Volume 7, Issue 1: 2014


by Peggy O'Neill and Diane Kelly-Riley

The articles in Volume 7 address a range of topics aimed at writing assessment as a critical component of classroom teaching and include a review essay of a book of newly-published essays by a writing assessment pioneer.

While we publish most reviews of assessment-related texts on our refereed blog, the JWA Reading List, the review essay by Richard Haswell, which considers Robert Hampel’s recently published volume, Paul Diederich and the progressive American high school (Information Age Publishing, 2014) links Diederich’s ideas expressed in these works with current discussions. The book is a compilation of previously unpublished essays by Diederich, an influential figure in writing assessment who worked at ETS for decades. According to Haswell, the topics addressed in Diederich’s works “center on students, teachers, instructional objectives and conditions, and the connection of education to moral and social life.” Given the current discussion on assessment in light of the Common Core State Standards, Haswell’s review convinced us to read the text, and we think it will do the same for “writing assessment scholars interested in contextual measurement and its relationship to curricula should find this collection enlightening, even supportive.” Hampel’s book and Haswell’s review remind us of the importance of revisiting primary source materials to reconsider the original texts of important figures, like Diederich, on today’s scholarship and practice.

In addition to Haswell’s review essay, this volume includes two essays on writing assessment and multilingual speakers or English language learners. The first essay, “Linguistic microfeatures to predict L2 writing proficiency: A case study in Automated Writing Evaluation,” by Scott A. Crossley, Kristopher Kyle, Laura K. Allen, Liang Guo, and Danielle S. McNamara, compares essays originally written for the TOEFL, scored by both human raters and two different AES tools. The study focused on microfeatures (such as vocabulary, idomaticity, syntactic variety, and tense) related to length, complexity, cohesion, relevance, topic, and rhetorical style. The authors conclude,“findings from this study provide important information about how linguistic microfeatures can predict L2 essay quality for TOEFL-type exams and about the strengths and weaknesses of automatic essay scoring models.”

While this article studied writing samples written as part of a large-scale standardized test, the second article, “Language Background and the College Writing Course,” offers an approach to exploring students’ language backgrounds through the concept of multilingual equity, maintaining that students’ language background has always been a consideration in college writing courses and that language complexity has become even more relevant. The author, Jonathan Hall, reports on a survey tool, Education and Language Background (ELB), developed to assess the “divergence from default assumptions of college students as U.S.-educated monolingual English speakers.” Hall argues that instructors and programs can learn more about all students, not just those already identified as multilingual speakers and/or English language learners, by using the ELB survey. By gathering more about students’ education and language background, teachers and programs can better serve the needs of their students. Hall’s argument is grounded in a study that assessed a junior-level college writing course by correlating student ELB data with scores on pre-test/post-test writing samples.

Rounding out the volume is an article by Nicole I. Caswell that explores emotion as part of teachers’ response to their students’ writing. Caswell demonstrates how little attention the literature gives to the emotional aspect of responding, a critical form of assessment in teaching and learning. She reports on the results of a survey of 146 teachers of writing to contextualize a more in depth examination of the interrelated emotional episode of one teacher. Caswell’s analysis demonstrates how the emotional aspect of responding contributes to a teacher’s identity.

We want to thank the multitude of supporters of JWA. First, we appreciate the continued financial support of the Department of English and the College of Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences at the University of Idaho. This support ensures that JWA remains an independent journal that publishes scholarship by and for teachers and scholars of writing assessment. Additionally, these two units funded the refreshed JWA site, which has an updated look as well as an added search function. Additionally, enhancements were made on the backside of the site to enable better collaboration and record keeping by the editorial team.

We appreciate the hard work of our extended editorial team: Jessica Nastal-Dema, Georgia Southern University, Associate Editor; Bruce Bowles, Jr. and David Bedsole, both of Florida State University, co-editors of the JWA Reading List; and Tialitha Macklin, Washington State University, Assistant Editor.

We greatly appreciate the many reviewers who have generously donated and volunteered their time to carefully peer-review many manuscripts. These reviewers include:

Bob Broad, Illinois State University

Jennifer Clary-Lemon, University of Winnipeg

Deborah Crusan, Wright State University

Paul Deane, Educational Testing Service

Norbert Elliot, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Laura Micciche, University of Cincinnati

Les Perelman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado, Boulder

Gail Shuck, Boise State University

Tony Silva, Purdue University

David Slomp, University of Lethbridge

Melanie Sperling, University of California, Riverside

Victor Villanueva, Jr., Washington State University

Louise Weatherbee Phelps, Syracuse University

Carl Whithaus, University of California, Davis

Finally, Volume 7 marks the end of Peggy O’Neill’s role as co-editor of JWA. Peggy has been instrumental in continuing the mission of JWA set forth by its founders, Brian Huot and Kathleen Blake Yancey who stated “that the academics who see the need for a journal, who write, research, and edit the articles should make the decisions about who should edit and retain control” (2003, p. 2). Peggy was instrumental in moving JWA to an online, open-source journal that makes our publications accessible to all. Already a prolific scholar and researcher of writing assessment, Peggy assumed the responsibilities of the time consuming editorial work of JWA. The journal has benefitted from her leadership, extensive knowledge and experience with writing assessment, and her multiple connections to practitioners of writing assessment. Peggy will continue her work with JWA as one of our editorial board members. We will greatly miss her.

We thank everyone for your continued support. We welcome the incoming co-editor, Carl Whithaus of the University of California, Davis. We are excited about the perspectives, expertise, and experience that he will bring to JWA!

A Note from Peggy O’Neill:

I have had a fantastic experience working with Diane Kelly-Riley, who has shouldered the brunt of the day-to-day work needed to maintain an academic journal. Diane has been a champion for JWA, successfully securing funds to help us maintain the infrastructure so we can keep this an open-access, peer-reviewed journal. She has also worked with the graduate students, mentoring them and teaching them about the ins and outs of academic publishing. Her attention to detail and dedication to the JWA are admirable. I feel very lucky to have had a chance to work with Diane as well as Jessica Nastal-Dema, associate editor, who, like Diane, is a consistent presence, getting the job done with professionalism and good cheer. I have learned so much from both of these women and the contributors, reviewers, and editorial board members whose uncompensated but important work are the backbone of independent academic journals. I look forward to continuing my affiliation with JWA as an editorial board member.