GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 99-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


PLATT, Brian F., Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, University of Mississippi, 120A Carrier Hall, University, MS 38677 and PLATT, Sara, Teacher Education, University of Mississippi, 303 Guyton Hall, University, MS 38677

Written geoscience communication is a critical area of graduate student development that is necessary for future success, regardless of employment field. Meaningful critiques of writing assignments are necessary for student improvement, but reading and scoring assignments can be time-consuming for instructors. Many graduate students are English Language Learners (ELL), which can add an additional challenge to writing instruction and grading.

Writing curriculum-based measurements (CBMs) quantify writing through such measures as total words written (TWW), words spelled correctly (WSC), correct word sequences (CWS), and incorrect word sequences (ICWS). CBMs have been used previously at the K-12 level to evaluate student writing, but they have received little to no application at the post-secondary level. The purpose of our research is to apply CBMs in a graduate geoscience writing class to address the following questions: 1) Is there a difference in writing abilities before and after the course for all students? 2) Is there a difference between the growth of ELL graduate students and native English speaking (NES) graduate students after taking the course? 3) Is there a difference between pre and post course scores on narrative versus expository text composition?

The class consisted of 20 students (13 NES, 7 ELL) and writing tasks were assessed for TWW, WSC, CWS, and ICWS. Paired t-tests showed that TWW was significantly higher on post-instruction scores for all students and for ELL students, WSC was significantly higher on post-instruction scores for NES students, and TWW was significantly lower on an expository writing task compared to a narrative writing task.

We interpret increased words written by ELL students as the result of greater confidence and experience with reading and writing in English. Improved spelling among NES students is unexpected, but may be influenced by an intense focus on writing assessment. The difference between TWW on narrative vs. expository prompts may result from limited narrative freedom and restrictive vocabulary required for an expository writing task. We hoped to see improvement in CWS among ELL students, but this was not the case; we will explore improvement in this area through future application of differentiated instruction.