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B.27 Expertise and Meaningful Assessment: (Re)Modeling the Public Trust in Teachers

Expertise and Meaningful Assessment: (Re)Modeling the Public Trust in Teachers
Reviewed by Wendy Warren Austin

Chair: Paul Walker, Murray State University, KY
Speaker: Jeff Osborne, Murray State University, KY
Speaker: Paul Walker, Murray State University, KY
Speaker: Patricia Lynne, Framingham State University, MA

This session, in a choice time slot but an obscure locution, only had 11 members in the audience. Perhaps if the title had been more revealing of their actual content or if each of the session participants had his or her own titles that provided more information about their actual presentation focus, more people might have attended. Nevertheless, this session was excellent.

Jeff Osborne and Paul Walker work in the same department at Murray State Univeristy, and both have been involved in their department‘s professional development efforts to define what "college-ready" means to both K-12 teachers and college writing teachers. Paul Walker's presentation focused on the idea of teachers as "expert professionals" (drawing on Kathleen Blake Yancey) and discussed a survey that Murray State writing professors filled out that described specific intellectual virtues (ala Bob Broad's criteria mapping) they valued in students‘ writing. One of Walker's intentions for the survey was to get away from professors' tendencies to "fetishize method over content," and to better examine what they valued in students' writing the most. Jeff Osborne emphasized that although the list of "intellectual virtues" may change from time to time as faculty change within the department, their model is meant to embrace difference among teachers’ judgments. He talked about a series of mini-seminars that they held for K-12 teachers about reading, writing, and college-readiness, and what the latter term meant to the K-12 teachers. One of the hopes coming from the seminars was a desire for the professors to trade places temporarily with the teachers in the schools and vice versa. However, in examining a plan to do this, the presenter and his colleagues learned that possibly the biggest obstacle to undertaking successful results with this might be that university cultures and high school cultures (any university/any high school) are too far apart in basic philosophy and authority/autonomy patterns to really work.

The third presenter, Patricia Lynne, discussed assessment from a more formal perspective, and called her project: "Intuition, Expertise, and Placement." Lynne explained that her research project grew out of an initiative germinating from issues raised at the Dartmouth Seminar in Summer 2012. As the sole compositionist at her institution, she took over revamping the writing placement process, moving it away from automated placement to an "expert reader model" (Haswell) that was a modification of the Washington State system. After using the system last fall, she began to examine the roles that expertise and intuition played in the placement process. Specifically, she considered volunteer professors, including both longtime literature professors at the institution, young tenure-track professors with a few years at the school, as well as visiting lecturers with some institutional experience, others with none, some combined with longtime expertise as writing professors, and others teaching writing for the first time. Using talk-aloud protocols that volunteer professors and lecturers recorded to determine 1 of 3 outcomes for eight sample essays, Lynne asked the volunteer expert readers to simply make comments as they determined each essay‘s placement. She was in the coding phase of the project at this point in her research, and plans to present her final results at the next Dartmouth Seminar in 2013. At this point, however, she was finding that "institutional expertise" and sometimes "cross-institutional expertise" was an important factor in making the placements, and that understanding the high school vs. university culture, and a student‘s potential success in the university setting may depend upon the intuition and schooled subjectivity a placement reader brings to the task. Lynne closed with an observation that a lot of what we do depends on "trust." She said we ask people to 'trust' us, if we validate the expert reader model, putting us in an unusual "liminal space."

Despite the small number of people attending, the session had a lively question/answer period.

Work Cited

Haswell, Richard, Ed. Beyond Outcomes: Assessment and Instruction Within a University Writing Program. Westport, CT: Ablex, 2001. Print.

2013 CCCC Reviews Index

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