Revolution Lullabye

April 29, 2009

Williamson, The Worship of Efficiency

Williamson, Michael. “The Worship of Efficiency: Untangling Theoretical and Practical Considerations in Writing Assessment.” Assessing Writing 1(1994): 147-174. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 57-80.

Williamson argues that educators must adopt a different educational model – that of the craft workshop – in order to create an assessment theory and practice that breaks the hold of the god-terms of efficiency, fairness, and reliability. Williamson traces how the concept of efficiency led assessment and educational practices during much of the 20th century, resulting in invalid assessments only based on one data point, assessments grounded in standardized tests that allowed for the development and dominance of factory and bureaucratic educational models. He points to other assessment practices, like those in France, rely on interviews and non-standardized assessments given by the teacher, who knows the curriculum and students best. If teachers are to be treated as the professoinals that they are, Williamson argues, they should be given the right and the responsibility to develop and give assessments to their students.

Quotable Quotes

“we will need to begin to trust teachers” (78).

“the privilege of true professionalism” (79).

“For the most part, students are assessed, labeled, and placed in school curricula on the basis of their scores on succeeding standardized tests…these tests remain one of the single most important indicators of a child’s future” (67).

“efficiency has governed both the theoretical and practical developments in assessment” (69).

Notable Notes

development of psychometrics to allow for an objective, outside scorer – this is reversed in the craft workshop model with teacher in charge

child-centered assessment v. system-centered assessment

libertarian assessment

history of shift from oral exams to written exams to multiple-choice testing (Arthur Otis)

efficiency is a key American cultural and social force

craft workshop model (Shedd and Bacharach; Schon’s reflective practicioner)

assessment as a contextual, dynamic, continuous, reflective process

assessments with multiple data points converging = valid

April 27, 2009

Huot and O’Neill, Assessing Writing

Huot, Brian and Peggy O’Neill, eds. Assessing Writing: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

This edited collection, divided into three sections – Foundations, Models, and Issues – focus on writing assessment that takes place outside of an individual classroom, namely placement and exit exams and programmatic evalutions. It draws on scholarship within the field of composition and rhetoric as well as that from educational evaluation, K-12 education, and measurement and testing. Huot and O’Neill see much of the scholarship written in writing assessment, starting in the 1940s, as negotiating the tension between reliable evaluation and valid evaluation, and argue that writing assessment needs to be taken up critically and reflectively by comp/rhet scholars as a positive and productive force (not punitive).

I’ve surveyed this volume (it contains 24 essays along with a selected bibliography) and have read the selections that I’ve seen cited in other scholarship about assessment as well as those that seem particularly helpful for WPAs.

Quotable Quotes

“Writing assessment is an activity – a practice – as well as a theoretically rich scholarly field” (6).

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