Handwritten Essay assessment by Computer!

The University of Buffalo (my alma mater) is taking a bold new step in writing assessment. They are attempting to computer score the eight grade English Language Arts assessments which students hand write. So far they are within one point of human evaluators and their program assesses the student’s writing in seconds. If this program can quickly score students’ writing, then the teacher can work with students to improve their writing. Students could take mini-ELA assessments during the year to assess their progress and work toward scoring a 5 or 6/6on the state assessment. At present, teachers can only assess so many writing assessments during a year due to the time it takes to assess each writing. Now they can focus on improving students’ writing instead of focusing on correcting their papers.

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1 Response to “Handwritten Essay assessment by Computer!”


  1. 1 Troy Hicks February 4, 2008 at 4:41 am

    Hi Harry,

    While I think that computerized scoring of essays, typed or handwritten, could be used to help improve student writing, I believe that the sad truth of the matter is that it will be yet another substitute for teacher-student interactions. Sadly, I think that only our best teachers — the ones teaching the writers, not just the writing, to begin with — are the ones who would use these scores in any meaningful way to guide students.

    I agree with your final point that teachers can help students’ writing, but I don’t think that they will get there any faster by having a computer send an error report back to kids. I could say more, but for a more interesting take on computerized scoring, see Maja Wilson’s article in Rethinking Schools, “Apologies to Sandra Cisneros”: http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/20_03/apol203.shtml

    Finally, why aren’t we asking students to compose on computers with the rich, interactive media that computers allow them to express themselves in such as hypertext, audio, and video, rather than reformulating the same old essays just so the computer can read them?

    Sorry to beat up on your alma mater — I just wish that we could shift the focus of writing assessment to something more robust than grammar and repetition of key ideas. Thanks for pointing out this article to us so we know that this kind of scoring is coming.

    Troy


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