National Writing Project

Handwringing Moments in Teaching—A Chapter from Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers

Date: December 2016

Summary: Assessing Writing, Teaching Writers, by Mary Ann Smith and Sherry Swain, introduces the Analytic Writing Continuum (AWC), a writing rubric/assessment tool developed over time by researchers and educators, which has long been the centerpiece of National Writing Project scoring conferences. In this introductory chapter, they highlight the decisions that went into its creation, and emphasize its potential to create a common language for teachers and students to use for discussing and improving writing.


Excerpt from Chapter:

In this book, we introduce an invention in the writing world that has brought some sanity back to the grading/commenting/responding process. At the start, this invention—a scoring guide with a system for using the guide—addressed an immediate need to assess student writing at a National Writing Project (NWP) scoring event. However, once teachers discovered the Analytic Writing Continuum (AWC), it took off into classrooms for an extended stay where it could benefit student writers.

Our goal now is to put the AWC in the hands of teachers who are interested and ready for something new. We invite our readers to look critically at the AWC as a tool to support student writing achievement in an era when writing is a central means of communication. But because we think teachers should flee from any teaching idea that can't be reinvented for a particular situation with a particular group of students, our invitation comes with this caveat: The AWC is not cast in stone with a single set of directions for how to use it. The best thing to do is to make it your own."

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