Honouring the process: a critique of the School Wide Write within effective writing instruction and assessment




Mai, Annemarie

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Abstract Every September in my school district, the School Wide Write (SWW) – a seemingly innocuous benchmark assessment for writing – has often caused stress, confusion, and even anger for many middle school teachers and students. This project sought better understanding of a test that is shared by approximately 2,700 middle school students in this district, but also around British Columbia, Canada, and the United States. While the rationale behind the SWW purports to accurately determine students’ writing abilities so that teachers can better meet their students’ writing needs, the literature revealed that impromptu writing tests are often pedagogically and theoretically unsound. As it stands, the School Wide Write is little more than a bureaucratic responsibility and a clumsy attempt to diagnose writing ability within an English Language Arts 8 to 12 curriculum that clearly encourages insightful and impactful writing. Conversely, the literature supports that on-demand writing tests like the SWW depict writing in a narrow, irrelevant, and obsolete way. The lessons learned from examining quick writes, though, can move teachers toward a pedagogy that incorporates dialogic, instructive, reflective, and transformative instruction and assessment practices. In these practices, educators help foster a student’s identity as a writer who shares a vested interest in writing well, starting by honouring the recursive, iterative writing process.



writing instruction, writing assessment, writing pedagogy, School Wide Write, informing instruction, formative assesssment