Writing as Assessment

To illustrate the dilemma I presented in my last post: the possible devolution of the final exam for one of my courses.

My Fall 2018 exam was an attempt at an authentic writing exercise, but students had to choose one of two positions and use course readings. This meant I supplied the available arguments and evidence, and the exam was actually an assessment of rhetorical skill. Students didn’t demonstrate an ability to use concepts that I thought were crucial for the arguments they had developed.

For the final exam in Fall 2019, I ended up giving students a choice of arguments — “basis for aid policy to Egypt” and “plan for Louisiana’s future” — and I added this to the instructions for the exam:

Apply relevant concepts like discounting the future, moral hazard, etc.

Students still had to select one of two predetermined positions regardless of the argument chosen, and again I specified the pool of evidence they could draw from. And students still didn’t demonstrate knowledge of concepts listed in the exam’s instructions.

What next? I could have a final exam that asks students to, for example, “make an evidence-based determination of whether moral hazard exists in a location affected by climate change.” But this type of exam prompt might introduce even more problems.

One Reply to “Writing as Assessment”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thinking here. I am not sure what comes next, but welcome the question. Giving students a claim to defend seems smart. It recognizes the fact that we need to provide more scaffolding in the construction of writing assignments. Identifying key concepts to include in their defense of that claim is another smart move.

    Perhaps a next step might be to recognize that in doing this we are ‘thinking out loud’ for them in an effort to model a more probing analysis. Extending that effort might include showing your next analytical move: Why is it that a defense of the claim crafted without these key concepts is likely to pale in comparison to a defense built on an analysis of moral hazards?

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