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Machine Scoring in the Assessment of Writing - Previous Revision

 

Gettysburg Address Flunks Robograder
Computer-graded writing continues to spread nationally, but at what cost?

 

Quotes -- need something better here

"If a student’s first writing experience at an institution is to a machine, this sends a message: writing at this institution is not valued as human communication -- and this in turn reduces the validity of the assessment."  CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments

 

"E-Rater doesn’t care if you say the War of 1812 started in 1945."  Les Perelman in The New York Times

 

"While (robograders) may promise consistency, they distort the very nature of writing as a complex and content-rich interaction between people."  CCCC Writing Assessment: A Position Statement

Overworked teachers with oversized classrooms cannot read every student's writing. Quality reviews simply take more time than teachers can offer. Several testing companies think they have the answer. While computer essay graders can score thousands of papers in seconds, the machines' practical shortcomings trump the benefits of expediency.

The National Council of Teachers of English opposes the use of machine scoring in the assessment of writing. Such grading devalues and eliminates the social and contextualized nature of the art. As NCTE member Les Perelman found, these machines are fallible. On a scale of one to six, the Gettysburg Address earned a two. Perelman also found the machines to be unable to verify facts.

Anne Herrington and Charles Moran took an extensive look at computer graders and noted several problems. If a computer can grade thousands of student papers at one time, why not put all the students in one class? Why not use one teacher to record and online lecture for thousands of students? Gone would be the demand for teachers and the diverse voices they offer.

 

 

 

NCTE opposes the use of machine scoring in the assessment of writing. Such use devalues and eliminates the social and contextualized nature of writing. The machines’ practical shortcomings trump the benefits of expediency. Writing is a valuable human communication and must remain as such...

News

NCTE member Les Perelman discusses using computer to grade writing...

Computers Grade Essays Fast . . . But Not Always Well 
     (Morning Edition, National Public Radio) 
Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously 
      (The New York Times)

Position Statements

Writing Assessment  
     (Conference on College Composition and Communication)
Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments  
     (Conference on College Composition and Communication)

Journal Articles

What Happens When Machines Read Our Students’ Writing?
     Anne Herrington and Charles Moran provide a 30-year history of composition research and thinking on computer-grading of writing: “We need to say at the outset that these programs confront us with a new situation: writers writing to computers.”    

Grading Student Writing: High-Stakes Testing, Computers, and the Human Touch  
     Crispin Sartwell has offered a sharp criticism of the template approach to teaching writing, and he fears that computer-aided grading of student writing will only increase the problems. We must be skeptical. Since computer programs and word processors are able to identify surface-feature concerns in student writing, there is a danger that computeraided writing instruction and assessment could increase the disproportionate value placed on surface features at the expense of the writing process and the content of authentic student writing. Computer writing programs that assess writing can also reduce all writing to templates. Sartwell notes that “machines are cheaper” than humans, so we must be sure that we do not allow expense to supersede quality when we are teaching writing and grading student compositions.  

 

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