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SLWIS News, Volume 2:2 (October 2007)

by User Not Found | 10/28/2011

In This Issue...

  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
    • Update From the SLW News Editorial Staff
    • The SLWIS Web Site: Your Input Needed
  • Articles
    • Computerized Essay Scoring: An Appropriate Alternative to Traditional Means of ESL Writing Assessment?—Not Yet
    • To Correct or Not To Correct
    • Scaffolding Peer Review With Web-Based Calibrated Peer Review (TM)
  • Convention Updates
    • InterSection With HEIS: When Graduate Student Meets Writing Center
    • InterSection With MWIS: Using Corpus Findings to Develop L2 Writing Materials
  • Announcements and Information
    • Open Access to TESOL Communities
    • Graduate Student Forum at TESOL 2008
    • The Seventh Symposium on Second Language Writing
    • The Third Intercultural Rhetoric Conference
    • TESOL Board Approves Three New Position Statements
    • SLW News: Mission Statement and Call for Submissions
  • About This Member Community
    • Second Language Writing IS Contact Information

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

Dear SLWIS Members,

I write this in the hope that you are refreshed and ready to head back to the second language writing classroom armed with ideas and innovations gleaned from your reading this summer.

We have a great deal of news. First, in our second year as an interest section, the Second Language Writing Interest Section (SLWIS) successfully exemplified second language writing at the 41st Annual TESOL Convention and Exhibit in Seattle. The IS presented a full schedule including

our very well-attended two-part Academic Session: "Shifting Boundaries in ESL/EFL Writing Instruction," with Dana Ferris and John Hedgcock and "Responding to Students When Teaching with Technology" with Maggie Sokolik and Paige Ware and our equally well-attended InterSection: "Second Language Writing/Materials Writers: Using Corpus Findings to Develop Writing Materials" facilitated by Kelly Sippell and Margi Wald. Panelists included Gena Bennett, Pat Byrd, Jan Frodesen, and Diane and Norbert Schmitt.

We also presented three colloquia, four demonstrations, three posters, one report, one video theater, four workshops, twenty-one papers, and eleven Discussion Groups. And, we cohosted an InterSection with the Higher Education IS on writing support for graduate students. See Convention Updates in this issue of SLW News.

These numbers are amazing as we are such a young IS; however, they can be even better. Some of you might not be aware of the procedure used for deciding how many presentation slots will be allotted to each IS. Generally, each IS is awarded presentation slots based on the number of proposals received by that IS. These slots are used forcolloquia, demonstrations, reports, workshops, and papers. Each of these formats represents a different amount of time, so we have to carefully choose the best proposals and strike a balance between different types of presentations. Please remember this procedure when you next submit a proposal (for TESOL 2009), taking care to send your proposal to the Second Language Writing Interest Section. The more proposals we receive, the more slots we'll be awarded at the convention. Let's work together to make our presence at the convention as great as it can be.
While I'm mentioning proposals, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to those who volunteered to adjudicate proposals for TESOL 2008.

Denise Alvarez
Kyung-Hee Bae
Subarna Banerjee
Barbara Dobson
Donna Evans
Norman Evans
Katya Fairbanks
Dan Fichtner
Tatjana Glusac
Anam Govardhan
Jennifer Greer
Alan Hirvela
Jim Hu
Mark Labinski
Ditlev Larsen
Ilona Leki
Hedy McGarrell
Jessie Moore
Lucie Moussu
Herbert Pierson
Margaret Redus
Gigi Taylor
Stephanie Vandrick
Don Weasenforth
Sara Weigle
Jennifer Shade Wilson
Mark Wolfersberger
Hongmei Wu
Youngjoo Yi
Sandra Zappa-Hollman

Thanks again to all of our proposal readers. They provide an incredibly valuable service to the IS.

Possibly the most exciting event at TESOL 2007 was our Special Event. The Second Language Writing IS hosted "An Evening With the Second Language Writing Interest Section: Answering the Needs of Second Language Writers and Their Teachers" on Thursday, March 22, 2007.  

The Second Language Writing Interest Section used this event to introduce itself to TESOL and introduce what the SLWIS sees as vital concerns for all TESOL professionals involved in second language writing teaching and research. Our fundamental goals for this event were

  • To introduce the newest IS to TESOL
  • To create a friendly and informal environment in which those concerned with second language writing can network, explore, and share                                                                                                  

The evening brought together scholars, teachers, administrators, and publishers interested in second language writing in a relaxed, social atmosphere so that those in attendance could mingle and discuss pressing second language writing issues. See the TESOL 07 photos on the SLWIS web page at

The session provided participants with the opportunity to discuss second language writing and writers from the multiple and diverse perspectives of a group of scholars whose collective experience of researching and teaching second language writing  spans a wide spectrum of interests.

The forum also initiated discussion about institutional policies concerning second language writers and how participants might effect change at their institutions if change is needed; it is our hope that the event facilitated ongoing discussions centered on these issues.

Because the event was such a success, many IS members have asked for a repeat session at TESOL 2008 in New York City. Please watch the newsletter and the e-list for details as they become available and as we gear up for New York City.

All the best,



Update From the SLW News Editorial Staff

Margi Wald, SLW News Co-editor,

I am pleased to welcome two new members to the editorial staff of SLW News:

Cate Crosby, Newsletter Coeditor: Cate Crosby is an assistant professor of TESOL at West Chester University in West Chester, PA. Her research interests include second language writing, Generation 1.5 learners, academic socialization, academic literacies, and technology in the classroom.

Subarna Banerjee, Book Review Editor: Subarna Banerjee earned her PhD from Temple University. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Critical Writing Program. She teaches writing to international and American undergraduates. She has presented her work at TESOL, CCC, AAAL, and AILA. She has also written book reviews and review articles for TESOL Quarterly, Language and Education, and many other journals.

Please join me in welcoming Cate and Subarna. They both bring a wealth of knowledge about second language writing and a wealth of editorial experience, which will surely benefit the newsletter and its readership.

