National Writing Project

A Think-Aloud Approach To Writing Assessment: Analyzing Process and Product with Adolescent Writers

Sarah W. Beck

List Price $30.95
NWP's Price $24.76

The think-aloud approach to classroom writing assessment is designed to expand teachers' perspectives on adolescent students as writers and help them integrate instruction and assessment in a timely way. Emphasizing learning over evaluation, it is especially well-suited to revealing students' strengths and helping them overcome common challenges to writing such as writer's block or misunderstanding of the writing task. Through classroom examples, Sarah Beck describes how to implement the think-aloud method and shows how this method is flexible and adaptable to any writing assignment and classroom context. The book also discusses the significance of the method in relation to best practices in formative assessment, including how to plan think-aloud sessions with students to gain the most useful information. Teachers required to use rubrics or other standardized assessment tools can incorporate the more individualized think-aloud approach into their practice without sacrificing the rigor and consistency more regulated approaches require.

Book Features:

  • Introduces a new method of writing assessment that is more effective and flexible for differentiating instruction than assessments based on rubrics.
  • Emphasizes equity for all learners, including English learners and students with specific learning challenges.
  • Offers recommendations and guidelines based on research-based best practices in all aspects of writing: process, instruction, assessment, and development.
  • Designed to be used by individual teachers as well as teachers working collaboratively to develop their pedagogical content knowledge for teaching writing.


"Sarah Beck's rich and extensive exploration may well be the most comprehensive and detailed account of the role of think-aloud methods in writing assessment. She takes readers through a process for enacting this approach and explores its possibilities in a variety of settings, detailing how both students and teachers can benefit from engaging in this practice, and doing so in ways that allow readers to adapt it to their own situations. This definitive volume should have lasting value to writing teachers and students who may benefit from reflection on their thought processes during the act of composition."
—Peter Smagorinsky,University of Georgia

"Beck's approach usefully blurs the distinction between teaching and assessment, and describes ways to support writers as thinkers, as well as producers of text. This is the first truly new way of thinking about assessing writing that I have encountered in a long time."
—Heidi L. Andrade, University at Albany-SUNY

"Sarah Beck has written an invaluable guide for using think-aloud formative assessments to gain insight into student writing development. With examples from real high school classrooms and clear explanations, Beck makes a compelling argument for why talking while writing is so valuable to teachers and students. Beck shows how think-aloud assessments support process approaches to writing, independent planning and goal setting, and student ownership of their own writing. This is a book that every high school and college writing instructor should read!"
—Amanda J. Godley, University of Pittsburgh

About the Author:
Sarah W. Beck is an associate professor of English education at New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.