10. Threshold Concepts at the Crossroads: Writing Instruction and Assessment
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10 T h r e s h o l d C o nc e p t s at t h e C r o s s r oa d s DOI: 10.7330/9780874219906.c010 Writing Instruction and Assessment Peggy O’Neill Writing assessment includes both the products and processes of writing . As Tony Scott and Asao Inoue explain, it “encompasses a range of activities, from responding with revision in mind to evaluation or grading of final products to large-scale programmatic assessments” (see 1.7, “Assessing Writing Shapes Contexts and Instruction”). While Scott and Inoue focus on the judging of the writer’s text by someone else, assessment also “is an essential component of learning to write” (see 4.4, “Revision Is Central to Developing Writing”): “Through the prewriting, drafting, revision, editing, and publishing of a text, writers assess various components of the rhetorical situation as well as a variety of texts (their own and, frequently, others’). They must assess options and make decisions based on those assessments” (O’Neill, 4.5). This aspect of assessment is clearly linked to threshold concepts associated with metacognition (see 5.2, “Metacognition Is Not Cognition”) and reflection (see 5.4, “Reflection Is Critical for Writers’ Development”). Assessment is also linked to values and power. Through our assessment of texts, we convey what we value as readers. These values are closely linked to conventions about language and power relationships . Scott and Inoue (see 1.7, “Assessing Writing Shapes Contexts and Instruction”) quote Stephen Gould and F. Allan Hanson to point out that “how teachers or others assess student writing, what products those assessment processes produce (e.g., grades, comments on papers, decisions about students, responses to peers’ drafts, etc.), and the consequences of those products all can create the very competencies any writing assessment says it measures (Gould 1981; Hanson 1993).” Scott and Inoue continue, noting that writing assessment also 158   Part 2 : Using Threshold Concepts “shapes relationships and power between teachers, students and institutions ” (see 1.7, “Assessing Writing Shapes Contexts and Instruction”). Acknowledging the inherent power of writing assessment, whether it is in the classroom as part of the learning process or beyond the classroom as part of large-scale evaluation programs, is especially critical in writing studies because (as articulated in other threshold concepts) writing is closely linked to identity and ideology; it mediates activity and creates meaning; it represents the world and events; and it expresses ideas and feelings. Therefore, the assessment of writing influences our understanding of the world, of ourselves, and of our communication with each other. While writing studies’ threshold concepts are central to understanding writing assessment, they are not sufficient to such understanding because writing assessment lies at the intersection of threshold concepts specific to writing studies and those specific to educational assessment. Understanding writing assessment therefore requires understanding both sets of concepts and how they interact. Writing studies professionals who design and administer assessments must learn to understand critical concepts of validity and reliability associated with psychometrics since these concepts are widely used across disciplines and assessment contexts and have established power in the discourse of education and assessment. Conversely, assessment specialists, who may be responsible for designing and evaluating assessments across a variety of disciplines and contexts, must understand the threshold concepts associated with writing (articulated in part 1) if they are working in writing assessment . Both sets of concepts are required to create assessments that produce valid results and to use those results effectively and responsibly . However, assessment experts are all too often unfamiliar with writing theory and practice. Thus, if writing studies scholars, teachers, and administrators hope to influence assessment mandates and practices driven by those from outside writing studies, we bear the burden of learning assessment’s threshold concepts. Sometimes writing professionals need to challenge decisions or proposals made by assessment experts when those decisions or proposals do not enact accurate conceptions of writing or support effective teaching and learning of writing. To do this well, we must be able to both understand and use the language of educational measurement. Toward this end, in this chapter I explain some of the key threshold concepts associated with educational measurement and the ways they are used in writing assessments, both large scale and classroom based. Threshold Concepts at the Crossroads   159 Validity and R e li abili ty: Key T h resh o ld Conce pt s for Writing Assessm e nt fro m Psych omet r ics Psychometrics is the discipline...

Subject Headings

  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • Creative writing -- Study and teaching.
  • Academic writing -- Study and teaching.
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