Interested in Joining the Team?

Consider becoming the SLW News CALL Column editor. For this position, we are seeking someone with experience and interest in Internet-based materials and media software. The editor's role involves keeping a list of web sites and other technology-based material of interest to SLWIS members, publishing the list on the SLWIS site, soliciting reviews, and, in the case of software or other non-Web material, coordinating to get review copies sent to potential reviewers. For more information, contact Margi Wald, SLW News coeditor,

The SLWIS Web Site: Your Input Needed

The Second Language Writing IS Web site is available at

Christine Tardy, SLWIS webmaster, is asking for input:

    * What would you like to see on this site?
    * What information might you be interested in helping to compile?
    * What updates might you have for the site?

Please contact Christine at Your input is appreciated.

Articles Computerized Essay Scoring: An Appropriate Alternative to Traditional Means of ESL Writing Assessment?—Not Yet

Ditlev Larsen, Winona State University, Minnesota, USA,

Good writing assessment practices are crucial for the teaching of L2 writing, but, at the same time, paper reading and grading are one of the most daunting tasks for ESL composition professionals. In the second language writing classroom, teachers are constantly faced with assessment issues in terms of the immense time commitment that must go into reading, reflecting on, and commenting on student writing to fairly evaluate performance. Outside the classroom, writing assessment can take the form of high-stakes entrance and exit exams or placement tests designed to ensure students are assigned appropriate classes that will help them develop their English academic writing skills.

Both two- and four-year colleges in the United States are experiencing significant increases in entering immigrant ESL students and many institutions continue to see large incoming classes of new international students. Consequently, scoring the essay portion of these students' placement tests can be an overwhelming task. Recently, automated or computerized assessment of ESL writing has emerged as a new time-efficient option for scoring essay writing, and it is only natural that colleges encountering high numbers of ESL students may consider automated assessment an appealing alternative to the much more resource-extensive and labor-intensive manual scoring. However, the fact remains that even for placement purposes, the importance of careful reading and reflection for fair, valid, and reliable assessment must not be overlooked.

With the increase of nonnative English speakers in institutions of higher education and with testing technology improving, it is not surprising that many organizations and companies are eager to promote their own writing assessment programs. For example, the College Board's online ESL assessment ACCUPLACER® ESL, now includes the subtest WritePlacer® ESL, which they claim "accurately" assesses second language learners' essay writing skills (College Board, 2005). The question is, however, whether a computer can be programmed to fairly and accurately evaluate essay writing. Hamp-Lyons (2001) has pointed out that we need to take into account technological, humanistic, political, and ethical issues in our writing assessment procedures, and even though the "next generation" of writing assessment is likely to draw on advances in computer applications, we must also understand that writing assessment includes complex processes that are not easily identified or quantified. This fact invariably presents problems for computerized assessments like WritePlacer® ESL.

The Concerns
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which consists of seven comprehensive universities and more than 20 two-year colleges, has a contract with the College Board, and all institutions are now expected to use the ACCUPLACER® ESL tests, including WritePlacer® ESL, for placement of nonnative English speakers. As ESL director at one of the universities, I was recently invited to a workshop designed to familiarize faculty and administrators with the tests. Unfortunately, the decision to adopt the ACCUPLACER® ESL tests was made without much input from ESL professionals at the many institutions in the system. ACCUPLACER® consists of a packet of tests ranging from math to reading/writing, and the ESL portion seemed to have been included almost by default. ESL writing specialists, including myself, have always been very skeptical about any automated scoring of something as subjective and abstract as essay writing skills. How can an automated scoring system account for something as nonquantifiable as variations in rhetoric, such as different, but equally appropriate, styles and organizational structures including diverse ways of developing points, as well as numerous possibilities of lexical choices of meaning and coherence? These features of writing require careful thinking, evaluation, rereading, and reevaluation, from more than one reader, to arrive at fair, valid, and reliable essay scores and subsequently appropriate placement.

Hamp-Lyons (2001) cautioned that computerized/automated essay scoring, just like multiple-choice form-focused tests of writing in the past, fails to identify important content and rhetorical features important for effective writing. Although a holistic grading scale that takes into account different categories of a piece of writing is implemented, it can be difficult to see how development of ideas, arguments, support, and organization can be appropriately scored by a computer program given the complexity of these issues. For example, the WritePlacer® ESL assigns a holistic score on a scale from 1 to 6 with consideration of five categories: vocabulary, sentence use, grammar, organization, and development/support (College Board, 2005). It is beyond the scope of this short article to address all these categories, so I will focus on the most problematic areas—organization and development/support—by referring to an informal experiment I performed with the WritePlacer® ESL during the workshop mentioned above. What I found calls into question at least parts of the validity and maybe also reliability of the exams and reaffirmed my skepticism about automated essay scoring.

Testing the Test
Prior to receiving a writing prompt, which is selected randomly from a database, test-takers are instructed to carefully read the prompt and write a 300- to 600-word essay that is evaluated on "how well it responds to the topic and how well the message is communicated," taking into account how ideas are expressed, organized and supported ( The instructions also explain that sentence structure, vocabulary, and mechanics are part of the evaluation.

