William W. Zeigler Computerized Writing Assessmen: Community College Faculty Find Reasons to Say “Not Yet”

12 Nov

Rank: 4 – While they conclude that AES should not currently be used for making placement decisions at their community college, they were at least open to completing a trial run, and they also still use high SAT scores to exempt students from taking the essay placement exam (140).

Argument: “e-Write could not produce valid writing placements” (140), because:

  • 82% of students received a score of 5 or 6 on an 8 point scale (which made it difficult for faculty to discern any meaningful difference between scores other than the extremely high or extremely low)
  • AES did not do any better in correlating placement with student grades than faculty placement
  • and 25% of the student essays were unable to be scored by the machine, resulting in higher costs and longer delays in receiving score results, which defeated the purpose for them in considering the use of AES for their placement decisions

Assumptions: While faculty did not object to running the pilot study, the author freely admits that most English faculty would “agree with Joanne Drechsel’s (1999) objections to computerized evaluation of writing: it dehumanizes the writing situation, discounts the complexity of written communication, and tells student writers that their voice does not deserve a human audience” (139).

Points of Interest: While I agreed with the authors that the scale (and the distribution of student scores on that scale) was too narrow to be very useful, I did think that some of their findings regarding the breakdown of scores into various areas were more fruitful: a high score in the “content” area (which is not defined) had the highest correlation with student success, compared to the “conventions” area, where more of the students who scored lower on this category were actually more successful than students who scored higher.

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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Uncategorized


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