New Collaborations for Writing Program Assessment

New Collaborations for Writing Program Assessment

John Wittman (California State University, Stanislaus, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-667-9.ch022
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This chapter argues that as primary stakeholders in writing program assessment, students and instructors need to be included proactively in assessment research. However, little research has been done to determine how to accomplish this methodologically even though assessment affects pedagogical practices, student populations, and public opinion about what constitutes good writing. Instead of traditional quantitative, psychometric research, the author argues assessment practitioners need to utilize local opportunities to discover native needs. He presents a program assessment project as an example of assessment research that focuses on local, contingent populations. Focus groups of students and teachers were used to create a dialogic conversation between stakeholders, and the results were used to design a new course in an existing developmental program—one that consciously and methodologically responded to both students’ and instructors’ needs.
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The professionalization of writing studies has ushered in new needs and forms of assessment and assessment theories in recent history. Although this has exposed long-term tensions between national models of assessment and local practices, Elliot (2005) rightly characterizes the shift in the last four decades as a change from “Procrustean” to “Proteus” modes of assessment. In other words, Elliot argues that as populations have changed on college campuses, assessment practices on both national and local scales have had to become malleable. However, as Huot has recently argued, “all stakeholders should [not] have equal claim, since those closest to teaching and learning, like students and teachers, need to have the most input about writing assessment” (2005, p. 2). In most kinds of assessment, however, there remains one stable truth—student involvement is either passive or nonexistent.

In most writing program assessment, those who have the most at stake—students—are not given active opportunities to contribute. Students have been disavowed of any responsibility or opportunity about how they should be taught in the classroom. Moreover, when widespread changes in assessment do occur, despite best intentions, too often,

students have no ‘grace’ period, free from the consequences of grades or promotion, during which they can explore the meaning of these changes for themselves. Change for them does not evolve, it is imposed….Neither are they in a position to suggest alternative activities or schedules…nor to become formally a part of the management of the process. (Corbett & Wilson, 1995, p.14; also cited in Spalding and Cummings, 1998, p. 186)

While there is a growing recognition for an increase in local control (Barlow, Liparulo, & Reynolds, 2007; Huot, 2002; Broad, 2003; White, 2005; Yancey, 2004), little research has focused on inviting students to assess the practices that affect them. One reason for this is because researchers have been reactive to what has been described as the “audit culture” (Shore & Wright, 1999)—neo-liberal systems of power imposed from national assessment organizations or government programs—rather than proactive in connecting students, teachers, and institutions collaboratively.1

I would equally argue that student experiences should not by themselves account for the ways local programs evolve, yet a great opportunity for critical insight into pedagogy and programs is missed when student opinions are not sought (Spratt, 2001). Moreover, the assessments many students face at the end of their high school careers and the beginning of their college careers are either for placement or predictive. The obvious problem with these kinds of assessments, especially for basic writers, is that they are rarely used to create improved pedagogy. Assessments such as SAT scores might be able to predict success to some degree, but they do not inform practitioners about how to respond pedagogically to students who are told they don’t have the skills to make it as college students. I argue then that as opportunities are either imposed on or created by those invested in assessment, researchers should find significant and creative ways to invite students into their disciplines as collaborators. In writing studies this could mean finding ways to teach with students rather than just to students. Although I will incorporate both students and instructors in this research since both are what I would consider primary stakeholders, my principal concern is with students and will be my focus.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Studio Workshop: A pedagogical practice in writing studies that incorporates a small workshop setting in which students guide each other through the writing process by responding to each other’s drafts.

Basic Writing: A term coined by Mina Shaughnessy in the mid-1970s, basic writing refers to courses taught to developmental students—students who fail college entrance examinations and/or are otherwise unprepared for academic life. The majority of colleges and universities do not give baccalaureate credit for these courses.

Composition: Writing classes that usually satisfy a college writing requirement in which students receive baccalaureate credit.

Peer-Review or Peer Evaluation: Students reading and responding to each other’s writing assignments.

Process Movement: Including several theories, the process movement refers to the movement in writing pedagogy which began in the late 1960s and early 1970s in response to product oriented models of pedagogy. Early process models include social constructivism, expressivism, and cognitivism.

Discourse Analysis: The systematic approach to analyzing and understanding naturally occurring language use—primarily talk and/or conversation.