I had the opportunity to try the exam from the students' point of view and did so with two different prompts. My first prompt read as follows: "A woman in Chicago recently won $25 million in the lottery. She can't decide what to do: spend it, save it or give most of it away. If you received a large sum of money, what would you do with it?" I decided to construct an essay that would fail to address the question clearly (what I would do with a large sum of money) and that I would consider poorly organized and lacking ideas and support. I wrote about 340 words explaining the process of buying a lottery ticket and claiming a prize and then shifted focus, mentioning that $25 million was a large sum of money. I proceeded to something rather unrelated, pointing out that money often creates problems but did not explain how. I kept it reasonably error free on the sentence level, but the essay was clearly disorganized and incoherent. I received a 5 (second highest score) for "organization" and for "focus, development and support" as well as a 5 for the essay as a whole. In addition, the score report gives written feedback, and mine started out as follows: "A strong writing sample. The writing sample states a main idea and provides specific details and examples to support the main idea. Typically the organization is clear and logical. The choice of vocabulary is sometimes inappropriate." I did not evenhave a main idea, but rather three or four remotely related points. Using the rubric provided for scoring in the College Board's literature on the WritePlacer® ESL, I would assign a score of 1 or 2 for both organization and focus/development/support. A 5 is supposed to "exhibit a consistent control of focus, organization and supporting details with a sense of audience," whereas a 2 "exhibits a rudimentary development of ideas, with inconsistent ability to express ideas clearly in an organized pattern or with sufficient supporting details" (College Board).

I decided to give the exam another chance, so I logged in again and received another prompt: "Think about one of your friends. Explain what you think are the qualities that made this person a good friend." I stuck with my original idea of making it disorganized and incoherent but also decided to not address the question at all. I wrote an essay about somebody who was a great soccer player as a child and therefore had many friends. I explained he grew up to become a professional player, making a lot of money and more friends, and then I started talking about whether it is good to be rich and famous. This time I received a 4 overall and a 4 in each category except vocabulary for which I received a 5. The feedback told me that "the main idea [was] evident" and that there was "evidence of development of this idea." All this despite the fact I had not even come close to answering the question about qualities of a good friend. However, as with the first essay, I took care to use some vocabulary from the prompt. So, it appears that the scoring system is looking for key words but is inadequate in assessing whether these terms are used appropriately to answer the question and develop ideas. This may indicate a problem with the validity of the exam and illustrate that even with advances in technology, it still is impossible to conduct automated essay scoring of the more complex and abstract features of writing.

My trial run of the WritePlacer® ESL definitely underscores Cheville's (2004) contention that teachers and teacher educators must be outspoken in communicating "the risks that automated scoring technologies pose to language and writing practices" (p. 47). Her recommendations were based on experiences with another, but similar, computerized scoring technology, Criterion. Like WritePlacer® ESL, it is Web-based, accesses a library of different prompts, and provides a response seconds after completion. It also uses a 6-point scoring scale in five domains: grammar, usage, mechanics, style, and organization/development, which are almost identical to those used in WritePlacer® ESL. An additional feature of Criterion is that it also flags errors for the student to review. Cheville (2004) goes so far as to say that the many automated essay-scoring programs being developed could undermine the theoretical and practical knowledge of teachers, as they often serve private interests. She criticized Criterion for its crude conceptions of style and for emphasizing formulaic writing at the expense of meaning and concluded that automated essay-scoring programs are incapable of recognizing not only illogical essays but also inventive ones as the technology is looking at essays as a "bag of words." Consequently, someone can get a good score with the right words but without making sense, which is exactly what I experienced with the WritePlacer® ESL.

Not Ready
In conclusion, despite advances, technology does not appear to be ready to accurately assess students' essay-writing skills. Automated essay scoring does not (yet) rival human assessment as it cannot appropriately measure skills that are commonly identified as important for effective and successful academic writing: developing ideas and arguments and organizing them properly, all of which constitute meaning. The unsuccessfulness of technology, as Cheville (2004) has argued, is a result of the fact that machines invariably are "calibrated" to static compositional features of structure and language use and not to meaning. Meaning, then, becomes subordinate to rigid structures in automated scoring, which is not the case with experienced human raters. This reaffirms the most problematic issue in computerized/automated scoring: It occurs without human interaction (Hamp-Lyons, 2001). No doubt automated scoring has improved, but there is a long way to go before ESL professionals should recommend its use as a replacement for human assessment of writing.

Cheville, J. (2004). Automated scoring technologies and the rising influence of error. English Journal, 93(4), 47-52. 

College Board. (2005). ACCUPLACER® ESL [Brochure]. New York: Author.

Hamp-Lyons, L. (2001). Fourth generation writing assessment. In T. Silva & P. K. Matsuda (Eds.), On second language writing (pp. 117-127). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ditlev Larsen is assistant professor of English and ESL director at Winona State University, Minnesota, where he teaches writing, general linguistics, and teacher preparation courses in the undergraduate and graduate TESOL programs. His research interests include a variety of issues in ESL/EFL writing and the interrelationships between language and culture in the international use of English.

To Correct or Not To Correct

Charles Nelson, Kean University,

The Argument

John Truscott (1996) argues: "Do not correct grammar".

  • Research: Grammar correction is not effective.
  • Language acquisition is a "gradual process" that cannot be accelerated through grammar knowledge.
  • The time students spend on understanding grammar correction and applying it could be spent more productively on other activities, such as improving organization and logic
  • Teachers may do a poor job of recognizing and correcting errors.
  • More research needs to be done before continuing explicit error correction

Dana Ferris (1999) responds: Yes, the evidence for error correction is "scant," but

  • Truscott doesn't differentiate between errors amenable to correction and those not.
  • Truscott's literature review is faulty because of study incomparability and selective treatment.
  • Students want error correction.
  • Students need to become self-editors.
  • Teachers can be trained.
  • ESL-type errors are less tolerated than are native-type
  • More research needs to be done before stopping explicit error correction.

Empirically Informed Theories

Cognitive Theories 
Expert Performance: 10-year rule — Expertise is not innate but takes 10 years of intense effort, whether it's math, chess, music, or any field (Ericsson & Charness, 1994; Ross 2006), including language. Just like language learning, people in other fields "fossilize." Practice/input alone is not sufficient.

ACT-R Theory (declarative & procedural knowledge): There are "no magic bullets" (Anderson & Schunn, 2000)

  1. Learning proceeds sequentially through the stages of declarative and procedural knowledge
  2. Effective time on task is the most important factor in learning, and it requires
    a. accurate diagnosis of the learning task (i.e., rules) and 
    b. examples and understandable explanations for the task/rules, and
    c. feedback (tied to examples and explanations).
  3. Power laws of practice and forgetting: Learning occurs best when reiterated in shorter intervals.

