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Writing and Human Judgment

writingThe NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing, written by the Writing Study Group of the NCTE Executive Committee, pinpoints 11 key issues in the effective teaching of writing. Over the next few weeks, we will unpack each one. This week, we will look at:

“Assessment of writing involves complex, informed, human judgment.”

Assessment of writing occurs for different purposes. Instructors of composition should know about various methods of assessment of student writing. Instructors must recognize the difference between formative and summative evaluation and be prepared to evaluate students’ writing from both perspectives. Teachers of writing must also be able to recognize the developmental aspects of writing ability and devise appropriate lessons for students at all levels of expertise. Read more from NCTE on the assessment of writing.

Every day in classrooms, barely noticeable, yet hugely powerful interactions take place in what we have come to know as the “teachable moment.” In “Teachable Moments: Linking Assessment and Teaching in Talk around Writing” from Language Arts the authors deconstruct those moments to understand how assessment and teaching mesh to produce learning.

According to Jeff Wilhelm in his Voices from the Middle article, “Learning to Listen to Student Voices: Teaching with Our Mouths Shut” a teacher’s power lies in learning to work with students, starting with listening. He recommends setting up conditions and mechanisms that help you learn from your students what they are learning, what challenges they are facing, and how best to teach them. Through inquiry, the classroom can become a vital and engaging intellectual community, and the learning that results is often “hard fun.”

While teaching a lesson about iambic pentameter, the author of “Formative Assessment: Can You Handle the Truth?” from the English Journal realized that if she had omitted the formative assessment, “I would have remained blissfully ignorant of students’ lack of comprehension.” The author goes on to further describe the power of formative assessments.

The article, “Creating a Culture of Assessment in Writing Programs and Beyond” provides a framework, based on current historical, theoretical, and rhetorical knowledge, to help writing specialists understand how to embrace assessment as a powerful mechanism for improved teaching and learning at their institutions. This idea is described further in the NCTE text Assessing Writing: A Critical Sourcebook.

How do you use the NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing in your classroom?