The assessment program is based on the premises that one of the evaluative tasks of writing teachers is to make distinctions about student writing and that good writing can be distinguished from bad writing (frequently with a high degree of agreement among colleagues). While colleagues can legitimately disagree about the features of good writing, they ought to recognize and be able to explain these disagreements clearly to each other (and by extension, to students).
In a program that requires sequential courses, especially when these courses are taught by many different people, students benefit if teachers can demonstrate that their evaluation of writing is based on identifiable standards and is applied consistently.
The program is formative rather than summative: the assessment of student writing achievement is directed back to the individual instructor -- quickly and concretely -- so that instructional change can occur. This program takes what are normally considered barriers and turns them into opportunities.
The second part of the assessment program requires faculty teaching English 101 to participate in one of four options for assessing student writing in their classes that semester (a common final exam, a common assignment, a portfolio, or an independent option), and to report the results of that assessment (either individually or as a group) at the following semester's assessment meeting. Instructors teach multiple sections of English 101 may elect more than one assessment option; they have been encouraged to try different options from semester to semester.
Common Assignment Instructors choosing the common assignment work in small groups to design an assignment that they think measures student writing achievement at the end of the course. They also agree on a grading procedure and criteria. Finished essays are exchanged so instructors do not evaluate their own classes. Student grades are affected to the degree determined by each group.
Portfolios Instructors participating in the portfolio process ask their students to submit two essays to be ready by other participating instructors. These essays must be "rewrites" of required papers, reflecting teacher comment and student revision. Both essays must be judged B- or better by the readers for the student to receive a final grade of "A" or "B." (Not that completion of the process does not guarantee a grade if the student has not also earned it on the teacher's grading scale.)
Individual Option The individual option allows instructors to devise assessment measures to evaluated their own students' semester progress. While they work individually, they must report their results to the department.
Option Reports Oral option reports are presented, individually or collectively, at every assessment day. Written reports are collected, compiled, and kept in the conference room for use by other English instructors.
For additional information about the Pilot Assessment Program, contact Karen Schwalm (email@example.com), Betty Hufford (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Carol Sunshine (email@example.com) at GCC.