History of Grinnell’s writing assessment
Effective writing is one of the core goals of Grinnell College’s liberal arts curriculum. To help students achieve this goal, the College makes sustained efforts to teach its students to write: it offers comprehensive writing instruction across the curriculum through both the tutorial and writing-based courses; it maintains a professionally staffed Writing Lab to consult with students about their writing; and, since 1972, it has funded summer seminars on the teaching of writing. And because teaching effective writing is a goal across the Grinnell curriculum, the College decided, as part of its 1998 NCA accreditation effort, to assess the outcomes of that teaching.
To this end, since 1997 the College has carried out several experiments designed to assess the effectiveness of its writing instruction. Like other institutions of higher learning faced with assessing the complex intellectual task of writing, we have learned much from our attempts. For example, we have developed a set of criteria that reflect, our faculty generally agree, the kind of writing we seek to teach our students. We have also discovered that readers must judge student papers in the context in which they were written. In addition, we have discovered that students have valuable things to tell us about their own writing.