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Manuscript deadline
31 March 2021

Cover image - Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice

Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice

Special Issue Editor(s)

Gustaf Bernhard Uno Skar, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
[email protected]

Steve Graham, Arizona State University

Gert Rijlaarsdam, University of Amsterdam

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Formative Writing Assessment for Change. The use of formative assessment as a mechanism for positively changing students writing at various levels.

The aim of this special issue is to present empirical and theoretical studies on the writing assessment of young children (preschool–5th grade). In particular, it aims to focus on the use of formative assessment as a mechanism for positively changing writing performance at various levels: individual, classroom, school, national and international.

In modern day society, writing proficiency is a prerequisite for active participation, in and outside school. For school’s youngest children developing writing proficiency is critical; becoming a writer - a ‘member of the literacy club’ - allows the child to acquire and consolidate knowledge by writing, to convey knowledge to readers and to compose messages that transcend the here and now.

Therefore it is important to monitor young learners’ writing proficiency. Monitoring provides students and teachers with information for fostering writing development, and it can be used to gauge the progress and effectiveness of writing instruction at various levels of the educational system, the class, school, regional, national and even the international level. Such information has the potential to serve as a catalyst for change. Writing assessments make it possible for a teacher or testing programs, at any level, that adopts the appropriate tools for monitoring and evaluating students’ writing, to identify a students’ proficiency level and proximal zones of development and needs. Ideally, such information may be used to tailor instruction for the individual students or to implement regional, national or even international strategies and programs to increase children’s writing proficiency at those levels.

There are many obstacles in the pursuit of the development of beneficial writing assessment tools, and decision-making principles based on such tools. These range from defining empirically and theoretically sound constructs, scoring guides and procedures, issues of task and rater variability to the (empirical) effects on children’s writing proficiency, self-efficacy and motivation, and the consequences of applying writing assessments.

All assessment should be purposeful and therefore they are consequential, be it intended or unintended. Intended consequences may include better writing instruction in a particular class, school or region that inform students’ writing efforts, the efforts of those who deliver writing instruction, and the institutions responsible for ensuring students receive the writing instruction they need and deserve. They also provide potentially powerful information that allow for the comparison of writing proficiency across contexts that ultimately could guide regions and nations to implement programs designed to increase attention to writing and the quality of writing instruction. However, because of trade-offs involved in all assessments it is difficult to completely safe guard against unintended consequences. Such consequences include the negative impact an assessment report may have on a child’s self-efficacy and motivation. How assessments are designed to inform schools, regions, and nations can also have the unintended and detrimental consequence of creating a narrow or distorted conceptualization of writing proficiency and how writing instruction is actualized.

In addition, writing success is often conceptualized by schools and larger educational entities in terms of scores on students’ written product. However, important goals in learning to write include becoming a more planful, thoughtful, and evaluative writer as well as a more motivated writer.

Assessing young students’ writing is an under-researched or at least underreported topic. While there are an abundance of tests of students’ spelling, handwriting, sentence combining, and even text quality, only few research articles report on investigations of the development, or use and consequences of such tests (but see e.g. Berge et al., 2019; De Smedt et al., 2016; Dockrell et al., 2015; Graham et al., 2015; Peterson et al., 2011), especially for younger students. There are also few studies reporting conceptualizations of prerequisites for developing writing tests assessments fit for specific purposes (but see e.g. Bouwer et al., 2015; Casey et al., 2016).

Papers in this issue
In this special issue we welcome studies that focus on various aspects of writing assessment tools, their applications, and consequences with young children. For example, this includes theoretical or empirical papers on construct definitions for one or more aspects of writing, the validation of scoring guides at one or more levels of the educational system, changes in instruction or material development based on formative writing assessments. We invite both empirical and conceptual papers on topics including (but not limited to):

  • studies relating to validity aspects of writing assessment, including theoretical pieces on prerequisites for developing assessment tools for given interpretations and uses
  • studies relating to the validity and consequences of formative classroom-based assessment
  • validity and consequences of different scoring models and procedures (holistic score, analytical scoring, and automated essay scoring)
  • studies on how teachers use valid writing assessments to monitor students’ progress, what information they use form classroom observations, and how this changes instruction (i.e., consequences of these assessments)
  • valid tools for text analysis of students’ texts that can inform the teacher of a child's needs and explores the consequences of such assessments
  • the validity and consequences of Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM)
  • studies that questions the validity of digital vs handwriting in formative assessment of writing development Studies relating to the impact writing assessment may have on young students’ self-efficacy and motivation
  • studies that examine the impact of mandatory school, region, and national writing assessments in terms of their impact (positive and negative)
  • conceptual papers related to improving mandatory assessments to enhance their use for formative assessment (such papers need to address validity and consequential issues)
  • conceptual papers that propose a viable model for conducting international writing assessments (such papers need to address validity and consequential issues)

Additionally, the editors of the special issue will invite papers on the following themes: Validity aspects of prerequisites for developing assessment tools for international comparison of writing proficiency, and automated/computer generated assessment of writing for a formative assessment perspective.

We will welcome studies from any context around the world, with the following criteria for consideration of review and inclusion of papers: Investigations must be related to formative writing assessment in primary school (preschool–Grade 5). Research studies must address validity issues (see Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing from the American Psychological Association/American Educational Research Association). We will give priority to research studies that include data on consequential effects of the writing assessment (e.g., validity of a new writing instrument and how its use impacts students, teachers, schools, or districts), However, if such data on consequential effects are not available, the author of the study must address possible consequential effects in their paper. We will also prioritize studies in the youngest age groups. For review and conceptual papers issues of validity and consequence must be addressed. Most importantly, the paper must provide researchers, teacher educators and practitioners with state-of-the-art insights and knowledge into writing assessment of young students for change.

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Submission Instructions

The proposal should include:

  1. Title of the article
  2. Author name(s), affiliation(s), and contact information
  3. A summary of the article, highlighting novel features
  4. An explanation of the article’s contribution.

Proposals shall be sent to: [email protected]

Successful authors will be invited to submit full papers for peer review, following regular procedures.

The following timeline is anticipated:

  • Proposal submission deadline: 30th September 2020
  • Invitation to submit for peer review: 31th October
  • Full manuscript submission deadline: 31 March 2021
  • Anticipated publication date: 2022