3 ways to improve student writing with tech

According to data from the National Assessment of Student Performance, two-thirds of K-12 students are not writing at levels expected for their grade level. The fundamental issue is that, nationally, writing has not been given the same attention as math and reading. 

When writing is not a priority in elementary school, it becomes difficult to teach by middle school when large class sizes are the norm. This begs for technology intervention.

Why is writing so important?

Writing is a complex cognitive ability that is foundational to the development of communication and thinking skills. Writing instruction helps students learn to write for different audiences and purposes, including: writing to persuade, writing to explain, and writing to convey real or imagined experience. 

The ability to write well matters because poor writing often indicates confused thinking. 

Students need to be able to communicate their ideas clearly in order to take charge of their own learning and to prepare for college as well as their future careers. 

Educators need to recognize three key changes that are needed to help students achieve higher levels of competence in written expression.

  1. Students need more individual feedback. Meaningful writing assessment should help students identify their strengths and weaknesses so they can target areas that need more work.
  2. Writing assessment should be consistent. Just as in math and reading, providing students with metrics against established norms allows teachers to target skill development for writing maturity. 
  3. Assessment should be objective. Current methods of assessment are so subjective that it is difficult to know if students are making progress. On top of that, most middle and high school teachers have student loads of 90-150 students per day, which makes it hard to find time for frequent graded writing assignments, which is very labor intensive.   

Fair assessment

With no benchmark or objective standards in place for writing (unlike reading), it’s extremely difficult to remove subjectivity and make sure that each student’’s work has been assessed fairly and consistently. 

Even a highly-predictive, standard reading measure such as Words Correct Per Minute (WCPM), which assesses students’ writing fluency, is too tedious for teachers to implement and does not reflect the time students devoted to writing or the complexity of the text they are creating. 

Research has demonstrated that frequent writing and assessment is the best way to help  students learn to write well. 

Automation can now remove some of the drudgery for teachers when it comes to writing assessment. It allows for simpler, more frequent assessments. This technology is facilitating the move toward automated essay grading with benchmarks and rubrics that not only help with current assessments, but can monitor student progress over time. 

Having this kind of frequent assessment in place allows educators to recognize where students may be struggling so they can address problems immediately. 

I've been working with Texthelp for some time now to establish something just like this and I helped to develop the rubrics found in their writing achievement tool - WriQ®.

For teachers, WriQ grades papers digitally - saving more time for other precious classroom activities. It’s faster, more accurate and consistent than subjective, pen and paper manual assessment - giving clear visibility of progress over time against peers and standardize norms.  

For district administrators, WriQ provides much needed comparable insights on writing levels within a school, district or at a state/national level. Making it easier to allocate invaluable district resources, progress student literacy and improve writing performance.

Learn about how WriQ can help educators and school leaders benchmark and monitor student progress in writing. 

Professor Edyburn has been an advisor to Texthelp since 2006 when he contributed to the text summarization feature in Read&Write. Over the past three years he has helped develop the rubrics found in WriQ. Currently he is helping to develop the analytics associated with evaluating writing quality.

For my in-depth analysis and to understand why I think WriQ is uniquely powerful, read my research brief on Improving Student Writing Performance.