CCCC 2006 in Review
Sargeant started developing her Writing Skills in 1991 and was deeply affected by a conversation (on assessment) with Richard Haswell where he pointed out that "if we don't produce numbers, somebody else will." Sargent emphasized the WSI is both an assessment and pedagogical tool. After a short introduction, she began her interactive presentation by asking the audience to fill out the WSI form. She also shared an excel worksheet that can be created for each student to visualize changes in their writing attitudes and processes. Sargent also asked students to tell stories about their changes using specific questions for the WSI.
Lahoucine Ougane did not present "Early WSI Findings on Student Writing Behaviors and Metacognition" because of his Morroccan origin. Ougane did not want to cross the border from Canada to this conference and Sargeant read his paper about his pre-post distribution of WSI questionnaires to 35 students. The students were not pleased on the first day because the questions used some terms and processes of writing they weren't familiar with, yet at the end of the year students had become much more aware of the terms and processes engendered by the questionnaire. Questions 3 & 4 were noteworthy for low number of positive responses about using freewriting at the beginning and at the end almost all students felt confident they could use freewriting reliably. Question 18 about other people reading their writing also showed a similar pre-post shift . However, on question 41 about using a handbook to copy edit, there was little or no shifting pre-post. As Sargent read these results, she noted differences in her own classes. Ougane concluded that the real student and teacher shift with the WSI was an ability to reflect on attitudes and writing processes more powerfully.
Parakevas focused on student attitudes (in a junior level class to train teachers) and compares the her WSI results to the NCTE and CCCC standards to note differences. Attitudes toward creative writing were "liberating" and attitudes toward academic writing were like a "straight jacket." She explained that students were uncomfortable with free writing and connected questions 3 (freewriting) and 14 (outlining). Parakevas's post WSI results highlighted a more positive response to freewriting and using feedback. Parakevas noted that students could not distinguish between proof reading and revision at the beginning of the term and by the end of the term her students were able to not only distinguish between then two forms of feedback, but were also able to assess the feedback more clearly. She administers the WSI three times in her term.
It seems clear that the detailed use of the questions helps students become more aware of writing processes and more powerfully enables students to situate themselves in their learning contexts. Although the presenters all offered positive pre-post results and didn't express critical consciousness that some teaching fails, the WSI seems effective as a diagnostic tool, for formative assessment, and for end of the term learning assessment.
Pat Belanoff responded to the session by noting the implicit process outcomes of the WSI assessment tool. She explained that in her class, she tells students that whenever they write papers, the teacher shouldn't be the first reader and that the WSI helps teach that as well as measure process progress. She emphasized that teachers should design their own WSI's. Belanoff then wondered if students responding to WSI's write any better? Belanoff went on to articulate the need for improved product as an integral part of the assessment, but she also made it clear that trying a new form of process based assessment may not improve student writing. Nonetheless, Belanoff said that the WSI is a good alternative even if it may be a hard sell for administrators. Although Belanoff did not support the WSI idealistically, she does think it's potentially politically helpful.
— Will Hochman
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.