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Assessment in a Culture of Inquiry: The Story of the National Writing Project’s Analytic Writing Continuum

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Author: Sherry Swain and Paul LeMahieu

Summary: This article details the journey of teachers and researchers who worked together to create the NWP’s Analytic Writing Continuum (AWC), an approach to writing assessment that is locally contextualized yet linked to a common national framework and standards of performance. In addition to demonstrating the AWC’s great potential for classroom use, the authors describe the multiple ways NWP sites have utilized the AWC to conduct research, to re-envision large-scale writing assessments, to develop effective professional development, and to mentor teachers in further development of their own writing. They also provide illustrations of how the AWC enabled students to discuss and iterate ways to improve their writing. This article, or excerpts from it, may prove useful during summer institute or teacher PD discussions of the most effective and in-depth ways to both scaffold and evaluate writing.

Original Date of Publication: July 31, 2012


Excerpt from the Article

“Teachers, the heart of education, too often find themselves excluded from the very process that policymakers advise should be central to instruction, namely assessment. Across this country, K–12 faculty groups gather regularly for sessions on “data driven” instruction. They pour through pages of statistical materials, and then they go back to their classrooms and do what they’ve always done: the very best they can with the information they have. What’s missing in this picture? We suggest that what’s missing is the teacher’s involvement in assessment in any meaningful way: helping to design it, learning from it, and using it to improve instruction.

This is the story of how teachers thinking together with writing assessment experts helped to create a technically sound and rigorous writing assessment, one that is useful in the classroom as well as in research. The system diminishes the conundrum described by White: that often teachers feel “forced to choose between tailoring their teaching to an impromptu test and helping their students learn to write …” (2007, p. iv). At the center of this story is a cohesive educational community, imbued with a vital inquiry stance, that developed, investigated, refined, and expanded the uses of the assessment system over an extended period of time. The Analytic Writing Continuum (AWC), developed by the National Writing Project (NWP), offers an opportunity to explore the potential of assessment that is locally contextualized yet linked to a common national framework and standards of performance.”

978-1-61289-087-6Download “Assessment in a Culture of Inquiry: The Story of the National Writing Project’s Analytic Writing Continuum”

Copyright © Hampton Press. Reprinted with permission.
Swain, Sherry and Paul G. LeMahieu. 2012. “Assessment in a Culture of Inquiry: The Story of the National Writing Project’s Analytic Writing Continuum.” In Writing Assessment in the 21st Century: Essays in Honor of Edward M. White, edited by Norbert Elliot and Les Perelman, 45-66. New York: Hampton Press.


Related Resources

Original Source: National Writing Project, http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/3920

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