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A dual purpose data base for research and diagnostic assessment of student writing

Author(s): Judy M. Parr

Journal: Journal of Writing Research
ISSN 2030-1006

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 129;
Date: 2010;
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Keywords: composition | writing development | genre | corpus

The data base of writing examined serves a dual purpose. Here it is used as a research tool and the writing performance from the large, nationally representative sample (N = 20,947) of students (years 4 to 12) interrogated to examine patterns of performance in writing. However, the data base was designed to underpin a software tool for diagnostic assessment of writing. Viewing writing as accomplishing social communicative goals, performance was considered in terms of seven main purposes the writer may seek to achieve. Tasks related to each purpose were encapsulated in 60 writing prompts that included stimulus material. Participants produced one writing sample; the design ensured appropriate representation across writing purposes. Samples were scored using criteria differentiated according to purpose and curriculum level of schooling and acceptable reliability obtained. Analyses indicate that growth was most marked between years 8 and 10, arguably, as opportunity to write increases and writing is linked to learning in content areas. Variability in performance is relatively low at primary school and high at secondary school. Students at any level did not write equally well for different purposes. Mean scores across purposes at primary school were relatively similar with to instruct and to explain highest. By years 11-12 there is a considerable gap between the highest scores (for narrate and report) and the lowest, recount, reflecting likely opportunities to practice writing for different purposes. Although girls performed better than boys, the difference in mean scores narrows by years 11-12.
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