Under the direction of Janet Swenson, the Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at MSU (the Director of Project WRITE), and Paul LeMahieu, UC Berkeley professor and National Writing Project assessment expert, the teachers in the Project WRITE cohort collected samples of student writing in their classrooms and those of a colleague not in Project WRITE.

Each teacher divided her students into two groups and had the students write to Prompt A or Prompt B as baseline data regarding the writing of the students in mid-Michigan. These samples of writing were collected and coded according to directions provided by Paul LeMahieu in November and December of 2007. The papers were read May 5, 2008 utilizing the NWP Analytic Writing Continuum that the teachers were trained on by Paul LeMahieu in December of 2007 as well as the Anchor Papers and the Anchor Paper Commentaries that resulted from the December 5, 2007 PD training.

A second set of papers (with students using the other prompt, A or B) was collected in the spring of 2008 from as many of the same students as possible as the school year came to a close . (Some teachers had complications arise in the collection of papers such as semester class changes that resulted in the students who wrote to a prompt in the fall not being available to that teacher in the spring.)

The purpose of the training of the teachers in this process and of the collection of these two sets of student papers was to provide "criteria for judging improvement over time" of the writing of the students according to LeMahieu. "We are doing this to judge the writing in front of us. We are not judging the kids, we are not judging the teachers and we are not judging the classrooms."

Paul LeMahieu went on to describe the purpose of the training and use of the NWP Analytic Writing Continuum: This "gives the writer or the teacher a sense of the instructional needs. This informs instruction by breaking writing down to the component parts (content, structure, stance, sentence fluency, diction [language], and conventions...). There's this complex thing called writing, and here is a way of discussing the quality of the elements."

On May 5, 2008, the teachers in Project WRITE were asked to reflect on the experience of reading the fall sample papers in the discussion area of this page utilizing one or more of the following prompts (please reply on this page's "discussion" tab):

  • What do you notice as you read these papers?
  • What have you learned regarding the reading of student writing?
  • What was difficult about this process?
  • What was an ah-ha moment as you participated in this activity?
  • How does this differ or seem similar to approaches you have used in the past?
  • How will this influence your use of evaluation of student writing in the future?
  • How will it influence instruction in your classroom?
  • How will your students benefit?
  • Other?
Please go to the discussion button at the top of this page to see these reflections.