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Teacher's Assessment of Writing in English

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The most difficult aspect of being an English teacher, for me, is assessing my students’ writing. I can remember, so clearly, the day my cooperating teacher handed me a student’s writing and said, “Read this and give it a grade.” After reading it, I felt an overwhelming and uncomfortable power shadow over me. I didn’t know the rules of assessment. What was I supposed to be looking for anyway? I was able to realize immediately that there is a definite difference between knowing how to write an essay and knowing how to assess one.

When I was asked what I finally came up with as a grade, I told her the student earned a “B.” She agreed and I remember thinking to myself that maybe my task wasn’t as difficult as I had thought moments before. Then, just when I thought the hard part was over, she asked me why I gave it a “B.” After giving her my reasons, she stated she was in agreement with me. At this point, I asked her what grade she had given it. She replied, “B-.” Now I was completely baffled. How could she agree with everything that I said and then give it a different grade?

Whether or not teachers like to admit it, assessing writing is, in fact, a fragile issue as well as a partly subjective one. For instance, while my cooperating teacher agreed with my insight, she also thought that particular student should have applied more effort to the essay. After teaching this student for eight months already, she was aware of his capabilities as a writer and expected more. Her reasoning was one that I would never have been able to develop since I was not as familiar with the student.

Can the assessment of writing be accomplished in a fair manner? There is no doubt that readers are subjective viewers. It is an issue that we are unabl...


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...rection. In this way, the students will earn higher grades and become better writers in the process. This direction through assessment will help lead students to success.

The use of assessment in writing remains a delicate topic for many teachers. However, with our help, it can grow to be a positive force in our students’ lives. Berlin once said, “To teach writing is to teach a version of reality.” The importance of communication and success in our world is, indeed, a reality. Isn’t the assessment of writing, after all, a version of reality as well? Aren’t we supposed to be preparing our students for their futures? Although assessing writing is not a simple task, it should not be viewed as unfair or unnecessary. Instead, we must consider it unfair and unjust to hide this reality from the students who will continually encounter it once they exit our classroom doors.

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