Date of Award

1989

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours

School

School of Education.

First Advisor

Ken Willis

Abstract

The assessment and grading of writing in Unit Curriculum English plays a major role in the determination of a student's summative, and hence, public, letter grade. Through teachers' adherence to the assessment and grading procedures for writing in Unit curriculum English, the Ministry of Education lay claims on comparability and statewide standards. The claim warranted the investigation of the guidelines and procedures used. A review of literature on the evaluation of writing was conducted. In order that local application and relevance be possible, the holistic mode of evaluating writing was focused on. Problems were identified in the research concerning score reliability. The pre-requisites for obtaining statistically reliable scores were outlined. The pre-requisites include training and monitoring scorers to apply the established evaluative criteria to pieces of writing. The research highlighted that, in spite of extensive training and monitoring, problems of reliability remained. This was attributed to the fact that scorers cannot always adhere to the evaluative criteria specified in holistic grading procedures. It was pointed out that scorers' conceptualisations of writing proficiency differ. The face validity of the evaluative criteria were therefore subject to disagreement. These findings were discussed in relation to the assessment and grading procedures for writing in Unit Curriculum English. It was pointed out that as many teachers of English are inexperienced and untrained in holistic evaluative procedures, the validity of the evaluative criteria for writing in Unit Curriculum English were open to question. This exacerbated problems of the reliability of grades awarded under Unit Curriculum English. In the light of these findings, the credibility of the Ministry of Education's claims on comparability and statewide standards in Unit Curriculum English were questioned. A conceptualisation of writing proficiency in Unit curriculum English was offered. The conceptualisation highlighted the product emphases for writing in Unit curriculum English. Determining the degree to which the current assessment and grading procedures addressed these emphases highlighted problems and shortcomings. The findings supported the research by identifying a number of factors which placed the reliability of grades in Unit curriculum English at risk. The paper establishes that the current guidelines and procedures for assessing and grading writing in Unit curriculum English are lacking as they fail to adequately address the pre-conditions of reliable scoring. Concomitantly, the credibility of the Ministry of Education is at risk. In order to achieve comparability and statewide standards, reliable scoring must occur. To redress the risk, the insufficiencies of the guidelines and procedures, to which teachers of Unit curriculum English comply, need to be addressed. Considering the political and ideological dimensions of education policy, it was felt that failure to redress these insufficiencies would reflect more poorly upon teachers of Unit Curriculum English than it would the Ministry of Education.

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