Language Matters: Empowering Teachers (and Learners) Through Language Acquisition and Writing Assessment Knowledge

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Assessment is a perennial issue in the teaching of writing. Teachers dread it, and many are not well trained in the methodology regarding reliable and ethical assessment. However, informed assessment of student writing remains an important component of the classroom and of a teacher’s repertoire. Further complicating writing assessment are issues involving language acquisition, which English language learners bring to the classroom. Second language writers, however, are not alone in their need for rhetorical and language skills. Native speakers of English bring their own set of language issues to the writing classroom.

As students progress from grade school to high school to college, they encounter more complex discipline-specific genres ridden with difficult language. These heavy linguistic demands sometimes seem to obstruct progress, and students may struggle with tasks, not because of cognition but because of these issues with language. As de Oliveira (2016) reminds us, “All students are language learners. All teachers are language teachers.” This presentation explores the importance of recognizing all teachers as language teachers, introduces strategies for supporting English language learners, and reviews principles for promoting student success in writing through teaching and assessment regardless of their status as native speaker or English language learner.


Keynote speech presented at Wisconsin TESOL, Oshkosh, WI, November 5, 2016.