Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Journal of Writing Assessment provides a peer-reviewed forum for the publication of manuscripts from a variety of disciplines and perspectives that address topics in writing assessment. Submissions may investigate such assessment-related topics as grading and response, program assessment, historical perspectives on assessment, assessment theory, and educational measurement as well as other relevant topics. Articles are welcome from a variety of areas including K-12, college classes, large-scale assessment, and noneducational settings. We also welcome book reviews of recent publications related to writing assessment and annotated bibliographies of current issues in writing assessment.

Please refer to the submission guidelines on this page for information for authors and submission guidelines.


Articulating Sophistic Rhetoric as a Validity Heuristic for Writing Assessment

This article develops a validity inquiry heuristic from several Elder Sophists' positions on the nomos-physis controversy of the fifth and fourth century B.C.E. in Greece. The nomos-physis debate concerned the nature and existence of knowledge and virtue, and maps well to current discussion of validity inquiry in writing assessment. Beyond rearticulating validity as a reflexive, agency-constructing, rhetorical act, this article attempts to bridge disciplines by articulating validity in terms of rhetorical theory, and understanding ancient sophistic rhetorical positions as validity theory.

The Power of Tests: A Critical Perspective on the Uses of Language Texts by Elana Shohamy

Most of us interested in assessment would agree that our field's thinking about what educational evaluation is and does has developed through at least a couple of distinct historical-conceptual phases. Initially, we understood evaluation as a way of gathering information about what people had learned, and we focused on getting the most accurate and reliable information possible. More recently, our conception of evaluation was broadened and enhanced as we came to understand the rich cluster of assessment concepts that point out to us how assessment not only collects data, but also teaches people (produces knowledge) and transforms educational systems and processes. We, therefore, now also attend to validity issues related to consequences, washback, and assessment's "educative" nature (Wiggins, 1998). In this second historical phase, we still seek valid and valuable information about learning and learners, be we also turn our attention to the impact of assessment decisions on the broader educational project.

An Annotated Bibliography of Writing Assessment: Teacher's Written Responses to Student Writing

Because it is difficult, time-consuming, vexing, rewarding, and fundamental to the teaching of writing, teachers' written responses to student writing has been and continues to be a topic of great interest to those in any field where writing is assigned, responded to, and graded. Although assigning and grading writing are closely related to response, the focus for this issue of the bibliography is response. Likewise, as Mathison-Fife and O'Neill remind us, student writers receive valuable feedback and response to their writing in other forms and from other sources--peer feedback, student-teacher conferences, workshops, and so on--yet the responses that teachers write to students on their essays constitutes some of the most important formative feedback and evaluative opportunities teachers have. Not surprisingly, much of the empirical research on response is textual analysis of teachers' comments or revisions students make to their writing after reading teacher feedback. Other research includes case studies of teachers and/or students in the dialogic process of teacher response and subsequent student writing. One of the biggest questions that remains is whether teachers' response styles are consistent with the emerging themes in modern composition studies; in other words, do teachers' responses reflect such important shifts as dialogue, processes, students' rights to their own language, and so on, or is response largely negative and devoted to criticizing and correcting student prose. These and other relevant, pedagogically minded questions continue to fuel the literature on teachers' written responses to student writing.