Detecting Growth in Language

By James Moffett
Curated by Jonathan M. Marine and Paul Rogers

CoverPublished in 1992, Detecting Growth in Language presents James Moffett's attempt to offer an expanded and alternative perspective on the standardized assessment which he spent the latter part of his career decrying. Using a “what-to-look-for” approach, Moffett describes growth in all aspects of language, from vocabulary and sentence structure to compositional form and types of discourse. Encapsulated through 24 growth sequences which holistically describe growth in language use relative to the overall intent of a given speech act or text, Detecting Growth pushes forward a broader view of what counts as assessable in the language arts classroom in a manner which aims to help teachers assess for themselves their students’ growth in language.

Table of Contents

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Front Matter


Alternatives to Standardized Testing

Matching Thought with Language

A Model of Mental Growth



Explicit and Implicit

Both Modes of Knowing

Literal and Figurative






Growth in Kinds of Discourse


About James Moffett

James Porter Moffett (1929–1996) was a ground-breaking teacher, author, and theorist of language learning who had a profound impact on the fields of English Education, Language Arts, Composition, and Educational Psychology in the mid-to-late 20th century (Warnock). Moffett also had a lasting impact on the National Writing Project (NWP), was influential at the 1966 Dartmouth conference, and figured closely into the history of National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE); speaking at a number of NCTE conferences and events, publishing more than thirty articles across the many NCTE journals, and helping to found the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning (Blau). In addition to his core pedagogical contributions, and in particular his paired 1968 publications, Teaching the Universe of Discourse and Student-Centered Language Arts, Moffett's prescience and foresight in advancing holistic assessment, progressive education, the centrality of peer-to-peer interactions, social emotional learning, and multicultural and multilingual curriculum led him to be referred to by many as “the North Star” of language arts education (Durst; Spalding et al.).

Publication Information: Moffett, James. (2022). Detecting Growth in Language. The WAC Clearinghouse. (Originally published by Heinemann in 1992)

Publication Date: November 11, 2022

Landmark Publications in Writing Studies

Series Editor: Mike Palmquist, Colorado State University

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Copyright © 2022 by the Estate of James Porter Moffett. Republished with permission. You may view this book. You may print personal copies of this book. You may link to this page. You may not reproduce this book on another website. For permission to use materials from this book in other publications, please contact Jonathan Marine at