English Composition and Assessment at SIUE


Prior to Fall 2001, the Department of English Language and Literature at SIUE used the "Common Final" as a way to assess individual students' writing ability. This Common Final did not help the Writing Program see strengths and weaknesses in the program itself — only in students. For these reasons, the Writing Program discontinued the common final in academic year 2001-2002 and initiated the Pilot Project for English 101. There are two parts to the Pilot Assessment Project: The Assessment Phase and the Online Program Portfolio (for which this web site is the primary locus).

One of major goals of the Pilot Project was to develop an assessment tool that would allow the program to identify specific strengths and weaknesses in helping students meet the outcomes for English 101. As stated in the SIUE University Assessment Plan, "Assessment requires clearly defined objectives against which educational outcomes can be evaluated." The Pilot Project follows this philosophy.

The Purpose of Assessment

Using the newly revised goals, statements, and outcomes for English 101 created by the Expository Writing Committee, the Pilot Assessment Project Committee developed a mechanism for evaluating the program's ability for helping students meet the outcomes for English 101. It is important to note that this assessment tool does not evaluate either individual student achievement or individual instructor pedagogy; rather, the assessment focuses on a holistic view of writing throughout the program. That is to say, each student will receive a grade for the course from his or her instructor. That grade is independent of any program assessment that the committee will conduct. Instructors' grades will likely reflect the goals and outcomes statements of the writing program. Typically, first year writing instructors determine students' grades based upon their writing, and any combination of homework, quizzes, participation, or other criteria as established in instructors' course syllabi.

The Assessment Methodology

The Pilot Assessment Project Committee developed an assessment heuristic that uses Primary Trait Analysis (hereafter referred to as PTA) to evaluate to what extent students' work meets the outcomes for English 101. The assessment uses the following methodology:

Each semester, students in English 101 will be invited to sign consent forms so that the assessment committee may review their work and/or place it on the project web site
Of those students who provide consent, randomly selected student portfolios will be anonymously read and evaluated by the assessment committee.
The assessment committee will use the PTA heuristic to assess each student's portfolio.
After all portfolios are assessed each semester, the committee will look for patterns across all the randomly selected samples to determine the program's strengths and weaknesses.

The Results of Our Assessment

This new assessment methodology is currently in the pilot phase (Spring 2002). The assessment committee is refining the rubric that will be used for evaluation as well as conducting sample assessment sessions to gather preliminary data. At the end of fall semester 2002, we plan to assess the first random sampling of student essays from all sections of English 101. Our plan is to continue a random sample assessment each fall and spring.

Further, we will begin to develop a mechanism for assessing student learning in English 102, a mechanism that in many ways will build on the 101 assessment tool.

One or two semesters' worth of data will provide the committee with only a limited picture of student learning; therefore, it will take approximately four semesters' worth of data to gain a valid and holistic picture of the first year writing program. While we use the early data to reflect upon the writing program and begin to formulate hypotheses about it, by summer 2004, we expect to have enough data to begin analyzing how the first year writing program is helping students meet the outcomes for student learning as defined. In addition to making the results known to the English Department and others in the university community, we will use this data to review our need for further faculty development, realignment of goals and objectives, or a revised assessment tool. In addition, we anticipate that the results will show strengths of the first year writing program in terms of helping students develop as stronger writers and readers, critical thinkers, and life-long learners.

about the pilot assessment project   |   mission statement   |   program assumptions   |   outcomes

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