National Writing Project

Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers

Date: March 23, 2017

Summary: How can teachers use the Analytic Writing Continuum (AWC) to assess student writing in a way that informs their instruction and provides meaningful feedback to students? This is the question that Mary Ann Smith and Sherry Swain explore in their 2017 book, Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers: Putting the Analytic Writing Continuum to Work in Your Classroom. We talk with the authors and members of various teacher action research groups about how the Analytic Writing Continuum can be used to focus instruction and feedback.


Excerpt from Show

Sherry Swain, a Senior Research Associate at the National Writing Project and one of the teachers involved in the creation of the Analytic Writing Continuum:

To start the ball rolling NWP called on teachers, on teacher-consultants who had suffered through enough state assessments to know what they did and did not want....First, we did not want to evaluate how well the writing answered some unknown or inappropriate prompt....Instead we wanted to evaluate the writing itself without even looking at the prompt. Next we wanted to focus on what was present in the writing, not on what it lacked....We did not want to privilege unnatural or overdone language..., and we did not want to privilege formulaic structures, but rather structures that fit the purpose of the writing....Finally, because this was designed for research, we needed more than 4 points, that we could see growth. As teachers we had all seen that student who scores a 2 at the beginning of the year, and then make a lot of progress but then still be in that 2 range at the end of the year, so we wanted to scale broad enough to see difference where there was difference."

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Duration: 49 minutes

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