Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Grade 4 Writing Computer-Based Assessment: 14 percent demonstrated competent or effective writing skills

Computers are becoming increasingly important in today’s classrooms as tools for both teaching and learning, but little is known about the knowledge and skills of elementary students in large-scale computer-based writing assessments. The Grade 4 Writing Computer-Based Assessment (WCBA) study was conducted to determine if fourth-grade students could effectively demonstrate their writing knowledge and skills during a computer-delivered assessment.

The Grade 4 WCBA Study consisted of two parts:
  • small-scale usability testing to inform development of the assessment platform for fourth-grade students; and
  • a pilot writing assessment administered to a sample of 13,000 students nationwide.
Lessons learned from the study can inform future development of computer-based assessments as well as shed light on what fourth-grade students know and can do. Additionally, insights were gained  on fourth-grade students’ use of editing tools to compose their responses.

Note that the sample used in this study is not representative of the nation. The performance results only pertain to participants in the pilot study.

How did fourth-grade students perform under the 30-minute pilot condition?

The Writing Computer-Based Assessment (WCBA) platform was updated following the usability study for the Grade 4 WCBA pilot assessment. The pilot investigated students’ ability to compose typed responses to different prompts under 30- and 20-minute conditions.

About 80 percent of students were given two 30-minute prompts. Responses were scored with a six-point rubric.
  • Almost 39 percent of the responses received a score of 1 or 2. These responses showed low to marginal writing skills. They provided insufficient supporting statements and were not consistent in their use of proper grammar and mechanics.
  • About 47 percent of student responses received a score of 3 or 4, indicating that they demonstrated some control of writing, most of their ideas were on topic, and they used simple organizational strategies in most of their writing.
  • Approximately 14 percent of the responses, under the 30-minute conditions, demonstrated competent or effective writing skills and received a score of 5 or 6. These responses showed more control in their writing, were fairly balanced, and reflected some awareness of audience and voice as well as control of grammar and mechanics.


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