The Promise of Directed Self-Placement for Second Language Writers

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Evaluation is far from being a neutral process. In recent years, tests have commanded increasing influence, which in implications for both individuals and society (Crusan, 2010b). One purpose for testing - writing placement or "where to put students" (Yancey, 1999, p. 485) - has presented particular challenges, especially in writing programs at the college level. Further, because the first-year experience in college so clearly defines the academic success or failure of students (di Gennaro, 2008), placement deserves teachers' attention. Scholars have long recognized the challenges of writing placement, both in LI and L2, calling it the "knottiest of our assessment problems" (White, 2008, p. 141; see Crusan, 2002, 2006, 2010a, 2010b; di Gennaro, 2006, 2008; Huot, 1994; Hamp-Lyons, 2002, 2011; Haswell, 1998; O'Neill, Moore, & Huot, 2009; Royer & Gilles, 2003; Weigle, 2002; White, 2008; Yancey, 1999). Placement into composition courses has been a perennially thorny issue for students whose first language is not English but who are matriculated students at American universities. At the heart of this conundrum is the question of method. How can we evaluate students? What tools can we use to evaluate them? Though these questions have been asked and answered countless times by countless writing programs, some answers have been more acceptable and successful than others. In this article, I focus on one specific placement method: directed self-placement (DSP) , its varieties, advantages, and disadvantages. "The strength of a writing program often lies in its assessment techniques" (Crusan, 2010a, p. 30), so I strongly suggest that writing programs consider DSP as one option for placement of second langu

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