Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Improving EFL Graduate Students' Proficiency in Writing through an Online Automated Essay Assessing System

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Improving EFL Graduate Students' Proficiency in Writing through an Online Automated Essay Assessing System

Article excerpt


This study investigates the effects of using an online Automated Essay Assessing (AEA) system on EFL graduate students' writing. Eighty four EFL graduate students divided into the treatment group and the control group participated in this study. The treatment group was asked to use an AEA system to assist their essay writing. Both groups were pretested before the treatment. After the sixteen-week treatment period, the writing posttest was given to both groups to measure their progress in their writing. The results indicate that, although both groups have no significant difference in the pretest, the difference between their mean scores on the posttest is statistically significant. The mean score of the treatment group is higher than that of the control group, and students' use frequency of the AEA system is closely related to their writing improvement. Therefore, it is concluded that, students' using the AEA system contributes significantly to their writing improvement. Thus a linear regression is modeled to predict the weight of the AEA system use frequency to proficiency improvement in writing. Finally, students' perceptions based on their learning journals and interviews show the changes in the process of writing.

Keywords: online Automated Essay Assessing system, proficiency in writing, EFL graduate students

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. Introduction

Educational Assessment should have a clear benefit in direct services to learners since its primary function is to foster learning. It is widely regarded as contributing to learning if properly handled and administered. With computer science and information technology booming speedily, electronic assessment (E-assessment) is increasingly maturing, either as commercial products or in academic research field. Automated Essay Scoring (AES) system has been widely recognized since it was first constructed in 1966. E-rater developed by American Educational Testing Service, for instance, has already been employed in the large-scaled language tests, such as GMAT. (Wang & Wen, 2010)

At the same time, information technology is used to make education so effective that English learning is not confined to location and timing, but focuses more on individualized and autonomous learning. On the other hand, classes in China are usually so large-sized that it's really difficult for teachers to give feedbacks to students timely.

Therefore, it's beneficial to use AES system to score essays for the sake of saving time, but it only serves as summative assessment of learning while what really improves learning is actually formative assessment for learning. So does Automated Essay Assessment (AEA) effectively help learners with their writing? This is why the paper tries to explore the effects of AEA on EFL learners' proficiency and behaviours in writing.

1.1 AES and AEA

E-assessment is becoming increasingly widely used due to its many advantages over traditional paper-based assessment by markers. The advantages mainly comprise instant feedback to students, lower long-term costs, ensured impartiality, improved reliability, greater storage efficiency, greater flexibility with respect to location and timing, enhanced question styles which incorporate interactivity and multimedia.

E-assessment applied to writing is AES and AEA. According to researchers (Rudner & Liang, 2002; Dikli, 2006), AES is defined as the computer technology that evaluates and scores the written prose so as to overcome time, cost, reliability, and generalizability issues in writing assessment. In order to distinguish their specific functions, however, the author uses different terms, namely AES and AEA, to refer to assessment of learning (score only) and assessment for learning (score + feedback) respectively.

The AES and AEA systems have gone through three stages: (1) spelling checker; (2) grammar checker; (3) usage checker. The landmark AES and AEA systems include Project Essay Grade (PEG), Writer's Workbench, Bayesian Essay Test Scoring System, Pacific Metrics, Automated Student Assessment Prize, Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA), E-rater and etc. …

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