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Checking for Understanding Can Improve Student Writing

April 23, 2012 | Tags: formative assessment
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by Cathy Gassenheimer
How can regular "checking for understanding" in your classroom improve students' writing? A recent study at Vanderbilt University produced several best-practice recommendations.

The researchers found that formative assessment-- that is, ongoing, classroom-based assessment done by the teacher -- can help improve students' writing. Examples include: providing feedback on writing; teaching students to assess their own writing; and monitoring students' progress in writing.
They also highlighted six teaching practices that appear to be especially effective, based on analyses of student performance differences.

1) Allow students to use the mode of writing in which they are most proficient (e.g., pen and paper or computer) when doing a writing assessment.

2) Minimize the extent to which the form of presentation (such as handwriting legibility or computer printing) bias judgments of writing quality.

3) Mask the writer's identify when scoring papers.

4) Randomly order students' papers before scoring them.

5) Collect multiple samples (e.g., across writing genres) of students' writing.

6) Ensure that writing assessments are scored on a reliable basis (e.g., by using benchmarks, extended scoring ranges, or multiple graders).

Source: Informing Writing: The Benefits of Formative Assessment, 2011, Carnegie Corporation.

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