Motivation Theories
Motivation is crucial. It causes learners to persist and spend more time on task.

Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000):

  1. autonomy,
  2. social relatedness, and
  3. competence, accompanied by informational (not evaluative) feedback on one's competence.

Flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)L Among other things, flow (a state of instrinsic motivation) is facilitated by

  1. clear goals
  2. immediate feedback, and
  3. tasks that challenge (without unduly frustrating) one's skills.

Implicit Theories of Intelligence (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007)

  1. Incremental theorists "focus more on learning goals...aimed at increasing their ability."
  2. Entity theorists focus more on performance goals "aimed at documenting their ability."

Grammar Feedback Practice
Correctable Grammar 
Grammar feedback in L2 writing should target only those items that are rule-governed and for which examples and clear explanations can be provided. Subject-verb agreement is one such rule; style is not.

Feedback Structure
Grammar feedback should refer to the rules, examples, and explanations in student notebooks.

Grammar Notebooks: Students can maintain notebooks with these examples and explanations, adding to them as new rules, examples, and explanations are covered. Extra space should be available for commenting on grammar feedback. If there was misunderstanding, the rule explanation might be revised. If an "error" doesn't fit neatly into previous rules, examples, or understandings, students can create new rules, examples, or understandings or revise previous ones. Thus, the notebook becomes a textbook emerging out of, contributing to, and individualized to their own learning.
Goal logs: Students can keep a goal log, in which they set grammar goals and track their improvement over time. 
Program-embedded: Notebooks and goal logs should be used across courses in a program to provide the repetition needed of reading, writing, and revising understanding across different contexts to proceduralize grammar.

Frequency of Feedback

Informational (not evaluative) feedback should occur often. One problem with learning to write in school is that unlike sports, chess, and videogames, feedback does not occur immediately or even often. If time allows, consider having students write for 5 to 10 minutes every class and then perhaps checking their classmates' work for one (perhaps up to three) specific grammar points according to class or individual needs. Or, consider using a student example, perhaps from another class. This sort of task would work well for homework, too. Reiteration of rules, or anything else, at spaced intervals is essential for learning. Although the reality check of a grade is a given in most educational institutions, most feedback should be informational rather than evaluative. Otherwise, intrinsic motivation is dampened. Along these lines, the term feedback is preferable to correction.

Grammar Instruction
General lessons on grammar do not work, but mini-lessons guided by the above theories may be useful.
Example (adapted from Hinkel, 2004): A mini-lesson could look at grammatical structures in interviews, such as tenses and reporting verbs. Grammar examples would be given along with understandable explanations. Students would then analyze interviews in newspapers or magazines, focusing on tenses and reporting verbs and comparing them to the examples given, adding to and revising grammar notebooks as needed. Next, they would interview someone and write a report of the interview. Finally, students would compare how they used tenses and reporting verbs with the grammatical findings of their earlier analyses and with the examples given. If possible, more examples could be added to their grammar notebooks and, if needed, explanations could be revised. Because other tasks in other contexts will incorporate the same tenses and reporting verbs, repeating the process of comparing and revising rules, examples, and explanations will be useful.

Feedback is crucial for learning any activity, including a language. There are "no magic bullets" to accelerate learning. Rather, appropriate feedback helps students spend "effective time on task," thus eliminating wasted time and effort.

Anderson, J. R., Fincham, J. M., & Douglass, S. (1997). The role of examples and rules in the acquisition of a cognitive skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 23, 932-945.

Anderson, J. R., & Schunn, C. D. (2000). Implications of the ACT-R learning theory: No magic bullets. In R. Glaser (Ed.), Advances in instructional psychology: Educational design and cognitive science (pp. 1-33). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78, 246-263.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Deci E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The "what" and "why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.

Ericsson, K. A., & Charness, N. (1994). Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition. American Psychologist, 49, 725-747.

Ferris, D. (1999). The case for grammar correction in L2 writing classes: A response to Truscott (1996). Journal of Second Language Writing, 8, 1-11.

Hinkel, E. (2004). Teaching academic ESL writing: Practical techniques in vocabulary and grammar. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ross, P. (2006). The expert mind. Scientific American, 295(2), 64-71.

Truscott, J. (1996). The case against error correction in L2 writing courses. Language Learning, 46, 327-369.

Works Consulted
Bitchener, J., Young, S., & Cameron, D. (2005). The effect of different types of feedback on student ESL writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 14, 191-205.

Chandler, J. (2003). The effects of various kinds of error feedback for improvement in the accuracy and fluency of L2 student writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 267-296.

DeKeyser, R. (2007). Skill acquisition theory. In B. VanPatten & J. Wiliams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition (pp. 97-113). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Teaching and research motivation. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Ferris, D. (2002). Treatment of error in second language student writing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Ferris, D. (2003). Response to student writing: Implications for second language students. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ferris, D. (2004). The "grammar correction" debate in L2 writing: Where are we, and where do we go from here? (and what do we do in the meantime...?) Journal of Second Language Writing, 13, 49-62.

Ferris, D., & Hedgcock, J. (2005). Teaching ESL composition: Purpose, process, and practice (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hinkel, E., & Fotos, S. (Eds.). (2002). New perspectives on grammar teaching in second language classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Truscott, J. (1999). The case for "The case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes". A response to Ferris. Journal of Second Language Writing, 8, 111-122.

Truscott, J. (2004). Evidence and conjective on the effects of correction: A response to Chandler. Journal of Second Language Writing, 13, 337-343.

Yates, R., & Kenkel, J. (2002). Responding to sentence-level errors in student writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 11, 29-47.

Charles Nelson is assistant professor of ESL writing at Kean University, New Jersey, USA. His research focuses on how students learn to write in a second language.

