ESL Reading/Writing Course Assessment:  A Brief History

Fall 2008—183rw and 184RW teachers met and discussed . . .
·         the student learning outcomes (SLOs) for their courses
·         criteria to use in determining passing vs. failing performance
·         the idea of a joint final exam or other common test

Spring 2009 – full and part-time ESL faculty met and discussed . . .
·         Student Learning Outcomes in ESL Reading/Writing courses
·         The importance of using common standards to evaluate students’ work
·         Working together to create some common tests for that semester
·         the SLOs for ESL 184RW compared to those of English 151A-B and 162-163. 
·         the overlap between ESL 184RW and English 151A and 162
·         the idea of transitioning students from ESL 183RW to English classes without 184RW
·         Low enrollment in 184RW
Outcome:  A common midterm was given in two sections of 181RW

Fall  2009 –
·         Representatives of the ESL faculty met with English Basic Skills course coordinators and discussed several possible alternatives for dealing with the problem of underprepared “ESL” students entering English 151A and higher levels of English.  None were accepted by the English department representatives. 
·         Nearly all of our ESL reading/writing faculty met to discuss drafts of rubrics Connie Olsen proposed for evaluating students’ writing at each level in the ESL reading/writing sequence (based on SLOs and course outlines).   Rubrics and samples of student writing were discussed in light of one another and  minor modifications were made to the rubrics. 
·         ESL 183RW instructors met to do joint grading of in-class writing assignments using the draft rubrics introduced earlier.  

Spring 2010—
·         Program Review was carried out.
·         ESL Reading-Writing Rubrics were posted in a private website for teachers’ use, along with samples of student writing from each level of the program, providing models of what faculty can expect of students at various levels.   

Fall 2010—Full and part-time ESL faculty met and discussed . . .
·         Course outlines, SLOs
·         How to make our grading standards consistent
·         The need for more emphasis on reading and vocabulary skills
·         Approaches to evaluating students’ reading levels

Spring 2011—
·         Curricular changes were considered, including changing ESL 183RW to a five-unit class, but because of budget and enrollment constraints, they were not encouraged or deemed appropriate at this time. 

Fall 2011—At meetings of full and part-time faculty . . .
·         Reading skill rubrics (created by others) were distributed, discussed.
·         Methods of evaluating students’ reading skills were discussed   
·         Common reading/writing tests were created for and given to students across each of these levels:  181rw, 182RW, and 183RW.   Teachers met to do joint evaluation of the tests.   The tests were given in weeks 12-13 and evaluated in week 14.   When teachers read one another’s students’ papers, they did not assign letter grades but only focused on whether each paper was “passing” or not.  
·         Consensus was reached that this evaluation process was valuable, but some modifications could be made.  Ideas raised: 
o   students needed more time to complete the reading portion of some tests;
o   faculty needed more time for the evaluation process (2 hours was not enough);
o   perhaps not all students’ papers need to be read (a representative sampling and known borderline students could be selected for joint evaluation);
o   tests could be designed by full-time faculty without part-timers’ participation.
·         Results of the joint tests are available here:  Common ESL RW Test Results Fall 2011 

Spring 2012—
  • At a meeting of all ESL faculty (4/2/12), we agreed to assess the lower reading/writing levels (181rw, 182rw) in fall semesters and upper levels (183rw, 184rw) in the spring semesters.  
  • A common test was developed and given to two of the three sections at the 183RW level.  The third section, was not included this semester because it was an online course and the students could not be tested (and monitored) in the same manner.   The nature and procedure for testing and scoring was essentially the same as that used in Fall 2011.
  • At the 184RW level, there was only one section, and the instructor developed her own reading/writing test.   Procedural errors led to the invalidation of the writing test at this level. 
  • Results of the tests are available here:  Common Test Results Spring 2012
Fall 2012--

  • Before the semester began, faculty met to decide on readings that would be the basis of the common exams to be given near the end of the semester. 
  • A common test was given to all sections of ESL 181RW and 182RW just before Thanksgiving and evaluated by a group of ESL faculty thereafter.  As in previous semesters, students took an objective reading test followed by a writing test in which the topic related to the reading they had just completed.  
  • The SLOs we used in evaluating the papers were the slightly revised SLOs that we had developed in the previous months and were officially approved in December 2012.  Those SLOs can be seen here:  Revised SLOs tested in Fall 2012