Final Report of the CUP Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement

Appendix G

Summary of Review of the Online Freshman Essay Evaluation

Memorandum

DATE:

TO:

FROM:

RE:

10 December, 1999

Committee on the Writing Requirement (CWR)

Winston R. Markey

Evaluation of the Online FEE

At the CWR meeting on September 21, an evaluation committee was formed, chaired by me, to review the online Freshman Essay Evaluation as it was administered this past summer.

The evaluation group was provided with seventeen randomly selected Essay Evaluations, with graders' comments; the essay topics; the scoring rubrics used to determine students' point scores; the instructions given to grader for providing feedback; and samples of Writing Requirement status reports provided to freshman advisors.

While the evaluation group was reviewing these materials, the Writing Requirement office also sent an email survey to all freshman advisors, soliciting their feedback on the online FEE. A summary of the results of that survey is attached.

Based on the responses I have received from members of the evaluation group, as well as the advisor survey results, I draw the following conclusions:

(1) The online FEE represents a significant improvement over the paper-and-pencil test of past years. Members of the evaluation group as well as a number of advisors cited the reduction in stress for students in taking the test over the summer, and cited as well the more detailed information students and advisors get now. It makes sense to keep the online FEE as the default method of evaluating entering students' writing, and to work to improve the process to address the most common criticisms of it.

(2) The Writing Requirements administration of the test was conducted in an essentially sound, well-organized manner. There were, however, a number of suggestions for improvement, expressed both by members of the evaluation group and by advisors. In general, the flaws in the details of the process can be attributed to a shortage of time, staff, and resources. With adequate staffing and planning time, the online FEE can be improved to address most criticisms. Specific areas for improvement are: (a) consistency in grading. Although a majority of those who looked at the essays felt the grades were fair and consistent, there were one or two obvious glitches; and (b) consistency of quality in the feedback students are given. See attached memo from Les Perelman describing and addressing the specific concerns in more detail.

(3) There were one or two questions raised about the online FEE that addressed the pedagogical rationale behind giving this kind of a test, and these questions will not, obviously, be addressed merely by improving the current process. Does writing outside a classroom context allow students to do their best work? Does administering the test online provide too much room for cheating? While I find these important questions, I feel that the current system, which most agree is essentially sound, workable, and a distinct improvement over past years, should not be set aside without substantial evidence that a new system would be an improvement.

 

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