English Ph.D. Dissertations


Placing One Program's Assessment and Its Effects on a Novice Teacher

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lance Massey (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Alan Atalah (Committee Member)


For over one-hundred years, and since the work of Thorndike and Hillegas, writing assessment practices have rested on the value of interrater agreement to show reliability - agreement achieved through norming practices. Recent conversations have emphasized a greater use of localized practices and the importance of stakeholders against a background of standardized assessments such as No Child Left Behind and a society that values accountability. Due to very real circumstances, such as student enrollment and a need to ensure a consistent student experience across sections, some writing programs, especially those making use of graduate student teaching assistants, may have a desire to use norming techniques and standardized writing assessment designed around local contexts and requirements.

Several studies have been conducted on the effects of standardized assessment on primary and secondary education, but none have done so in the post-secondary composition classroom. Thus, via qualitative methods, this ethnographic study investigates the effects of standardized writing assessment practices on a single, novice instructor, even though those practices are locally designed and governed. Using feminist research principles and activity theory, interviews with a novice instructor and program mentors, several classroom observations, and an analysis of the novice instructor's commenting practices, a deep map is created. This map provides a richer understanding of the relationship between the program rubric, end-of-term portfolio exchange, and the classroom decisions of this instructor. This contextualized study contributes to conversations regarding the effects of standardized writing assessment practices on instructors, teaching and learning to the test, and localized writing assessment practices.