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Organic Writing Assessment

Dynamic Criteria Mapping in Action

Bob Broad, Linda Adler-Kassner, Barry Alford, Jane Detweiler, Heidi Estrem, Susanmarie Harrington, Maureen McBride, Eric Stalions, and Scott Weeden

Publication Year: 2009

Educators strive to create “assessment cultures” in which they integrate evaluation into teaching and learning and match assessment methods with best instructional practice. But how do teachers and administrators discover and negotiate the values that underlie their evaluations? Bob Broad’s 2003 volume, What We Really Value, introduced dynamic criteria mapping (DCM) as a method for eliciting locally-informed, context-sensitive criteria for writing assessments. The impact of DCM on assessment practice is beginning to emerge as more and more writing departments and programs adopt, adapt, or experiment with DCM approaches.

For the authors of Organic Writing Assessment, the DCM experience provided not only an authentic assessment of their own programs, but a nuanced language through which they can converse in the always vexing, potentially divisive realm of assessment theory and practice. Of equal interest are the adaptations these writers invented for Broad’s original process, to make DCM even more responsive to local needs and exigencies.

Organic Writing Assessment represents an important step in the evolution of writing assessment in higher education. This volume documents the second generation of an assessment model that is regarded as scrupulously consistent with current theory; it shows DCM’s flexibility, and presents an informed discussion of its limits and its potentials.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. v

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1. Organic Matters: In Praise of Locally Grown Writing Assessment

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pp. 1-13

In his book Organic Matters (2001), farmer Henry Brockman criticizes the USDA definition of “organic” (grown without chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers) as dangerously weak. He points out that most commercially grown organic produce purchased at grocery stores lacks flavor and nutrition just as much as most commercially grown non-organic produce. Both these kinds of food are produced industrially...

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2. The Journey is the Destination: The Place of Assessment in an Activist Writing Program—Eastern Michigan University

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pp. 14-36

LOCAL CONTEXT Eastern Michigan University is a comprehensive university of about 24,000 (about 22,000 of whom are undergraduates). Our students typically come from southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio. They come to EMU for a variety of reasons—proximity to their homes, cost (we’re fairly inexpensive, as colleges and universities go), friends who have come here before, or because they want to be teachers...

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3. DCM as THE Assessment Program: Mid Michigan Community College

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pp. 37-51

The other examples of DCM (dynamic criteria mapping) included in this volume are focused on how the process works in English departments housed in four-year schools. While those examples have some contextual and discursive issues as a subtext about what and how assessment measures are structured, they are still implementing DCM in an institutional and cultural context that is more similar than it is different.

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4. Designs on Assessment at UNR: University of Nevada, Reno

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pp. 52-74

LOCAL CONTEXT The University of Nevada, Reno is the state’s flagship research university, with a long tradition of excellence in providing a liberal arts education. At most recent count, about 15,000 students are enrolled (about 12,000 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate). Its “vertical” Core curriculum was created/ elaborated over a number of years beginning in the 1980s, with first-year math and writing courses, a three-course...

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5. Assessment Changes for the Long Haul: Dynamic Criteria Mapping at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C, Appendix D, Appendix E, Appendix F, Appendix G

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pp. 75-118

I wonder: Could teachers gather around the great thing called “teaching and learning” and explore its mysteries with the same respect we accord any subject worth knowing? . . . Our tendency to reduce teaching to question of technique is one reason we lack a collegial conversation of much duration or depth. Though technique-talk promises the ‘practical’ solutions that we think we want and need,...

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6. Putting Placement on the Map: Bowling Green State University Appendix A

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pp. 119-153

LOCAL CONTEXT As a doctoral student in the Rhetoric and Writing Program at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Bowling Green, Ohio, I adapted Bob Broad’s (2003) dynamic criteria mapping (DCM) research model to identify, analyze, and map the rhetorical values or criteria that guided the General Studies Writing placement program’s evaluators in placing students into one of the first-year writing courses in 2006.

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7. Bookend

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pp. 154-159

“Grant an idea to be true,” pragmatism says, then ask “what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone’s actual life?” —William James, Pragmatism Upon re-reading these inter-connected accounts of five adventures in dynamic criteria mapping, I am struck by how greatly these co-authors have enriched the theory and practice that appeared in its infancy in the 2003 book What We Really Value. The contributors...


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pp. 160-163


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pp. 164-165

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About the Authors

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pp. 166

Linda Adler-Kassner is professor of English and director of the first-year writing program at Eastern Michigan University. In the fall of 2010, she will ljoin the faculty at University of California, Santa Barbara as professor of English and director of the writing program. Her most recent book is The Activist WPA: Changing Stories About Writing and Writers. She is author, co-author, or co-editor of four other books and over 25 articles and book chapters...

E-ISBN-13: 9780874217315
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874217308

Publication Year: 2009