Writing Assessment: Do we Practice What we Preach?

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Assessing student writing represents a large share of second language writing teachers’ workloads and is considered by some to be one of the most daunting of teacher tasks. Good assessment practices, while not always formally taught to prospective English language teachers, are essential to the teaching of second language writing. Teachers may have received instruction in giving feedback to students, but they also need guidance in assessment involving scoring, grading, and making ethically and pedagogically sound judgments about student work. In short, teachers need to understand the fundamentals of writing assessment – to be cognizant of writing assessment practices.

This knowledge of writing assessment has been termed writing assessment literacy and refers to what teachers know, believe, and practice regarding writing assessment. In this plenary session, I will discuss the results of a survey regarding writing assessment literacy that examined the following questions:

  • How do second language writing teachers obtain assessment knowledge?
  • What do second language writing teachers believe about writing assessment?
  • What are the assessment practices of second language writing teachers? (Crusan, Plakans, & Gebril, 2016).

In the past, I have consistently argued for the inclusion of assessment training in teacher education courses. This talk focuses on the idea that few teachers are prepared to assess the writing their students do. The results of the study point to the need for better preparation of teachers in MATESOL and ESL certification programs to be effective assessors of writing. I will provide suggestions and strategies for doing so.

Crusan, D., Plakans, L., & Gebril, A. (2016). Writing assessment literacy: Surveying second language teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and practices. Assessing Writing, 28, 43-56. doi:10.1016/j.asw.2016.03.001.


Plenary presented at the 16th Symposium on Second Language Writing, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, July 2, 2017.