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-- the Forum May 1993 --

Assessing the Process and the Product

Marybeth Mason, CGCC
Evaluating student writing is always a difficult task for English teachers. Not only is it time consuming to read that seemingly endless stack of compositions, but it is also difficult to slap a grade in red ink on the work of a student which represents so much of herself. Frequently, the grade a student receives on her composition varies little throughout the semester. A student who enters as an "A" writer usually leaves as an "A" writer, the "B" writer enters and leaves a "B" writer, etc. But what about that student's progression through all steps of the writing process? If the process is truly as important as the product, shouldn't that process of pre-writing, drafting, editing, and revising, be evaluated?

Because we believe that teaching and learning the writing process is as important as the written product, English 101 instructors at CGCC give "process" grades to students for each composition they write. These process grades are worth approximately one third of the student's grade. The student is responsible for completing the pre-writing activity on time, completing a draft on time, bringing copies of that draft to class for peer editing, being present every day for editing and turning in an edited and revised draft on time, which has been carefully proofread by the peer editing group. Students staple a process evaluation sheet on top of this composition which looks like Figure A.

Students are then asked to choose one of every two compositions to submit for a "content" grade. These content grades are worth approximately two-thirds of their semester grade, and are determined by the students' ability to meet the criteria outlined when the assignment is given. Students staple the criteria for evaluation sheet on top of the composition they are turning in for a content grade along with a written explanation of why they have selected that composition . The explanation is important because it forces students to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses in writing, as well as their personal writing process. In this way, students gain valuable information about their own writing, information useful to them beyond the English 101 course. See Figure B & Figure C.

Both students and faculty find this evaluation system fair. Students are rewarded for being conscientious, diligent writers who participate in and recognize the importance of all stages of the writing process and not just the product. And English faculty have a method of reducing that dreaded paper load!

Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction (MCLI)
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