A recent study by researchers at Vanderbilt University finds that formative assessment—that is, ongoing, classroom-based assessment done by the teacher—can help improve students’ writing. Examples of formative assessment, according to the report, include providing feedback on writing, teaching students to assess their own writing, and monitoring students’ progress in writing. The researchers also highlight six formative-assessment “best practices” based on their analyses of student performance differences. They are:
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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 presentation forms, such as handwriting legibility or computer printing, bias judgments of writing quality.
3) Mask the writer’s identity when scoring papers.
4) Randomly order students’ papers before scoring them.
5) Collect multiple samples (e.g., across 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).
A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2012 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook