The Factors Affecting Assessment Of Writing With Particular Reference To Teachers’ Feedback At SSS II Level
This study sought to assess the factors affecting the assessment of writing with particular reference to teachers’ feedback at SSS II Level. Seven research questions were formulated to guide the study. Relevant literatures were also cited. The study adopted descriptive survey research design and the population for this study comprised English teachers in selected schools in Yaba Local Government Area and Somolu /Bariga Local Government Area of Lagos state. Simple random sampling technique was used to select 12 senior secondary schools and 10 students from each school.4 teachers each were selected from 10 schools and 5 teachers each were selected from two schools.
This brings the number of teachers to be 50 and the students to be 120. The instrument used to gather information was questionnaire and the data were analysed using percentage. Some of the findings of the study are: There are factors that direct effective assessment of writing, both teachers and students prefer analytic scoring, teachers’ educational qualification has a significant effect on the assessment score, teachers’ years of experience affect the assessment of writing, teachers’ marking strategies affect the assessment of writing. Based on this, the study recommended among others, that government should embark on accelerated construction of classrooms to decongest crowded classes.
1.1 Background to the study
The four basic language skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing. Writing is described as the most difficult of the four language and communication skills and the last of the skills to be acquired (Maduekwe, 2007; 157).
Writing is a means of communication using the written word. Communication implies that what you are writing should be understood by the person who is reading it. If your writing does not communicate then it has not achieved the primary purpose of writing which is to pass your message clearly to the person who is reading your piece of writing (Ukwuegbu, et al 2002).
Writing is an essential, indeed indispensable part of the academic engagement of students in schools. Learning takes place when students guided by their teachers, are able to compare issues and perspectives, define, classify, analyze and illustrate phenomena. As students’ write, their competence, comprehension and general capacity for learning come into focus. They are tested through writing to discover how much has been learned or need to be learned (Oloko, 2012).
Writing is therefore, an indispensable part of scholarship. It is about the most permanent record of one’s view on an issue and when done appropriately and memorably, it has the capacity to preserve reputation longer than well-rendered speeches can. Writing well requires training, fact, imagination and rigour (Oloko, 2012).
To write well requires a whole range of abilities-listening, speaking, reading vocabulary, grammar etc. In other words, every writing serves a basic purpose – to communicate something about a topic to a particular audience of readers (Maduekwe, 2007).
Writing is a personal act; it is an expression of the self. It draws on intuition as well as on reasoning, on sensation and emotion, facts and memory. A writer’s experience, educational background, exposure, co-ordination, composure or lack of it could be revealed by his writing. Writing is a process that is done for a purpose, which results in a product. It is a process of thought and emotion that requires certain skills and abilities to gain the product and accomplish the purpose (Maduekwe, 2007).
Writing is a process of composing thought and putting the thoughts on paper in order to have meaningful interaction with the reader. Writing contributes to learning by clarifying thought, encourages reflection and develops analytical thinking skills.
All expression requires words, ideas and larger units organized into a pattern or arrangement which accomplishes or seeks to accomplish the purpose for such expressions. This arrangement is composition and the effectiveness of it depends upon the thinking that went into it. Composition is essentially a thinking process while composition hinges upon mental expression, the skill needed to put the idea and experiences into graphic symbols on paper is the reality called writing. Writing is therefore a process of gradual transformation of random ideas with polished prose (Maduekwe, 2007).
Also, writing is an act of communication, an important and difficult literacy and language skill to develop especially in an oral culture where people generally lack the culture of reading and writing (Ikonta, 2010).
Writing involves a synthesis of a number of skills which the writer utilizes almost simultaneously namely; choosing a topic, arranging ideas in a particular order, putting them into words, sentences and paragraphs and revising to an acceptable standard. Writing therefore is a process. It is not an activity accomplished in one sitting, rather just as a house is built in stages, writing also is built in stages. It is generative and has an interrelated set of recursive stages of pre-writing, drafting, revision, editing, proofreading and publishing (Ikonta, 2010; 165).
Writing must be done in stages. The first stage has to do with linguistics acquisition and cognition. This is important because you cannot write your speech in a language you do not understand. After you have acquired the linguistic skill, you then move to other stages of drafting and proof reading before the presentation (Adedun, 2012).
Written work in English is a major determiner for overall evaluation of the performance of students at the secondary level. Maduekwe (2007) opines that at the junior secondary level, written composition is usually controlled and guided based on oral words e.g. writing about one’s family, holidays etc. However, at the senior secondary level, the intention is to foster free writing as well as to further enhance the basic skills in creative writing introduced at the junior level.
It is through composition we can most efficiently train the pupil to use language to express his feelings, needs, ideas, knowledge, and interest with exactness and precision. Composition develops intellectual and emotional maturity of the pupil. Through composition, the pupil learns to use language clearly, correctly, precisely and effectively. The assessment of composition writing is thus central to the process of effective teaching and learning of writing (Jones, 2002).
The evaluation of writing ability of second language students’ has become increasingly important in recent years because the results of such evaluations are used for a variety of administrative, instructional, and research purposes. Due to the different linguistic and cultural backgrounds of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students, the assessment of their English writing is more problematic than the assessment of Nigeria English (NE) students’ writing (Hamp-Lyons,1991).
One of the first decisions to be made in determining a system for directly assessing writing quality is what type of scoring procedure will be used: should a single score be given to each text, or should the different features of a text be scored? This issue has been the subject of a great deal of research and discussion in the composition literature. There are generally two different types of writing scale for assessing student written proficiency, holistic marking and analytical marking (McNamara, 2000).
Holistic marking is where the scorer records a single impression of the impact of the performance as a whole (McNamara, 2000: 43). In short, holistic marking is based on the marker’s total impression of the essay as a whole.
Analytic marking, on the other hand is where raters provide separate assessment for each of a number of aspects of performance. In other words, raters mark selected aspects of a piece of writing and assign point values to quantifiable criteria (Combe&Wiens, 1999). It involves the separation of the various features of a composition into components for scoring purposes. Depending on the purpose of the assessment, texts might be rated on such features as content, organization, cohesion, register, vocabulary, grammar or mechanics.
Another decision to make in the assessment of writing is the question of how valid or reliable the assessment is because validity and reliability are central to effective assessment practice (Speek& Jones, 1998).
According to Munice (2000), feedback is vital in helping learners to improve their writing skill and whatever forms it takes; it can have positive effect on the learners’ awareness in terms of writing. It is commonly reported that students do not read teachers’ feedback comments (Duncan, 2007). This however, suggest that teachers and students see feedback in isolation from other aspects of the teaching and learning process, and consider feedback to be primarily a teacher owned endeavor (Taras, 2003).
Correspondingly, feedback process is most effective when all the teachers and students are actually involved in the process. One strategy is to design assessment so that students can see the direct benefits of attending to feedback advice (Nicol, 2008).
Another strategy to encourage student reflection on feedback comments is to give a provisional grade, but invite students to talk about their work and potentially earn a higher grade ( Taras, 2003).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
It is widely recognized that feedback is an important part of the learning cycle, but both students and teachers frequently express disappointment and frustration in relation to the conduct of the feedback process.
Students may complain that feedback on assessment of writing is unhelpful or useless, and sometimes even demoralizing. Additionally, students are not given guidance as to how to use feedback to improve subsequent performance. Even worse, students sometimes note that feedback is provided too late to be of any use or relevance at all. For their part, teachers feel that students are not interested in feedback comments and are only concerned with the mark.
Furthermore, teachers express frustration that students do not incorporate feedback advice into subsequent tasks. This project seeks to examine some of the issues associated with feedback on assessment and provide some guidelines for effective writing.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The central purpose of this research is that to some extent, writing is not fairly assessed or scored as they should be because various factors have been found to affect the accuracy, reliability and validity of the scoring and assessment of writing. The purpose of this study therefore is to examine some of these factors that affect effective assessment of writing with particular reference to teachers feedback in some selected secondary schools in Lagos State, Nigeria.
The specific objectives of the study are:
- To determine the factors that affect effective assessment of writing.
- To ascertain which of the methods of assessment (holistic or analytic) is more effective in assessing writing.
- To examine the extent to which teachers’ educational qualification affect assessment of writing.
- To investigate the extent to which teachers’ years of experience affect effective assessment of writing.
- To explore the extent to which teachers’ marking strategies affect effective assessment of writing.
- To find out the strategies used by teachers for providing effective feedback.
- To determine the importance of feedback on students’ writing development.
1.4 Research Questions
The present study seeks to answer the following questions:
- What are the factors that direct effective assessment of writing?
- Which of these approaches (holistic or analytic) do teachers mostly adopt?
- To what extent does teachers’ educational qualification affect effective assessment of writing?
- To what extent do teachers’ years of experience affect effective assessment of writing?
- To what extent does teachers’ marking strategies affect assessment of composition writing?
- Which strategies are effective for providing effective feedback?
- Of what importance is teachers’ feedback on students’ writing development?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The following are the significance of the present study.
- It will increase database on the factors that affect effective assessment of writing.
- It will alert evaluators and the government on the problem in assessment and also the factors that affect effective assessment of writing.
- It will provide English language teachers with the knowledge of the factors that affect effective assessment of writing.
- It will enlighten English language teachers on the impact and importance of teachers’ feedback on students writing development.
- It will provide teachers’ with the strategies needed for effective feedback on students’ writing development.
- Furthermore, the study will suggest possible solutions to the problems highlighted in the assessment of writing and teachers’ feedback. It will also serve as a guide for future research.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The scope of this study will be limited to assessment and teachers’ feedback and not any other classroom process. Similarly, this study will be focused on and will be limited to writing skill and not any other language skill such as listening, speaking or reading. Also, the focus of this study will be on Senior Secondary School II Students of English Language in Yaba Local Government Area and Shomolu/Bariga Local Government Area of Lagos State. The study will be selecting twelve (12) schools involving fifty (50) English Language teachers and one hundred and twenty (120) students.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Is a systemic and systematic process of examining students’ progress in learning.
A critical assessment or suggestions to improve performance
It is one of the four basic language and communication skill required by the learner for effective communication.
Is a process of composing thoughts and putting the thoughts on paper in order to have meaningful interaction with the reader.
Is the arrangement of words, ideas and expression in a particular pattern
Is a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols.
Is the act or process of using words to express or exchange information.
Conclusion and Recommendation
The study concludes that, in regard to methods used to teach essay writing skills, the findings of the study indicated that teachers of English mainly use lecture and question and answer. Effective methods such as group discussion, debate and brainstorming are rarely used and yet they are more effective. There is need for a shift in pedagogy.
The results on methods used to assess writing skills show that teachers mainly give students a phrase to begin or to end with. These assessment techniques do not involve the learner in thinking since they will only write as guided.
Assessment methods that develop students‟ creative skills such as giving a context, students‟ choosing their titles and showing a film or pictures to create a story should be more frequently used to try and change the way instruction is conducted. Furthermore, teachers need to employ a variety of assessment strategies that will involve students to think and enhance their creativity to achieve competence in essay writing skills.
Regarding teacher feedback techniques, the findings showed that teachers frequently use grades, written comments and codes to give feedback on essays. These methods are biased towards the learner since most students may not interpret the grades and codes used. The written comments too may not be clear. Thus, teachers need to hold conferences with students to guide them on essay writing skills.
Findings on student perceptions to feedback indicate that students in single sex schools are more involved in learner-based activities as opposed to those in mixed schools. This could be due to availability of time because most single sex schools are boarding while the mixed schools are day. Therefore, teachers should put into consideration the learners‟ background while giving feedback.
Finally, study findings on the role of teacher feedback indicate that all students value teacher feedback. They find feedback important in improving their writing skills, revising and proof reading their essays. Thus, there is need for teachers to provide clear and immediate feedback that puts into consideration learner‟s needs.
The researcher came up with the following recommendations based on the findings of the study:
Firstly, English language teachers should use essay-teaching methods that involve the learner during instruction. These teachers could use debate, brainstorming and group discussion to teach essay-writing skills since these methods have been shown to help students to develop their essay writing skills.
Secondly, English language teachers should employ a variety of essay assessment methods to expose students to more involving tasks that will enhance their thinking and develop their writing skills. Methods such as allowing students to choose topics to write on, showing pictures or films to create a story and giving a context could highly awaken learners thinking and creativity. In addition, assessments in essay writing should be more frequent.
Thirdly, English language teachers should train students the meaning of grades and codes they use to give feedback. In addition, teacher feedback should be clear, focused and immediate.
Finally, English language teachers should engage in team teaching and assessment to help students experience various methods of teaching and assessment as well as a variety of teacher comments, which will enable them to develop their essay writing competence.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the factors that influence teachers’ assessment?
EFL Teachers’ perceptions have a significant influence on their practices of assessment. Furthermore, certain other factors such as size of the classroom, teachers’ training, experience of teaching, grade level and subject area also influence teachers’ practices of formative assessment (Duncan & Noonan, 2007).
What influences classroom assessment?
Teachers identified the main factor influencing classroom assessment processes as student characteristics, but it was discovered that they did not reflect this situation in their practices.
What are the factors that influence teachers’ decision making in assessment?
Besides the internal factors from teachers and students, external factors that impact teachers’ decision-making in classroom assessment include subject area (Duncan & Noonan, 2007; Resh, 2009), grade level taught (Randall & Engelhard, 2009), accountability testing, parents’ expectations and classroom realities (McMillan, 2003).
Do teachers’ assessment practices change with assessment reform?
The results of a survey of 513 high school teachers showed evidence that teachers had implemented some aspects of assessment reform and that one classroom learning factor (i.e., subject) had a modest effect on teachers’ practices.