Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

5-2022

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

English

Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Horner, Bruce

Committee Member

Olinger, Andrea R.

Committee Member

Ryan, Susan M.

Committee Member

Gallagher, Chris W.

Author's Keywords

writing assessment; local; global; knowledge mobilization; textual ideologies; standard language ideology

Abstract

For decades, writing assessment theorists have subscribed to the principle of localism––the belief that assessments should be designed with local contexts in mind and administered by local actors. Although this belief has ensured the validity of assessments in writing programs, it has also led to a tendency to treat assessment as a stable practice that is bound to a particular location, thus ignoring what happens when assessment knowledge and methods developed in one location travel to another distant location (as they do for campus assessment initiatives). To that end, this project traces how assessment knowledge is transformed as it travels to different locations via texts and people's interactions with them: from writing assessment position statements to publications authored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), from AAC&U to one university, and then to faculty assessors using AAC&U rubrics to score student artifacts for General Education assessment purposes at that university. Through document analysis, I find that, while AAC&U's approach to assessment appears to be aligned with writing studies' assessment principles, the organization is drifting away from recommending local adaptations and toward encouraging a more standardized uptake of its approach. Focus group interviews with five faculty assessors reveal the embodied practices assessors developed to manage their work and make a variety of scoring decisions as well as the textual ideologies participants brought to the work of interpreting and applying the rubrics. My analysis of participants' utterances and gestures shows that they critiqued the rubrics for appearing to uphold a singular, normative standard (standard language ideology). At the same time, they negotiated standard language ideology themselves, sometimes making comments that perpetuated this ideology. My analysis illustrates the instability of standard language ideology, which itself is often treated as a stable phenomenon. This study has implications for large-scale assessments and writing assessment research: I argue that a knowledge mobilization framework for writing assessment makes it possible to attend to how people transform seemingly fixed assessment knowledge in practice.

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