Scaffolding Peer Review With Web-Based Calibrated Peer Review (TM)

Have you ever heard these complaints from your writing students: "Peer review is useless," "I don't know how to give feedback," "My classmates don't know how to write, so what do they have to offer me?", "My classmates don't give me good feedback"? Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) were inspired by comments like these to create Calibrated Peer Review™ (CPR), a computer program that scaffolds and models the writing process, helping students learn how to give effective feedback during peer review and become more self-aware as writers themselves. The program also provides a system for distributing multimedia source materials efficiently in a centralized location. Because of to the Web-based nature of the program—hosted on servers at UCLA—CPR lends itself well to long-distance learning as well as a traditional classroom. In addition, it randomly and anonymously distributes peer drafts to students to reduce positive or negative affective interference in the peer review process. CPR also enables teachers to efficiently monitor and manage small and large groups of students through each stage of a writing assignment.

CPR, through a clear progression of scaffolded steps, helps students learn how to respond to their peers' drafts, using a teacher-generated rubric and teacher-modeled feedback. Students move through three main stages:

  • The text entry stage, in which students answer a prompt based on source materials;
  • The calibration and review stage, in which students review sample and peer drafts; and
  • The results stage, in which students view statistics indicating how effectively they addressed the prompt and reviewed others' drafts.

Figure 1: Overview of CPR Assignments

From Russell, A. A., & Su, T. M. (n.d.). /Calibrated Peer Review//™//: 
Faculty Authoring Workshop Handbook. /Los Angeles, CA: Molecular Science Project, UCLA.

Text Entry Stage

Before the text entry stage begins, the teacher chooses materials that all the students must interact with in order to proceed to the next phase. After the students have accessed the materials, which can include texts, Web sites, audio files, video files, or any other media accessible via a computer or that has been handed out in class, the students move on to the text entry stage. Here they see the prompt based on the previously accessed materials, though the teacher may choose to introduce and explain the prompt before students encounter the materials.

Students enter their own text, either in a timed classroom situation (this would most likely need to occur in a computer lab) or on their own time on any computer with Internet access. Either way, the teacher sets up time parameters during which the students must complete this and following phases of the assignment. If a student does not finish entering the answer to the prompt by the prescribed date and time, the student is locked out of the rest of the assignment, though the teacher can easily override the lock-out. The well-defined deadlines help students learn how to manage their time more effectively and increase their accountability.

Calibration Stage

In the next phase of the assignment, called the calibration stage, students are presented with three past-student- or teacher-generated sample answers to the prompt, along with a teacher-generated rubric with which to evaluate each of the samples. The three samples should represent good, fair, and poor responses to the prompt in order to give the students a range of texts to evaluate. The teacher evaluates the sample essays before the students begin this phase by answering the questions posed by the rubric, and the teacher also has the option to include a detailed rationale for each answer. When the students evaluate the sample essays, the teacher may or may not require them to justify their answers with a rationale as well.

After students complete their evaluations, the program will compare the students' answers with the teacher's. The program then shows the students on which questions their answers diverged and students can click on any question to see what the teacher's thought process was for each answer.

If too many of the student's answers differ from the teacher's, the program will allow the students one retry before showing the students which questions they answered incorrectly. This modeling allows students not only to better understand the teacher's expectations for the assignment, but also to practice responding to student texts in a systematic way.


Figure 2: Sample Calibration Text and Rubric with Student Responses

Course: College-Level Writing
Assignment: Writing About Kozol's (1991) Use of Appeals

Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities. New York: Harper Perennial.

After students have finished the calibration phase, the program assigns each student a rater score, and this score then determines how much weight students' evaluation of their peers' draft will have in their peers' final "grade" for the assignment. Students whose evaluations of the sample responses most closely match the teacher's evaluation will have a higher rater score than will those whose answers deviate from the teacher's answers. In other words, the evaluation given to a student's draft by a student with a high rater score will be given more weight in determining the draft's final grade than the evaluation given by a student with a low rater score. The rater scoring helps students become more aware of their weaknesses not only in spotting errors in others' essays, but also, by extension, weak areas in their own writing.

Review Stage

Now that each student has a rater score, the students are ready to evaluate each other's drafts. The program randomly and anonymously assigns each student three of his or her peers' essays to evaluate with the same rubric used to evaluate the sample essays. Thus, students have already used the rubric multiple times before they ever look at their classmates' work, and have had a chance to discuss problems they might have in understanding and using the rubric with the teacher and their peers. The anonymous nature of the essay distribution also reduces possible affective filters present in face-to-face peer review. Students are more likely to be honest about flaws in their peers' essays if they are not worrying about hurting or alienating their classmates. Once they become more comfortable and confident in their roles as evaluators, face-to-face peer review becomes easier and more constructive. Seeing only the draft and rubric and not their classmates' names also allows the students to focus on thinking critically about what the text itself says rather than on the writers' explanation of what they intended to say.

After evaluating three of his or her peers' essays, each student evaluates his or her own essay, again with the same rubric. Evaluating their peers' essays critically prepares students to do the same for their own drafts, and seeing what their peers have and have not done well gives students a better idea of how to approach their drafts as objective readers with clear evaluative criteria. Also, at any time after the calibration stage, students can go back to the calibration results page to review which parts of the evaluation process gave them the most trouble and use the teacher's rationale for those parts of the rubric as a guide to help them improve their own evaluation process.

Results Stage

Once all the students have completed the calibration and review stage, they are able to view the results. The program calculates how well each student performed in the calibration phase and the peer review phase, and how well each student draft was written according to the three peer reviews each draft received. The CPR program will flag an assessment of a draft if it was reviewed by two or three students with low rater scores, and the teacher can easily override the essay grade. This information about rater scores allows the teacher not only to keep track of how well each student is reviewing drafts and pinpoint areas the student needs to work on, but also gives the teacher control over the process when necessary.

