Writing is a complex act involving many processes simultaneously. While it is not possible to assess all important aspects of students' writing processes and abilities with a single assessment instrument, it is possible to make some inferences about specific aspects of students' writing processes.
The Assessment for Learning program examines students' writing skills on a biannual basis. Students in Grades 5, 8, and 11 completed one writing task in which they were given a topic or situation, posited in either a narrative context (tell a story) or an expository context (provide explanation or instruction). They showed their generation of ideas, planning, an initial draft, revisions to the draft, and a final copy of their writing. From this work, the following five broad student performance outcome areas were measured:
- Writing Process: Student work was reported on a 3-level scale (rubric) to describe the extent to which prewriting planning, completion of a draft, and revisions occurred.
- Product: the overall quality of the writing piece was reported on a 6-level scale (rubric) by considering the following three measures (each also reported on a 6-level scale):
- Messaging: consideration of how main ideas are developed and supported, focus is maintained, and the narrative or expository context is adhered to;
- Organization: consideration of the quality of the introduction and the conclusion, and how ideas and information are presented (coherence and transitions in showing connections within the writing); and,
- Language Use: consideration of word choice, tone, style, effectiveness of syntax, and correctness of the mechanics in the writing.
The assessment has been administered twice: 2008 and 2010. The next writing assessment will be conducted in 2012.