In-Class Writing Assessment
- To assess students’ ability to write extemporaneously; i.e., the ability to apply learned invention, organization, development, revision, and editing strategies efficiently without advance preparation with regard to the particular prompt (N.B.: Students with learning disabilities will be granted extra time according to customary arrangements)
- To assess the proficiency students have gained regarding fundamentals of writing mechanics, syntax, and style.
- To complement multiple continuous assessment methods in order to provide a fuller profile of the student writer
- A test in which the lack of time allowed for completion is a significant factor limiting a student’s ability to demonstrate competence is generally a poor test of that student’s knowledge or skills. Since it may be necessary to complete an in-class writing assignment in less than 50 minutes, both the assignment and the considerations brought to bear in grading it must be appropriate to the length of time given.
- Students should not be made to feel that all writing instruction in the class has led to this single extemporaneous exercise; this assignment actually requires skills and a process substantially different from many other equally (or more) important writing tasks practiced in the class. The techniques students are expected to employ should have been taught during the course and practiced within a similar timeframe allowed for the in-class writing assignment: students should not be expected to condense the extensive process of writing they have studied into a one- or two-hour test without having explicitly been taught how to do so.
- Instructors should avoid placing undue weight on a rather limited number of writing skills assessed in this manner or focusing disproportionately on error as opposed to achievement in making an assessment of extemporaneous writing.
- Instructors should individually devise for their classes assignment prompts which draw from each specific course and its materials: there should be no "standard" test that purportedly applies to all writing classes. Prompts should clearly define both the purpose of the piece of writing to be completed (which should be grounded as far as possible in a real-world writing task) and the supposed audience for the communication.
- While there should be as far as possible a broad consensus within the department both as to the quality of writing which is deemed satisfactory and the relative value of specific grades, instructors should individually grade their own students’ work using a method of grading which acknowledges success within the parameters of the task while recognizing weaknesses in each student’s writing (see recommended grading scale).
Recommended Grading Scale
While different instructors use different methods in calculating grades, the five point (4-0) scale described below might easily be adapted to letter (A-D,F) or % grading rubrics. It is not designed to be proscriptive so much as to establish a consensus with regard to the quality of analytical/persuasive writing the department considers satisfactory in students completing English 1101. 4, 3, and 2 should be considered passing grades for the purpose of assessing in-class extemporaneous writing.
4 A 4 response demonstrates exemplary development and mature style governed by a clear understanding of audience and task. It is insightful and persuasive, using convincing examples, illustrations, or analogies and demonstrating a thoughtful awareness of rhetorical technique(s). Sophisticated word choice and sentence structure demonstrate the writer’s clear and effective command of academic English, the mechanical conventions of which are observed here almost without exception.
3 A 3 response demonstrates a sensible approach to the prompt governed by a clear awareness of the rhetorical task. It displays clear organization and logic and draws on appropriate examples, illustrations, or analogies. While less compelling than a 4 response, a 3 response nonetheless shows an awareness of audience and an ability to choose words and vary sentences accurately. The writer demonstrates a good grasp of academic English, the mechanical conventions of which are here generally observed.
2 A 2 response is satisfactory, although it is sometimes marginally so. It demonstrates an adequate response to the writing task, a reasonable sense of organization, and sufficient examples, illustrations, or analogies. While the style of a 2 response will be less fluid and its development less thoughtful than that of a 3, the writer will nonetheless demonstrate a reasonable ability to vary sentence structure and choose vocabulary appropriate to the context. The conventions of academic English will here be observed with no distracting patterns of error.
1 A 1 response is clearly unsatisfactory in one or more of the following ways: it may be illogical, simplistic, or lacking in structure and organization; it may lack appropriate development or sufficient examples, illustrations, or analogies; it may reflect a significant misunderstanding of audience or rhetorical task. It will frequently display poor word choice, little sentence variety, occasional major errors in syntax, and a pervasive pattern of minor mechanical errors.
0 A 0 response suggests serious difficulty in conceiving a position and presenting it in conventional academic English. It may be incoherent, fragmented, profoundly simplistic, lacking any sense of the demands of the task, or inappropriately brief. It will often be characterized by pervasive patterns of syntactical and mechanical error.