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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reframing Reliability for Writing Assessment

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This essay provides an overview of the research and scholarship on reliability in college writing assessment from the author's perspective as a composition and rhetoric scholar. It argues for reframing reliability by drawing on traditions from fields of college composition and educational measurement with the goal of developing a more productive discussion about reliability as we work toward a unified field of writing assessment. In making this argument, the author uses the concept of framing to argue that writing assessment scholars should develop a shared understanding of reliability. The shared understanding begins with the values—such as accuracy, consistency, fairness, responsibility, and meaningfulness—that we have in common with others, including psychometricians and measurement specialists, instead of focusing on the methods. Traditionally, reliability has been framed by statistical methods and calculations associated with positivist science although psychometric theory has moved beyond this perspective. Over time, the author argues, if we can shift the frame associated with reliability, we can develop methods to support assessments that lead to improvement of teaching and learning.

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