Date of Award

June 2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics

Advisor(s)

Amanda Brown

Keywords

China, College-level EFL, Rubrics, Teacher training, Writing assessment, Writing teaching

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

Assessment is a critical component in the teaching of writing and plays an important role in discovering and helping to address students’ writing difficulties. Therefore, it is essential for teachers to approach writing assessment in a reliable and valid way. Previous studies showed that assessment rubrics, used as a standard to describe performance evaluation, can help teachers effectively assess student writing. The reliability and validity of the use of rubrics for helping teachers in assessing writing fairly and improving students’ writing ability has received much research attention; however, less attention has been paid to teacher training in the area of rubric construction and use.

This study examined the use of and attitudes towards rubrics in college level EFL writing classes in China and the effects of teacher training in the design and application of rubrics. The data for this study were drawn from Chinese college-level English teachers as well as first- and second-year undergraduate students from a medium-sized university in China, targeting the following: (1) investigating the current writing assessment method adopted in college EFL classes in a university in China and the current situation of teacher training, examined through pre-study questionnaires, (2) conducting teacher training on rubric construction and development and examining the implementation of training through two student writing assignments, (3) examining the students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards rubric use and teachers’ attitudes towards training through post-study questionnaires.

Analysis of the pre-study questionnaires indicated that, in at least the target Chinese institution, rubrics were not widely used by the college-level English teachers, and their primary focus in writing assessment was on grammatical and vocabulary errors. In addition, it appeared that in this context, the English teachers did not receive adequate training concerning the use of rubrics for writing assessment. Data collected during teacher training and application showed that after the implementation of teacher-designed rubrics as assessment tools, students’ overall and subentry writing scoring improved, though no causal relationships can be claimed. Analysis of the post-study questionnaires indicated that both students and teachers held positive attitudes towards rubrics, which they perceived as being helpful in improving writing proficiency and gaining confidence in writing. In addition, teachers also had a positive attitude towards the training.

This thesis differs from previous research by combining teacher training and rubric implementation, with the focus both on teachers and students rather than only on one side. Results support the effectiveness of both rubrics in assessment and teacher training in rubric construction and use.

Access

Open Access

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