Reacculturation: The process by which a person joins an unfamiliar social group by learning its language, customs, and social processes.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Christopher S. Schreiner
Christopher S. Schreiner
Chapter 1
Melissa A. Dyehouse, John Y. Baek, Richard A. Lesh
This chapter describes a model for evaluating complex organizations or systems. The design assessment model the authors propose is a response to... Sample PDF
Multi-Tier Design Assessment in the Development of Complex Organizational Systems
Chapter 2
Hedva Lewittes
In this chapter critical thinking is assessed using two critical thinking learning outcomes that were required for the State University of New... Sample PDF
A Critical Thinking Rubric as the Basis of Assessment and Curriculum
Chapter 3
Suzanne Pieper, Erika Edwards, Brandon Haist, Walter Nolan
The purpose of this chapter is to review literature over the past ten years regarding technology tools that are being used in higher education to... Sample PDF
A Survey of Effective Technologies to Assess Student Learning
Chapter 4
John Baer, Sharon S. McKool
The Consensual Assessment Technique is a powerful tool used by creativity researchers in which panels of expert judges are asked to rate the... Sample PDF
Assessing Creativity Using the Consensual Assessment Technique
Chapter 5
Christine Charyton, Zorana Ivcevic, Jonathan A. Plucker, James C. Kaufman
This chapter discusses creativity assessment as a means for evaluating skills required in higher education. Creativity is assessed in the context of... Sample PDF
Creativity Assessment in Higher Education
Chapter 6
Asao B. Inoue
This chapter articulates writing assessment as a technology, theorized with three aspects (power, parts, and purpose), accounting for the ways in... Sample PDF
The Technology of Writing Assessment and Racial Validity
Chapter 7
Sheila S. Thompson, Annemarie Vaccaro
The purpose of this chapter is to address epistemological and methodological approaches to assessing assessment. The authors’ intent is to show how... Sample PDF
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods as Complementary Assessment Tools
Chapter 8
Teresa Flateby
The development of the Cognitive Level and Quality of Writing Assessment online system is described in this chapter. Beginning with needs identified... Sample PDF
Effects of Assessment Results on a Writing and Thinking Rubric
Chapter 9
Barbara D’Angelo, Barry Maid
Outcomes-based assessment provides data for programs to demonstrate student learning as a result of their enrollment in the program and to assess... Sample PDF
Assessing Outcomes in a Technical Communication Capstone
Chapter 10
Sonya Borton, Alanna Frost, Kate Warrington
As Jacqueline Jones Royster articulated at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication, English departments are already assessing... Sample PDF
Assessing the Composition Program on Our Own Terms
Chapter 11
Joan Aitken
This chapter uses a case study to exemplify one approach to assessment of three instructional delivery formats: (a) online, (b) distance, satellite... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Instructional Delivery Formats
Chapter 12
Victor W. Brunsden
The author present a case-study of a classroom technique that allows assessment and some remediation of several shortcomings of college student... Sample PDF
Inverting the Remedial Mathematics Classroom with Alternative Assessment
Chapter 13
David A. Eubanks
This chapter describes Coker College’s subjective performance assessment program to rate student thinking and communication skills. It uses a... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Authentic Assessment
Chapter 14
P. Tokyo Kang, David Gugin
This chapter reports an outcomes assessment study conducted at the University of Guam. The assessment project was conducted during the 2006-07 and... Sample PDF
Outcomes Assessment in Japanese Language Instruction
Chapter 15
Barika Barboza, Frances Singh
This chapter describes an outcomes assessment study completed in a basic composition course at a small urban open admissions community college. The... Sample PDF
Assessing the Effectiveness of a Basic Writing Course
Chapter 16
Lorraine Gilpin, Yasar Bodur, Kathleen Crawford
Peer assessment holds tremendous potential to positively impact the development of preservice teachers. The purpose of this chapter is to describe... Sample PDF
Peer Assessment for Development of Preservice Teachers
Chapter 17
Charlotte Brammer, Rhonda Parker
In 2002, Samford University began working on a long-term learning assessment plan designed to evaluate its undergraduates’ competencies in written... Sample PDF
Workshops and E-Portfolios as Transformational Assessment
Chapter 18
Daniel F. Chambliss
This chapter describes how the trend favoring assessment initiatives of a system-wide scope such as program review and collegiate learning... Sample PDF
A Neglected Necessity in Liberal Arts Assessment: The Student as the Unit of Analysis
Chapter 19
Deirdre Pettipiece, Timothy Ray, Justin Everett
Perhaps due to its applicability as a performance of skill sets in virtually all disciplines, writing as a mechanism for measuring student success... Sample PDF
Redefining Writing Reality Multi-Modal Writing and Assessment
Chapter 20
Sean A. McKitrick
This chapter introduces methods that can be used to engage faculty in the assessment process, working within a shared governance structure in... Sample PDF
Engaging Faculty as a Strategic Choice in Assessment
Chapter 21
Steven M. Culver, Ray VanDyke
There is much in the assessment literature about the necessity of developing a culture of assessment and mandates from accrediting bodies include... Sample PDF
Developing a Receptive and Faculty-Focused Environment for Assessment
Chapter 22
John Wittman
This chapter argues that as primary stakeholders in writing program assessment, students and instructors need to be included proactively in... Sample PDF
New Collaborations for Writing Program Assessment
Chapter 23
Mya Poe
The study of racial-ethnic group differences on educational tests has yielded a substantial body of research internationally in the last decade. In... Sample PDF
Reporting Race and Ethnicity in International Assessment
Chapter 24
Joan Hawthorne, Tatyana Dumova, April Bradley, Daphne Pederson
In this chapter the authors describe a method developed to assess the outcome of a “cultural familiarity” general education goal. Challenges in... Sample PDF
Method Development for Assessing a Diversity Goal
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