Green Squiggly Lines:

Integrating Micro- and Macro-Levels of Response: The Place for Student Voices?

A division between micro- and macro-levels of commentary in some ways returns to Scriven's distinction between formative and summative evaluations (1967). Formative evaluations or responses help writers as they write; formative evaluation inform writers about what they should do differently so they can make those changes. Summative evaluations are after the fact; they are comments and grades once an essay is finished.

The intersection of portfolio assessment and the writing process movement lead early portfolio advocates to see portfolios as devices that would allow teachers to move away from summative evaluations toward more stimulating, engaged assessment practices. Writing in an introduction to one of the seminal, portfolio movement books, Catharine Lucas (1992) notes this possibility for change from summative to formative responses by saying,

The portfolio projects described in this volume belong to this larger movement toward the use of formative, internal assessment to enhance performance and growth in writing, independently of what external testers may do. They exemplify the work of teachers who have transcended 'teaching to the test' and show how any teacher can use portfolios to encourage reflective evaluation among students, while any district or system can use portfolios to stimulate effective, formative, 'in-process' evaluation among teachers who currently use summative or 'final' grading practices as their primary mode of feedback to learners. (p. 2)

Computer-mediated composition-that is, word processing-changes the valence of summative and formative assessment. Following the logic of the writing process movement and portfolio assessment, Lucas suggests that feedback is much more effectively delivered in a formative manner rather than in a summative manner. Combined with Sommers's advice (1982) on teacher commentary then one does not need to pick apart student papers but rather comment in ways that engage students in a meaningful revision process. In this way, a teacher could also make suggest that would allow students the right to maintain their own language as Brannon and Knoblauch argued (1982).