Assessing and Evaluating Writing
Although assessment and evaluation often are used synonymously, they are not exactly the same. Assessment designates four related processes: deciding what to measure, selecting or constructing appropriate measurement instruments, administering the instruments, and collecting information. Evaluation, on the other hand, designates the judgments we make about students and their progress toward achieving learning outcomes on the basis of assessment information.
Writing teachers have a much harder job than many of their colleagues when it comes to assessment and evaluation. Not only does it take them more time than, say, their counterparts in math, but it also is more difficult. With a math problem, or even a social studies question, collecting information related to student mastery of the material is fairly straightforward, as is evaluation. Answers on any test are right or wrong. Writing assessment, however, requires teachers to consider a complex array of variables, some of which are unrelated to specific mastery of a given writing lesson.
At its most basic level, evaluation is a comparison. The comparison in many subjects is an objective standard of correctness. For example, students' answers to math problems on a test are compared to the objective standard that governs correct addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. Any deviation from the standard constitutes error. With writing, the situation is significantly different because evaluation involves comparison on two levels: the standard set by other students in the class and by some preestablished standard of good writing. This preestablished standard may be provided by the