students from secondary education as they move into higher education. And the same issues exist with the teaching of writing, and to a greater degree, in most college classrooms.

Because Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Our Schools  What Student Writing Teaches Us: FOrmative Assessment in the Writing Workshop  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

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