Assessing Essay

a student who wrote a whole page of the letter “b” ended up with a good score.

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There are books and journals and conferences devoted to assessment.

Plenty of comp/rhet types have had very good careers as assessment specialists. Don’t get me wrong– I think assessment is important, too.

Most composition and rhetoric scholars think this software is a bad idea.

I think this is not not true, though I do have three thoughts.

WPAs have to consider large-scale assessment issues to measure outcomes across many different sections of first year writing, and they usually have to mentor instructors on small-scale assessment– that is, how to grade and comment all these student papers in a way that is both useful to students and that does not take an enormous amount of time.

There is a ton of scholarship on assessment– how to do it, what works or doesn’t, the pros and cons of portfolios, etc.Nonetheless, for most people meaning of essay (or paper– same thing).Thus we have the five paragraph form, or even this comparably enlightened advice from the Bow Valley College Library and Learning Commons, one of the first links that came up in a simple Google search. ) for creating an essay (or paper) driven by a thesis and research.I am not one to speak about the “kids today” because I’ve been teaching long enough to know students now are not a whole lot different than they were 30 years ago.But one thing I’ve noticed in recent years– I think because of “No Child Left Behind” and similar efforts– is the extent to which students nowadays seem puzzled about embarking on almost any writing assignment without a detailed rubric to follow.” Furthermore, as the NPR story points out, this software can be tricked.Les Perleman has been demonstrating for years how these robo-graders can be fooled, though I have to say I am a lot more impressed with the ingenuity shown by some students in Utah who found ways to “game” the system: “One year…As I understand it, software like this can rate/grade the response to a specific essay question– “in what ways did the cinematic techniques of was a good movie?”– and it is not very good at all at rating/grading pieces of writing with almost no constraints, as in “what’s your favorite movie?In my own teaching, I tend to use the term project to describe what I assign students to do because I think it’s a term that can include a variety of different kinds of texts (including essays) and other deliverables.I hate the far too common term paper because it suggests writing that is static, boring, routine, uninteresting, and bureaucratic.

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