Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Building and Validating a Tool for Assessing Academic Writing Skills

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

Building and Validating a Tool for Assessing Academic Writing Skills

Article excerpt

Abstract

Most studies that examine the academic writing skills of freshmen students point to a gap between the writing skills of entering freshman students and the requirements of academic writing. This study describes a research tool designed to assess the academic writing skills of entering students. This tool, known as the Test of Academic Writing Skills (TAWS), was developed by breaking down the criteria of academic writing into measurable components that can be explicitly interpreted, thus enabling accurate identification of the weak points in students' academic writing. The results achieved using this tool reinforce the dichotomy between basic writing skills, including reading comprehension and summarization, and higher-order academic skills involving the synthesis of information. The results also make it possible to assess levels of basic skills and higher-order writing skills.

Keywords: Academic writing, Language skills, Text assessment, Basic writing skills, Higher-order writing skills

1. Introduction

Academic writing, one of the markers of academic literacy, involves writing that integrates synthesis of texts from different sources into one coherent text. The skills required in academic writing include the ability to assess and process information from different sources and the ability to synthesize this information into a new text (Ezer, Margolin & Sagi, 2009). Research findings point to a strong and direct correlation between students' academic literacy skills and their academic achievements in institutions of higher learning. Academic writing skills are among the best predictors of success during the freshman year of college or university (Cohen-Gross, 2003).

Despite evidence pointing to the importance of academic writing, most research in Israel, North America and Europe (Beaufort, 2007; Dubarry, 2008; Folman, 1994; Hazlett, 2008; Margolin & Ezer, 2008; Sarig, 1997; Segev-Miller, 1999; Steinway; 2008) that has examined the academic writing skills of freshmen students points to the gap between the writing skills of entering freshman students and the requirements of academic writing. The primary cause of this gap is that the writing assignments given by most teachers in high school do not prepare students for the type of writing required in higher education and rarely involve analysis and interpretation (Kiuhara, Graham & Hawken, 2009). The difference between high school writing assignments and the type of writing required in college and university stems mainly from differences in outlook between high school and college teachers regarding the type of writing skills they expect their students to use. According to the results of a study in the United States (Steinway, 2008), only 6% of university lecturers teaching academic writing believe that their students are proficient in academic writing skills, compared to 36% of high school writing teachers. This study also found that 44% of the academic faculty in various university departments in the US believe that students are not prepared to write on the level required by institutions of higher education.

Some believe the "blame" for students' difficulties with academic writing should not be attributed to the level of high school studies or to unsuitable curricula, but rather mainly to Internet use (Dubarry, 2008). While in the past students read journals and research books and were exposed to the norms of writing customary in the world of academia, in the Internet era, they "cut and paste" texts, and this has had a negative impact on their language skills. They make mistakes in spelling and grammar, and some lack proficiency in reading comprehension and essay writing. Thus, institutions of higher education must teach students basic academic skills.

The gap between students' writing skills and academic requirements is also apparent in Europe (Lee, 1994). At the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, local students as well as those from other places experience difficulties in writing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.