Evaluating College Writing:
Formative Assessment of Student
Essays as the Set Up for the Writing
Conference
USING TARGETED, MINIMAL GRADING
STRATEGIES TO GUIDE THE WRITING
CONFERENCE
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Using Writing Conferences Fosters Students’
Growth as Writers
Writing conferences focus students on the discovery,
writing, and revising process as well as on the written
product
Targeted minimal grading and comment strategies
coupled with the writing conference can help
instructors to handle heavy paper grading loads
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Summary
 Using targeted, minimal grading strategies in
grading student essays is perfect way to set up the
writing conference
 This discussion presents strategies and models that
will help you to grade essays more efficiently
 The comments you make on student essays are used
to focus and guide the writing conference
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
The Writing Conference and Freshman
Composition
 The Writing Conference is central to fostering
growth in writing, especially when working with
college freshmen, who are novices in the academic
discourse community
 The Writing Conference is a place of discovery,
where you have an opportunity to discuss the writing
process, to direct required revision focusing on
higher order concerns as well as correctness issues,
and to help writers to understand and develop their
writing and revising awareness and strategies
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
The Writing Conference is the Teachable
Moment
 The Writing Conference provides immediacy in
discussing the essay. Focus talk on helping students to
understand the targeted comments, clarifying questions,
and the limited and judicious direct corrections that you
note on the essay
 Use targeted, minimal grading strategies described in
this presentation to focus and direct the writing
conference to help novice college writers to understand
the writing process, especially invention and revision
 Use this precious time to explain the most important
revisions you expect the writer to make and to discuss
strategies for making those revisions
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
The Basic Premise
 Students expect their instructors to ‘fix’ the written





assignment through written comments “Just show me
what I need to fix to get an ‘A’ is not a mindset conducive to
growth as a writer or discovery revision
Minimal grading and conferencing makes the writer do the
work
The goal of writing instruction is to, as Stephen North tells
us, “make sure that writers, and not necessarily their texts,
are what get changed by instruction.”
The goal of writing instruction is to produce better writers,
not just better texts
Targeted minimal grading strategies focuses, guides, and
sets up the writing conference
The goal of the writing conference is to help students to
reflect on, understand and improve their discovery,
planning, drafting, and revision processes
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
What is Minimal Grading?
 Minimal grading does not mean that you will not assess the




