Assessing Writing: A Healthy Alternative

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The purpose of this podcast is to provide an overview of portfolios, checklists, and anecdotal records used to document students' growth as writers. These are some healthy alternatives to standardized tests, writing tests, and rubrics. Six points:

  1. To be of use; however, these healthy alternative assessment strategies must reflect your values, philosophy, teaching style, and students (Calkins, 1994). In other words, your system needs to be yours. You can’t assess effectively using somebody else’s system. Thus, I will present some simple ideas here with the expectation that you will discuss them with your colleagues and use them to develop your own assessment system.
  2. Your assessment system is not a permanent entity. Expect that it will evolve and change over time as you get more knowledge and experience.
  3. An effective assessment system utilizes multiple forms of assessment. Include multiple kinds of data. No single assessment strategy should be used exclusively.
  4. Big picture – The role of a parent and teacher is to become obsolete. You want to prepare students for the world they will encounter such that you are no longer needed. Similarly, the role of good assessment is to become obsolete – to prepare students to evaluate their own work. Thus, an important part of assessment is to teach students how to assess their own work (Graves, 1992).

  5. Students should be involved in the assessment process. It should be something students do, not just something that’s done to them (see below).

  6. The only hard and fast rule about portfolios, checklists, and anecdotal records is that you use them. Other than that, you’re the professional. You know your students. Adopt and adapt all these ideas described here as you see fit.


Elementary and Literacy Education Department