Writing assessment through time and space
University of Bedfordshire, UK
Writing has been formally assessed for several thousand years, and yet there remains a great distance to travel if a goal is to achieve some sort of consensus about the characteristics and behaviours that represent ‘good writing assessment’. In this talk I identify several key issues which have endured over time and across distances. The ‘distances’ I refer to are partly literal but also metaphorical, referring not only to the differing traditions and beliefs about how writing should and can be assessed in different regions of the world, but also to differing beliefs and values among those who make the assessment of learners’ written texts and writing performances their profession.
The concept of ‘time’ is also more than literal: it is also cultural. Nations at various developmental stages of what is broadly called ‘nationhood’ will prioritize different academic disciplines during different times of their growth. A nation building a cohesive set of communal values will likely prioritize government and political matters, while a nation that is settled within its own core values may reach out further to find new ideas and intellectual disciplines that resonate with its settled beliefs.
All this may sound both vague and daunting: but the intent is that the talk will also be concrete and practical, highlighting some enduring key issues as well as identifying some of the differences we should be attentive to at this ‘time’ and in this ‘space’.
Liz Hamp-Lyons is a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment (CRELLA) at the University of Bedfordshire, UK, Honorary Professor in Language and Education at the Open University of Hong Kong, and Guest Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where she is the senior academic consultant to the College English Test (CET). Her research interests include development and validation of English language performance (i.e. writing and speaking) assessments, assessment for academic and specific purposes, assessment for learning, learning-oriented language assessment and language teacher assessment literacy. She was founding Editor of the Journal of English for Academic Purposes and Editor 2002-2015, and is Editor of Assessing Writing.
Writing assessment: Do we practice what we preach?
Wright State University, USA
Assessing student writing represents a large share of second language writing teachers’ workloads and is considered by some to be one of the most daunting of teacher tasks. Good assessment practices, while not always formally taught to prospective English language teachers, are essential to the teaching of second language writing. Teachers may have received instruction in giving feedback to students, but they also need guidance in assessment involving scoring, grading, and making ethically and pedagogically sound judgments about student work. In short, teachers need to understand the fundamentals of writing assessment – to be cognizant of writing assessment practices.
This knowledge of writing assessment has been termed writing assessment literacy and refers to what teachers know, believe, and practice regarding writing assessment. In this plenary session, I will discuss the results of a survey regarding writing assessment literacy that examined the following questions:
- How do second language writing teachers obtain assessment knowledge?
- What do second language writing teachers believe about writing assessment?
- What are the assessment practices of second language writing teachers? (Crusan, Plakans, & Gebril, 2016).
In the past, I have consistently argued for the inclusion of assessment training in teacher education courses. This talk focuses on the idea that few teachers are prepared to assess the writing their students do. The results of the study point to the need for better preparation of teachers in MATESOL and ESL certification programs to be effective assessors of writing. I will provide suggestions and strategies for doing so.
Crusan, D., Plakans, L., & Gebril, A. (2016). Writing assessment literacy: Surveying
second language teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and practices. Assessing Writing,
28, 43-56. doi:10.1016/j.asw.2016.03.001.
Deborah Crusan is professor of TESOL/Applied Linguistics at Wright State University, Dayton, OH. Her work has appeared in Across the Disciplines, Assessing Writing, The Companion to Language Assessment, The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, English for Specific Purposes, Language Testing, TESOL Quarterly, The Norton Field Guide, and edited collections on second language writing. Her research interests include writing placement, writing teacher education, and the politics of assessment. Her book, Assessment in the Second Language Writing Classroom, was published by University of Michigan Press. Currently, she serves on the TESOL International Association Board of Directors and as Board Liaison to the Publishing Professional Committee.
A new apologia for the timed impromptu writing test
Georgia State University, USA
In 1995, Edward White wrote that the timed impromptu writing test was “under attack from all sides as formulaic, unresponsive to the nature of writing, and destructive to the curriculum” (p. 30). Despite numerous critiques of timed impromptu writing, this form of writing assessment is still frequent in classroom and large-scale assessment alike. In this talk I will discuss the history of the timed impromptu essay from the perspectives of composition teaching and second language assessment, placing second language writing assessment at the intersection of these two disciplines. Important considerations in deciding whether and when writing should be assessed through a timed impromptu test include considerations of reliability, validity, practicality, and impact (i.e., consequences to students, teachers, and other stakeholders), and, most importantly, test purpose. Following Manchon's (2011) distinction of learning-to-write and writing-to-learn language, I distinguish between assessing writing and assessing language through writing, focusing in particular on the implications of this distinction for justifying the use of timed impromptu writing vis-à-vis its alternatives for four main test purposes: proficiency, placement, achievement, and diagnosis. I also discuss the implications of the distinction between assessing writing and assessing language through writing for task design and scoring methods, including the computer scoring of writing.
Sara Cushing is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from UCLA. She has published research in the areas of assessment, second language writing, and teacher education, and is the author of Assessing Writing (2002, Cambridge University Press). She has been invited to speak and conduct workshops on second language writing assessment throughout the world, most recently in Norway, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Thailand. Her current research focuses on assessing integrated skills and the use of automated scoring for second language writing.