Figure 3: Sample Student Results Page

CPR also provides important feedback to the teacher regarding the design of the assignment. If many students get low rater scores, the teacher knows to revise the rubric or explain the rubric better. If many students get low scores on their essays, the teacher can read the feedback students give to each other and revise the prompt or source materials based on shared areas of confusion. Furthermore, the well-defined parameters of CPR encourage the teacher to anticipate questions students might have about the assignment, leading to more focused planning and design.


Of course, there are some drawbacks to CPR.

  • Most obviously, teachers and students must have access to computers with an Internet connection, and a computer lab is a must to introduce the program to students. 
  • Also, with technology, glitches are inevitable, though these are infrequent with CPR, and so a teacher must be ready with an alternate plan. 
  • In addition, students and teachers usually need one "throwaway" assignment to familiarize themselves with the program, though any assignment that gets students to think about text critically is probably not a waste of time. 
  • Setting up the assignment can be time-consuming for the teacher, but once the assignment begins, the teacher actually has more time to monitor student progress in a systematic and focused manner, and the teacher ends up with an extremely detailed record of how each student performed in each stage of the assignment. 
  • Because students will be doing a lot of reading on a computer screen, CPR is best used with shorter assignments ranging from 250 to 1,000 words.

And though CPR seems to eliminate face-to-face peer review, in fact it is only meant to be used as a scaffolding activity to prepare students to more effectively and confidently peer review in conventional group settings. CPR can be used in conjunction with face-to-face peer review through multiple drafts of one assignment, or it can be used for early essays to prepare students to work in groups on later assignments.

Training Options

Finally, CPR's price cannot be beat—it's free. The CPR Web site also includes a straightforward and informative tour. You can learn how to use CPR in one of three ways: you can register for a 3½-day workshop at UCLA for $50 which includes training in creating assignments, creating or choosing sample essays, developing calibration/rubric questions, and modeling feedback. Or you can organize a large group at your institution for an institutional training for $3,000, after which each of the participants become trainers themselves. Or you can do what I did, which is to take the free tour, play with the program, look at models on the CPR Web site, and teach yourself. The CPR Web site is

Also, more CPR information for instructors can be found at

And, more CPR information for students can be accessed at

David Skolnick received his MATESOL and Composition Certificate from San Francisco State University and currently teaches college writing to nonnative and native speakers at The University of California Berkeley. He is interested in exploring how technology can help students and teachers inside and outside the classroom.

Convention Updates InterSection With HEIS: When Graduate Student Meets Writing Center

Talinn Phillips, Ohio University,

Graduate writers have little representation in writing center literature despite the fact that tutoring graduate writers is quite different from working with undergraduates. Their writing is more sophisticated, they are more engaged in that writing, and the stakes are much higher. In addition, the highly discipline-specific nature of graduate writing combined with longer writing projects presents challenges for writing centers that work with graduate students. Tutors may not have sufficient disciplinary expertise to help graduate writers with global writing concerns. Further, the length of most graduate papers means that writers will need to schedule multiple sessions (often with multiple tutors) to get help with just one paper.

Results of my case studies of L2 graduate writers suggest that they expect quite a lot from their tutors. They come to tutoring sessions with their own agendas, which range from sentence-level work to style to content development. The study also suggested that graduate writing groups are one way that writing centers can help graduate writers more effectively. Writing groups provide sufficient accountability and structure to help writers get their work done and they are able to support writers at various levels of the writing project, including development of ethos, methodology, and content. Writing groups can also help writers learn about the disciplinary rhetorical conventions of their own fields and teach writers how to talk about their own work. Most important, writing groups are able to meet the needs that writing centers often cannot. Because the group has several days to read and reflect on a writer's work, a group can handle longer graduate texts more easily than writing centers can. Finally, over time, group members develop the in-depth knowledge of a writer's project that is needed to provide effective feedback-something that tutors may struggle to do.

Editors' Note: In our next issue, you can read more about Talinn Phillips' work with graduate student writers in university writing centers.

Talinn Phillips directs the writing center at Ohio University where she is also completing her doctorate in English rhetoric and composition. Her dissertation examines the writing development of four incoming L2 graduate writers and the role that the writing center plays in that development. She is currently secretary of the SLWIS.

InterSection With MWIS: Using Corpus Findings to Develop L2 Writing Materials

Margi Wald, Panel Cofacilitator, University of California, Berkeley,

At TESOL 2007, the Second Language Writing and Materials Writers interest sections collaborated on a quite well-received InterSection entitled "Using Corpus Findings to Develop L2 Writing Materials."

This InterSection explored how current corpus findings can inform writing teachers and materials developers. Presenters demonstrated strategies for designing corpus research and analyzing findings to choose activity foci, generate activity templates, highlight frequent vocabulary and structures in use in particular genres or registers, and augment existing textbook exercises.

Below are each presenter's abstract and contact information.
Handouts and additional information can be found at

The AWL in context
Presented by Pat Byrd, Georgia State University,

Knowing a new word means more than knowing its dictionary definition; knowing a word means knowing how to use that word and that means knowing what other words are frequently used along with the word. In an effort to understand the use of Academic Word List (AWL) words in context, a project is now being carried out to reanalyze the original AWL corpus to gather information for researchers, teachers, and materials writers about the patterns in which the words are used. Because of differences between how the AWL words are used in academic writing and how they are used in instructors' lectures, students need special strategies both in their reading and in their listening to learn how to use AWL words in academically appropriate ways. Examples of finding are shared along with ideas about how this information might be used by writing teachers to help students develop the language skills they need for effective academic writing.

Gaining Access: Corpus Tools and Resources for the Writing Instructor
Presented by Gena Bennett, Independent Materials Writer,

Accessibility is a critical issue in the classroom application of corpora and corpus tools. Teachers who would like to implement the corpus approach in the classroom are often hindered by limited resources or lack of funds. This presentation discussed how teachers and students can make use of freely available corpus tools along with resources at hand to investigate vocabulary and grammar to inform writing instruction.