student’s writing closely and carefully
Minimal grading moves students away from the ‘editing’
mindset toward an audience-based awareness of the aims of
discourse, modes of discourse, and message—and the writing
process
Minimal grading is a less prescriptive approach that focuses
on directing students to do deep revision for meaning,
development, support, structure, etc.
This does not mean that you do not provide direction. You
direct the student in what to do, but comments make the
student do the work
Minimal grading intends to stimulate student reflection on
the act of revising, and requires the student to do the work
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Targeted Minimal Grading is More than Just
Checks in the Margin
 I propose using more than simple minimal grading strategies
in assessing student writing
 Targeted minimal grading provides students with correction
comments designed to clarify needed revisions and the
writer’s creative process
 The strategy is designed to focus attention on the both
strengths and weaknesses of the text and the process that
created the text
 Targeted minimal grading manages the type, length, and
complexity of comments to a level that novice college writers
can understand and use to improve their writing process to
include global revision, and focuses away from exclusive
sentence/word level proofreading that students tend to think
is real revision
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
The Primary Focus of Assessment Should Be
Higher Order Writing Concerns
 Most college freshman writers believe that revising
the essay is simply a matter of proofreading and
editing for surface features: punctuation, spelling,
and simple grammar
 College professors know that we expect students to
address deeper matters of meaning, significance,
audience, support of ideas, modes of development,
logic, structure, attribution and documentation of
sources, and adherence to appropriate academic
format
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Higher Order Concerns: The Major Five
The Higher Order Concerns should be the focus of
assessment
The Major Five
 Focus/ideas
 Development/tone
 Organization/format
 Style
 Conventions, including serious patterns of
grammatical, punctuation, or vocabulary error
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Lower Order Concerns: The Other ‘Stuff’
 Identify and provide correction for PATTERNS OF
SYNTACTIC/GRAMMATICAL ERROR,
VOICE/DICTION, VOCABULARY as Higher
Order Concerns when these errors are serious,
occur in a consistent pattern and/or occur
repeatedly
 Consider using the GrammarWiki activity to help
students to understand the errors that occur in their
writing and how to make corrections quickly and
easily
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Making Comments on Student Essays 1
 Many writing teachers ‘over grade’ assignments
 Study after study of grading comments show that
students become overwhelmed by too many
comments on too many features of their writing that
are on too many levels of complexity
 Focus on the MAJOR aspects of writing primarily
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Making Comments on Student Essays 2
 Focus targeted comments and use them to help you
to direct the writing conference
 Connect comments to rubric requirements and other
assessment information for clarity
 Use comments and directive questions to focus
student attention on essay strengths and weaknesses
and to foster metacognitive monitoring
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Marginal Comments and Questions Should Be
Used to Guide Discussion and Reflection
 Use comments and questions to guide your
discussion of the essay in conference and to
stimulate student awareness and reflection of the
strengths of their writing and their essay, not only
the weaknesses and errors
 Keep your comments specific and brief
 Focus is the key
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Specify, Specify, Specify!
 Marginal comments should
 Be
Specific
 Point to the Assignment Rubric and
Associated Writing Traits
 Guide discussion in the writing
conference
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Specify 2
Marginal Comments Should
 Help the student to reflect on strengths and
weaknesses in the writing process that
produce strong and weak writing
 Foster metacognitive monitoring of the
writing and revising process
 Foster Deep Revision for the Major Five
 Foster awareness of patterns of error that
distract the reader from the message and
intent of the essay
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Specify 3
Marginal Comments Should
 Foster metacognitive monitoring of the
writing and revising process
 Foster Deep Revision for the Major Five
 Foster awareness of patterns of error and
correction strategies that distract the reader
from the message and intent of the essay
 Help the student to ask the right questions in
conference
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Where to Begin
 Make targeted and economical comment notes, focusing
on major issues first
 Remember, your task is to make the student do the work
of revision. Asking questions to clarify, interpret, and
direct reflection and revision rather than “fixing”—
rewriting-- the essay for the student is the best strategy
to focus the writer’s attention on major, higher-order
issues. Modeling written strategies is best done in small
quantities and in conference discussion
 Also remember that you will use these targeted minimal
grading strategies and questions to direct the writing
conference
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
FOCUS the COMMENTS
 Over-grading and writing too many long comments
on disparate issues within the draft can overwhelm
the novice college writer. Focus any comments on
the most serious issues, first
 Keep it Simple for best results
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
No More than Three Weaknesses
 Choose two or three major aspects of the essay that
need correction and revision
 Address these in individual marginal and end note or
grid comments
 Comment on both strong and weak aspects of the
essay, directing the writer’s attention and
encouraging reflection on writing as discovery, the
student’s unique writing process, and the deep
revision process
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Make an End Note
A three-to-five sentence comment at the end of the
essay that summarizes the revisions you want to see in
the next draft will help students to have an overview of
what must be done in the next revision
Address serious surface error judiciously in the end
note. Direct the writers to their textbooks or
handbooks for specific information and guidance on
how to correct the error
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Or Use a + and –
Grid
 Instead of an End Note, make a Grid
 This grid is a visual summary of major strengths and
weaknesses that students need to address
 Number comments in the grid. After you complete
comments in the essay and on the grid, go back and add
the grid item number to each associated written
comment
 Focus on the Major Five and any surface errors that
impact clarity of meaning or distract attention from
meaning
 Using the grid is an excellent way to keep conference
discussion on track. Students like the grid
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
+ and - Grid
+
Please schedule
a 15 minute
conference
before you
begin to
revise
SAMPLE
This is
easy to do
by hand
1.The thesis paragraph is solid:
the thesis statement and essay
roadmap with a list of supporting
points are clear and set up the
argument well. What was your
planning process? Draft process?
You might want to use the same
processes for other essays.
2. the ‘Bad Company’ argument
against capital punishment is
clear, complete, and well
supported. What was your idea
discovery and draft process? It
worked well.
-
4.Section one outlining the history
of capital punishment is weak and
too long. This reader lost patience
waiting for the first argument to
be presented. Think about what
you might cut from this section
and let’s talk about that revision in
conference.
5.Discussion of lethal injection as
cruel and unusual is not clear.
Rewrite dependent clauses and
make clear, direct statements of
fact and opinion that match the
solid tone of the ‘bad company’
section.
3.Section two presenting
6.Review MLA format & sample
examples and description of
paper on the Purdue OWL site.
wrongful execution are
Your 1.25 margins and single
absolutely compelling. Well done! spaced body text are not correct.
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Planning and Conducting the Conference
 Be clear about the goals you want to accomplish in




the conference
Review targeted comments before the conference to
focus the discussion
This means that sometimes student questions must
be deferred until the end of the session
At other times, you may need to invite the student to
ask questions at the beginning of the session
Hone your one-to-one teaching strategies to make
the writing conference conversation productive
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Sample Essay
 Please see the sample essay that accompanies this
presentation for model comments, endnote, and grid
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Works Cited
 Harris, Muriel. 1979. “The Overgraded Paper: Another Case of More Is Less.” In







How to Handle the Paper Load, ed. Gene Stanford and the Committee on Classroom
Practices, 91–94. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.
Horvath, Brooke K. 1984. “The Components of Written Response: A Practical
Synthesis of Current Views.” Rhetoric Review 2: 136–56.
Lauer, Janice M., et al. 1991. Four Worlds of Writing. 3d ed. New York:
HarperCollins.
Mailloux, Steven. 1989. Rhetorical Power. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Murray, Donald M. 1979. “The Listening Eye: Reflections on the Writing
Conference.” College English 41: 13–18.
Rose, Alan. 1982. “Spoken versus Written Criticism of Student Writing—Some
Advantages of the Conference Method.” College Composition and Communication
33: 326–30.
Shuman, R. Baird. 1979. “How to Grade Student Writing.” In How to Handle the
Paper Load, ed. Gene Stanford and the Committee on Classroom Practices, 95–96.
Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.
Sommers, Nancy. 1999. “Responding to Student Writing.” In The New St. Martin’s
Guide to Teaching Writing, ed. Robert Connors and Cheryl Glenn, 339–47. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry October 4, 2011
Download

Evaluating College Writing