All Teachers are Language Teachers: How Language Acquisition and Writing Assessment Affect Student Success

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Assessment is a perennial issue in the teaching of writing. And although many teachers may dread it, we cannot disregard the importance of reliable and ethical assessment. Informed assessment of student writing remains an important component of the classroom and of a teacher’s repertoire. Further complicating writing assessments 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. Both second language writers and native speakers of English struggle with rhetorical issues (where there may be overlap) and language issues (where there are differences).

As students progress from grade school to high school and college, they encounter more complex discipline-specific genres ridden with difficult-to-process language. These heavy linguistic demands sometimes seem to obstruct progress, and students may struggle with tasks, not because of cognition, but because of language. As de Oliveria (2016) reminds us, “All students are language learners. All teachers are language teachers.” This presentation explores that theme and reviews principles for promoting student success in writing through teaching and assessment regardless of their language status.


Keynote speech presented at Alabama Mississippi TESOL (AMTESOL), Hattiesburg, MI, January 27, 2017.