Using Corpus-Based References to Guide Editing and Revision in L2 Writing
Presented by Jan Frodesen, University of California, Santa Barbara,

Corpus-based reference materials such as online concordancers and collocation dictionaries can be valuable resources for teachers and students in work focused on revising or editing writing assignments. This presentation shows how writing instructors can identify areas for language focus based on their students' drafts or other assignments and then develop materials using corpus-based references for both classwork and out-of-class assignments.

Overcoming the Gap in Exposure to Text: Using a Reading Corpus in an Academic Writing Class
Presented by Diane Schmitt, Nottingham Trent University,, and
Norbert Schmitt, Nottingham University,

Native speakers often develop an implicit ability to write in academic style as a result of years of exposure to academic texts. Second language writers rarely receive similar amounts of exposure. This presentation demonstrates how a corpus of texts compiled for a writing-from-sources assignment can be used to explicitly teach key academic features of reading texts that writers need to transfer into their own essays.


Announcements and Information Open Access to TESOL Communities

As of June 2007, open access allows all members to access as many IS and caucus e-lists and e-newsletters as they wish at no cost. There are no longer any fees associated with subscribing to additional ISs and caucuses.

To maintain a core membership for each IS and each caucus, members will be required to select a primary interest section and primary caucus. Members will be able to vote only in their primary IS and caucus. Statistics will be tracked only on primary selections.

However, e-newsletters, e-mails, and other correspondence issued for an IS or caucus will be sent to anyone who is currently identified with the IS or caucus.

A special Web page, called My Communities, has been created. It is accessible by logging in to the TESOL Web site and clicking on the My Communities link in the Member Toolbox.

From this special Web page, members are able to easily choose whichever primary IS and caucus they would like to belong to, as well as join as many other ISs or caucuses they would like. They are also able to easily turn mail on and off while on vacation, determine how they would like to receive their e-lists (digested or not), and manage their membership in the ISs and caucuses. They can also provide an alternative e-mail address at which to receive e-mail or e-news.

From this page members can also manage their subscription to other free e-services provided by TESOL, such as TESOL Connections, student e-lists, electronic placement bulletins, book updates, education program information, and so on. Anyone who has previously paid for an IS or caucus and previously subscribed to an e-list and/or e-news will automatically have that subscription information appear on the new Web page.

TESOL hopes that the new Web page simplifies the entire e-list and e-news process, and makes information more easily accessible.


Graduate Student Forum at TESOL 2008

The 8th Annual Graduate Student Forum will be held April 2, 2008, as part of TESOL's 2008 convention in New York, New York, USA.

Full-time or part-time students enrolled in graduate programs leading to the master's degree in TESOL (or related fields) at any institution of higher learning can take part in the Graduate Student Forum, either as presenters or as participants. (Please note that there is a similar but separate forum for doctoral students.)

The forum provides a venue at the TESOL convention that allows MA-level students to do the following:

  • share the results of their research, their teaching ideas and experiences, and the materials they have developed;
  • meet and network with graduate students (and faculty) at other universities; and
  • formally participate in the TESOL convention without having to meet the early deadlines for submitting proposals or to compete with experienced professionals for time on the convention program.

To attend or present at the 8th Annual Graduate Student Forum, you need to register for the forum. Although there is no extra forum registration fee for presenters and participants, registration is still required because space limits attendance to 160 people. To register, fill out the registration form and e-mail it to or mail it to the following address:

Tony Silva
Purdue University
Department of English
500 Oval Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2038 USA

For more detailed information about submitting a proposal, including details about proposal guidelines, please visit The Graduate Forum site at

The Seventh Symposium on Second Language Writing

Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
June 5–7, 2008

Foreign Language Writing Instruction: Principles and Practices

The Symposium on Second Language Writing is an international conference that brings together teachers and researchers who work with second- and foreign-language writers to discuss important issues in the field of second language writing. The Symposium on Second Language Writing began in 1998 at Purdue University as a way to facilitate the advancement of knowledge in the field of L2 writing and to build a sense of community among those who are involved in L2 writing research and instruction.

Symposium: Friday & Saturday, June 6–7, 2008

Much of the work on L2 writing is done in the second language context, a context in which the L2 is the dominant language. This work has overshadowed work on L2 writing done in the foreign language (FL) context, a context in which the L2 is not the dominant language. The purpose of this symposium is to remedy this situation by showcasing work done in FL (including EFL) writing. Keynote speakers will address current issues in FL writing and invited speakers will address FL writing instruction in their institutional settings, describing their institutional contexts, the writing instruction that takes place in those contexts, and the principles that underlie that instruction.

Graduate Student Conference: Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Graduate Student Conference on Second Language Writing is a special event held in conjunction with the Symposium. It provides opportunities for graduate students to present their research and scholarship on second language writing and receive feedback from peers and from established scholars in the field in a supportive atmosphere. Proposals for the Graduate Student Conference may but need not address the Symposium theme. Proposals on any aspect of L2 writing or writing instruction are welcome.

Additional Information

For more information about the Symposium on Second Language Writing—including past symposia and related publications—please visit


The Third Intercultural Rhetoric Conference

Report by Cate Crosby, SLW News Coeditor, West Chester University,

The Third Intercultural Rhetoric Conference, entitled "Intercultural Rhetoric and Discourse: Multiple Literacies Across Cultures," cosponsored by the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication (ICIC) and The Ohio State University, was held June 15-16, 2007, at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.


Plenary speakers at the conference and their topics included Dr. Eija Ventola from the University of Helsinki, Finland, who spoke on her research on the crucial linguistic and multisemiotic aspects of conference presentations; Dr. Anna Soter from The Ohio State University, who presented a postmodern perspective on contrastive comparative rhetoric; Dr. Diane Belcher from Georgia State University, who examined the question Does cultural diversity mean discourse diversity?; and Dr. Jun Liu from the University of Arizona, who discussed cultural perspectives and the rhetorical challenges of writing in Chinese and English.


