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Volume 3, Issue 1: Spring 2007


by Brian Huot

Portfolio Assessment: Quantification and Community

by Norbert Elliot, Vladimir Briller, and Kamal Joshi

This article presents an outcomes assessment model designed to provide programmatic information to shareholders at a comprehensive technological university. Employing a model emphasizing a veridical relationship between quantification and community, we designed a portfolio assessment process that models a unified validity concept. The assessment model, implemented collegially across the undergraduate humanities curriculum, was found to offer integrated evidence about the ability of our students to think critically, to draft and revise their work, and to document sources used in their assignments.

Articulating Sophistic Rhetoric as a Validity Heuristic for Writing Assessment

by Asao B. Inoue

This article develops a validity inquiry heuristic from several Elder Sophists' positions on the nomos-physis controversy of the fifth and fourth century B.C.E. in Greece. The nomos-physis debate concerned the nature and existence of knowledge and virtue, and maps well to current discussion of validity inquiry in writing assessment. Beyond rearticulating validity as a reflexive, agency-constructing, rhetorical act, this article attempts to bridge disciplines by articulating validity in terms of rhetorical theory, and understanding ancient sophistic rhetorical positions as validity theory.

The Power of Tests: A Critical Perspective on the Uses of Language Texts by Elana Shohamy

by Bob Broad

Most of us interested in assessment would agree that our field's thinking about what educational evaluation is and does has developed through at least a couple of distinct historical-conceptual phases. Initially, we understood evaluation as a way of gathering information about what people had learned, and we focused on getting the most accurate and reliable information possible. More recently, our conception of evaluation was broadened and enhanced as we came to understand the rich cluster of assessment concepts that point out to us how assessment not only collects data, but also teaches people (produces knowledge) and transforms educational systems and processes. We, therefore, now also attend to validity issues related to consequences, washback, and assessment's "educative" nature (Wiggins, 1998). In this second historical phase, we still seek valid and valuable information about learning and learners, be we also turn our attention to the impact of assessment decisions on the broader educational project.

An Annotated Bibliography of Writing Assessment: Teacher's Written Responses to Student Writing

by Michael Neal, Peggy O'Neill, Ellen Schendel and Brian Huot

Because it is difficult, time-consuming, vexing, rewarding, and fundamental to the teaching of writing, teachers' written responses to student writing has been and continues to be a topic of great interest to those in any field where writing is assigned, responded to, and graded. Although assigning and grading writing are closely related to response, the focus for this issue of the bibliography is response. Likewise, as Mathison-Fife and O'Neill remind us, student writers receive valuable feedback and response to their writing in other forms and from other sources--peer feedback, student-teacher conferences, workshops, and so on--yet the responses that teachers write to students on their essays constitutes some of the most important formative feedback and evaluative opportunities teachers have. Not surprisingly, much of the empirical research on response is textual analysis of teachers' comments or revisions students make to their writing after reading teacher feedback. Other research includes case studies of teachers and/or students in the dialogic process of teacher response and subsequent student writing. One of the biggest questions that remains is whether teachers' response styles are consistent with the emerging themes in modern composition studies; in other words, do teachers' responses reflect such important shifts as dialogue, processes, students' rights to their own language, and so on, or is response largely negative and devoted to criticizing and correcting student prose. These and other relevant, pedagogically minded questions continue to fuel the literature on teachers' written responses to student writing.