The Role of Assessment and Feedback in Developing Writing Ability
During the few years that I have been a student, I have found it extremely hard to submit my papers to be reviewed by my teachers. Even when given an opportunity to submit early drafts and rewrite them if required before the due date, I find it very difficult to achieve it. According to surveys conducted in learning institutions and various places of work, written communication is a critical competence that determines students’ academic success. Additionally, it influences their future career achievement. In higher education, writing ability is particularly important since a scholar’s proficiency with this form of communication is viewed as a crucial learning outcome. In this essay, I will argue that developing writing ability is a process that requires both teachers and students to be highly committed. The teachers have a responsibility to assess their students and provide a feedback. On the other hand, students should utilize this feedback to improve their writing competence.The Role of Assessment and Feedback in Developing Writing Ability
For one to appreciate the role assessment plays when developing students’ writing ability, he must first understand what it means to assess. In a school setting, the term can be used to refer to the process of collecting relevant information, which can be used to determine or rank student learning. The evidence gathered can be applied for various purposes that include rendering judgment about a student’s ability to deliver quality work or adjusting instruction. According to Adler-Kassner and Wardle “writing assessment refers to the formulation of a judgment or decision based on the reading of student writing with a particular set of expectations or values in mind (29)”. The author’s words clearly indicate the important role performed by this form of assessment. Based on their statement, it is evident that written literacy assessment should be conducted by individuals that are well-informed. Moreover, since the person conducting the assessment has certain values in mind, it should result in reinforcement of good teaching practices.
Adler-Kassner and Wardle note that “writing assessments are a social activity and can be shaped by a variety of individual or institutional factors, including stated goals for writing education; disciplinary philosophies of literacy and learning; political agendas; efficiency imperatives; or common cultural assumptions about writers and literacy (30)”. Here, the authors clearly point out that written literacy assessment is a process. Moreover, it is evident that this practice could be carried out at different stages and could take different forms. Depending on the prevailing institutional or individual factors, the teacher could function as the motivator, evaluator, or even critic.
Assessment serves to deliver feedback about written literacy to students. The two authors note that “whatever is emphasized in an assessment produces what is defined as ‘good writing’ in a class, a program or curriculum. Likewise, what is not emphasized becomes less important and may not be considered characteristics of good writing” (30). This quote helps to illustrate the crucial role of feedback in writing development. Here, feedback emerges both as the hero and anti-hero as well. It is powerful enough to convince students what forms good writing and what does not. In some of the literature available today, however, provision of written feedback is viewed as a problematic practice. According to some scholars, comments that teachers place on the drafts of students does not contribute to writing development.
Other researchers argue that corrective feedback that involves revision can help learners to minimize the number of mistakes they make. Black and Wiliam, note that student assessment encourages them to learn and promote the level of their engagement (5). According to these authors, the most important element of assessment is feedback. They note that the role of assessment in learning involves availing information about the performance of individual students, which is helpful in determining teaching areas that need modification to effectively support learning. When information about assessment is used in such a manner, quality education and learning outcomes can be achieved.The Role of Assessment and Feedback in Developing Writing Ability
For students to realize the benefits of assessment in learning, teachers must first set out to help their writers develop a comprehensive understanding of learning goals. The response and instruction that learners receive from their teachers influence their understanding of quality performance that they are supposed to aim for, what success involves, and ways through which they can achieve it. Through effective feedback, students can evaluate their writing ability. Moreover, it informs them on ways through which they could develop this skill.
Under certain conditions, feedback provided by teachers can have a positive influence on the process of learning. Through it, learners can be induced to increase their accuracy or rate of response. Additionally, it can help learners to authenticate or modify a response that they had provided before. As Adler-Kassner and Wardle note, “the ability to write well comes neither naturally nor easily; the thinkers we praise and admire are not the lucky few born with innate talent. Rather, they are the ones who are able to make mistakes, learn from them, and keep writing until they get it right” (63). Additionally, they note that “One of the most important things students can learn is that failure is an opportunity for growth (63). These quotes are very informative. They indicate that for a student to develop his writing ability, he must be willing to compose multiple drafts and pay attention to the teacher’s feedback. Here, the authors note that teacher’s assessment, feedback, and rewriting are vital and valuable to anyone aspiring to become a writer. It is an inherent attribute of writing. The authors indicate that the text and the writer are ever changing with time in response to changes taking place in the other. The process begins when the writer has an idea that he intends to communicate. The next step for him is to put down his words, ensuring that he organizes them into coherent thoughts. It is also the responsibility of the writer to reflect on his thoughts that are now contained in the text to make any changes or adjustment. This forms the process of revision. Failure to give the writer an opportunity to rethink his ideas and rewrite them results in a process that does not yield its full fruit.
Furthermore, the quote helps to emphasize the need for students to realize that they can only achieve clarity and creativity in their writing if they are willing to take risks and fail. As they make mistakes, they will end up questioning themselves to identify what went wrong. As they do this, they place themselves on the right course to develop insights that will eventually help them to become better writers.The Role of Assessment and Feedback in Developing Writing Ability
It should be noted, however, that feedback can only result in effective revision when learners have the ability and willingness to get involved in the process itself. The ability of a student to improve his writing ability through feedback may be influenced by his belief about the impact of effort on his level of academic performance. Leaners who consider themselves as smart are likely to regard assessment as a threat. Such kind of mentality as Kassner and Wardle note “works against the learning process” (63). It is often found that their skills cease to develop as a result of their failure to try.
To conclude, the tendency of most students to work under deadlines will not help them to develop their writing ability. It will be misleading for them to expect that by writing just a single draft, they will succeed as writers. Students should stop the habit of waiting until the last minute to write their draft. Instead, they should utilize teacher’s assessment, feedback, and rewriting to develop their writing skills.
Adler-Kassner, L., & Wardle, E. (2015). Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. University Press of Colorado.
Black, Paul, and Dylan Wiliam. “Developing the theory of formative assessment.” Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability (formerly: Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education) 21.1 (2009): 5.