The conference schedule also included colloquia and paper presentations on topics and themes related to intercultural rhetoric in various contexts, some of which were presented on for the first time in the history of the conference. A sampling of these presentations includes a colloquium on intercultural rhetoric on health communication (Ulla Connor, Christine Feak, Caroline Dempsey, and William Rozycki) and paper presentations on the intercultural dimensions of punctuation (Alan Hirvela), an intercultural online rhetoric study of U.S.-based and China-based blogs (Hana Kang), an examination of Generation 1.5 students' writing from an intercultural rhetoric perspective (Youngjoo Yi), intercultural rhetoric as a way of acting in the world of words (Lisya Seloni), and bilingual writing instruction and its effects on written discourse in American and Mexican high schools (Maria Spicer-Escalante).

The full conference schedule as well as abstracts of the plenary presentations can be found at

The Fourth Conference on Intercultural Rhetoric and Discourse is to be held June 4-5, 2008, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis' University Library. More information about the conference is available on the ICIC Web site at


TESOL Board Approves Three New Position Statements

Position Statement on Teacher Credentialing for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages in Primary and Secondary Schools (June 2007)

To ensure that English language learners are being taught by appropriately qualified educators, this position paper outlines unique credentialing procedures and programs that educational authorities should establish and require for qualified and trained ESL/EAL/EFL and bilingual educators and specialists working in public schools.

Position Statement on the Status and Rights of Teachers (March 2007)

According to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to an education. Teachers play an essential role in educational advancement, and teaching should be regarded and respected as a profession. This position paper outlines the rights TESOL supports for all members of the teaching profession.

Position Statement on the Identification of English Language Learners With Special Educational Needs (March 2007)

The disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education has become an issue that has received increased attention, especially in countries with a growing population of English language learners such as the United States. This position statement identifies several key issues that need to be addressed in identifying English language learners with special education needs,

The full text of these documents is available on the Position Statements and Papers page of the TESOL Web Site at


SLW News: Mission Statement and Call for Submissions

Mission Statement

SLW News provides a forum for the exchange of views, research, and pedagogical practices related to second language writing. This forum creates opportunities for interest section members to advocate for students and other members, to disseminate and promote research on second language writing, and to encourage and support the teaching of writing to ESOL students at all levels.

SLW News is oriented to teachers, teacher-researchers, administrators, and writing specialists from across all nations, institutions, and grade levels, including traditionally underrepresented contexts (pre-K through 12, 2-year colleges, community programs, international K-12 schools, etc.).

The ultimate vision for the newsletter is inclusiveness, in light of the breadth and depth of the constituents served. SLW News strives to achieve a balance in the following areas:

  • articles, brief reports, and announcements that address the concerns of those working in all educational settings
  • coverage of issues of concern to the various constituent audiences based on experience level and area of expertise or interest
  • theoretical and practical information about second language writing, teaching, research, and administration


Call for Submissions

SLW News is soliciting articles on second language writing theory, research, and pedagogy in all ESL/EFL settings.

SLW News welcomes articles that focus on L2 writer and characteristics and text features, classroom materials and practices, placement and assessment issues, writing program administration, teacher development, and other related areas. SLW News encourages submissions related to any educational setting, especially traditionally underrepresented contexts (pre-K through 12, 2-year colleges, community programs, international K-12 schools, etc.). In light of the newsletter's electronic format, authors are encouraged to include hyperlinks.

Submission Guidelines

Articles should

  • be no longer than 1,500 words
  • include a 50-word (500 characters or less) abstract and 2- to 3-sentence author biography
  • contain no more than five citations
  • follow the style guidelines in the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association (Fifth Edition, APA)
  • be in MS Word (.doc) or rich text (.rtf) format

Please direct your submissions and questions to

Margi Wald, SLW News Coeditor
College Writing Programs
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-2500 USA
tel: +1 510.642.2652
fax: +1 510.642.6963

Book Review Policy

SLW News welcomes reviews of teacher resource books and student texts dealing with second language writing, teaching, research, and administration. Anyone interested in writing a review for SLW News may choose a recently published book in the field and contact the editor for approval and review copies. Reviews will be considered for publication based on the quality of the reviewer's evaluation and description of the book, and the book's relevance and importance to the field.

Reviews should

  • be in APA format
  • be 600-900 words in length
  • include a 50-word (500 character or less) abstract and a 2- to 3-sentence author biography

Further information and book review suggestions are available from Subarna Banerjee, book review editor, at E-mail:


SLW News Editor Position Available

So that SLW News can provide members with the most current, relevant information, we are currently seeking a CALL Column editor for the newsletter.

CALL Column editor: For this position, we are seeking someone with experience and interest in Internet-based materials and media software. This editor's role involves keeping a list of Web sites and other technology-based material of interest to SLWIS members, publishing the list on the SLWIS site, soliciting reviews, and, in the case of software or other non-Web material, coordinating to get review copies sent to potential reviewers.

Candidates must be members of TESOL and SLWIS (primary or secondary). If you are interested or have questions, please contact Margi Wald, SLW News coeditor,


About This Member Community Second Language Writing IS Contact Information

TESOL's Second Language Writing IS provides a forum for researchers and educators across grade levels and institutional settings to discuss and exchange information in the area of second language writing.

Discussion E-List
Visit to subscribe to SLWIS-L, the discussion list for SLWIS members, or visit if you are already a subscriber.

Web Sites

SLWIS Community Leaders 2007-08

Deborah Crusan

Gigi Taylor

Talinn Phillips

Steering Committee
Subarna Banerjee
Cate Crosby

Charles Nelson

Tony Silva

E-List Manager
Youngjoo Yi 

Web Manager
Christine Tardy

Newsletter Coeditors
Cate Crosby

Margi Wald

Book Review Editor
Subarna Banerjee

CALL Column Editor
Position is open.

Paul Kei Matsuda

Past Chairs
Jessie L. Moore

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper