Teaching Writing Writing Assessment

Handwringing Moments in Teaching

A Chapter from Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers

Summary:

Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers, by Mary Ann Smith and Sherry Swain, introduces the Analytic Writing Continuum (AWC), a writing rubric/assessment tool developed over time by researchers and educators, which has long been the centerpiece of National Writing Project scoring conferences. In this introductory chapter, they highlight the decisions that went into its creation, and emphasize its potential to create a common language for teachers and students to use for discussing and improving writing.

Original Date of Publication: December 1, 2016

Excerpt from chapter:

“When it comes to writing, giving feedback gets really complicated. Writing is not just one thing. It’s seemingly infinite in purposes and audiences, and in the digital age, in its forms. It’s developmental. No student enters the ring with the same experiences, opportunities, abilities, or more often these days, with the same native languages. And if that weren’t enough to compound the problem, writing is one of those curricular items that enjoys sporadic attention from policymakers. Sometimes they deem it essential, and other times they overlook it entirely (Murphy & Smith, 2020).

 

The result is whiplash—for both teachers and students. One minute, writing is in the backseat. The next minute, it is surging forward. As a result, not every teacher has experience with a writing program. But whether teachers fall in the novice or veteran categories, they still face inevitable and sometimes daunting questions about the writing they’ve assigned to their students. What to do with the results? How to help students improve? What to look for in a piece of writing and what to do next?

 

If it were easy to deal with student writing—if, for example, a checklist would suffice—teachers might be searching out the nearest coffee shop where they could order a mocha latte, relax for a moment, and run down the list. But as any teacher will undoubtedly agree, there is no checklist or calculator or smartphone app or any other magic that can account for all the bits that make up a piece of writing.”

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