Assessing ESL/EFL Writing

Research in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Education

by Ana Cristina Lahuerta Martínez (Author)
Monographs 224 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Theoretical issues
  • 2.1 The skill of writing and writing assessment
  • 2.2 Scoring systems of writing assessment in a foreign/second language classroom
  • 2.2.1 Holistic scales and analytic scales
  • 2.3 Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency as writing assessment measures
  • 2.3.1 Complexity
  • 2.3.2 Accuracy
  • 2.3.3 Fluency
  • 2.3.4 Relationships between Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency
  • 3. Empirical studies
  • 3.1 Studies on L2 writing assessment via syntactic and/or lexical complexity measures
  • 3.1.1 Complexity and writing quality
  • 3.1.2 Complexity and L2 proficiency
  • 3.1.3 Complexity and gender
  • 3.1.4 Summary and conclusions
  • 3.2 Studies on L2 writing assessment via accuracy measures
  • 3.2.1 Summary and conclusions
  • 3.3 Studies of cohesive devices in L2 writing
  • 3.3.1 Cohesive devices and writing quality
  • 3.3.2 Cohesive devices and L2 proficiency
  • 3.3.3 Problems in conjunction usage
  • 3.3.4 Summary and conclusions
  • 3.4 Studies on L2 writing assessment via CAF measures within the Dynamic Systems Theory
  • 3.4.1 Summary and conclusions
  • 3.5 Studies on L2 writing assessment in primary and secondary-level education CLIL contexts
  • 3.5.1 L2 writing studies that adopt a holistic perspective
  • 3.5.2 L2 writing studies that adopt an analytic perspective using CAF measures
  • 3.5.3 L2 writing studies and gender
  • 3.5.4 Summary and conclusions
  • 3.6 Studies on L2 writing assessment in tertiary-level education CLIL contexts
  • 3.6.1 Studies of the effect of CLIL courses on L2 written competence
  • 3.6.2 L2 writing studies that use CAF measures
  • 3.6.3 Summary and conclusions
  • 3.7 Studies on L2 writing assessment that include additional factors
  • 3.7.1 Instructional setting (EFL/ESL)
  • 3.7.2 Language background: learner L1
  • 3.7.3 Topic
  • 3.7.4 Writing approaches: collaborative versus individual writing
  • 3.7.5 Learning environments: at-home and study-abroad
  • 3.7.6 Task complexity
  • 3.7.7 Pre-task planning
  • 3.7.8 Task complexity and task types
  • 3.7.9 Task repetition
  • 3.7.10 Corrective feedback
  • 3.7.11 Discourse types
  • 3.7.12 Raters’ disciplinary backgrounds
  • 3.7.13 Writers’ internal factors
  • 3.7.14 Raters’ judgements of writing proficiency
  • 3.7.15 Summary and conclusions
  • 3.8 Concluding remarks and future research in writing assessment
  • 4. Pedagogical issues
  • 4.1 Building students’ productive expertise in the writing classroom
  • 4.2 Building students’ evaluative expertise in the writing classroom
  • 5. References
  • 6. Index

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1.  Introduction

This book is intended as a contribution to recent attempts to make second language (L2) writing more central in Second Language Acquisition acquisition (SLA) concerns (e.g. Abdelhamid & Abouabdelkader, 2018; Byrnes & Manchón, 2014; De Oliveira & Silva, 2016; Huhta, Alanen, Tarnanen, Martin & Hirvelä, 2014; MacArthur, Graham & Fitzgerald, 2016; Manchón, 2014a, b; Manchón & Matsuda, 2015; Manchón & Byrnes, 2014; McIntosh, Pelaez-Morales & Silva, 2016; Polio & Friedman, 2016; Tardy, 2006, 2009, 2016; Ulanoff, Quiocho & Fingon, 2017; Yasuda, 2011, 2017). More specifically, this monographic book addresses L2 writing and L2 writing assessment via different measures and considering various factors such as proficiency and writing instruction that may affect the outcome of this assessment.

L2 writing has occupied a secondary role in SLA theoretical and empirical research concerns (see Byrnes & Manchón, 2014; Manchón, Roca de Larios & Murphy, 2007; Manchón, 2014a; Williams, 2012; Ortega, 2012). The situation, as Manchón (2014a) states, seems nevertheless to be changing as “scholarly interest in writing as a site of language learning has gradually made its way into research agendas in the SLA and in L2 writing studies” (Manchón, 2014a: 96).

Examples of this gradual broadening of research are some relatively recent books on several relevant issues in writing research. Some relevant topics are writing-to-learn as an approach to writing, writing from a task-based language perspective, writing assessment and feedback, teaching and testing writing, or the benefits of collaborative writing for L2 learning, just to mention a few (e.g. Bitchener & Ferris, 2012; Byrnes & Manchón, 2014; Driscoll, Macaro & Swarbrick, 2014; Lee, 2017; Manchón, 2009, 2011a, 2012; Polio, 2012a; Polio and Williams, 2009; Storch, 2013a,b).

In addition, an increasing interest in writing assessment is shown in the large number of papers that address this question in relevant ← 11 | 12 → academic journals such as Applied Linguistics, System, or the Journal of Second Language Writing. Special issues have also been devoted to writing assessment, such as the special issue into “New developments in the study of L2 writing complexity” published in the Journal of Second Language Writing in 2015.

This book seeks to explore key concepts in ESL/EFL English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) writing assessment, raising some important researchable issues and providing a compendium of the research carried out from the 1980s onwards into the assessment of writing in a foreign/second language classroom across different educational levels, outlining the major tenets of research in the field.

The assessment of language learners has had a growing impact in English language teaching and applied linguistics in the last thirty years. This field is in great need of work on the assessment of writing abilities in a foreign or second language and their implications for language teaching practitioners wishing to improve their students writing. This book addresses this issue from a theoretical, empirical and pedagogical perspective.

The present book includes three main sections. In Section I, I provide a theoretical approach to writing. This section is divided into three chapters. The opening chapter focuses on writing as an essential skill for learning and communicating and deals with the new perspective that sees writing as a vehicle for learning. It also addresses the issues of writing assessment and the assessment knowledge teachers need. The second chapter deals with the different scoring systems that can be used to assess writing in a foreign or a second language, and examines the advantages and disadvantages of holistic scales and analytic/multiple trait scales. The final chapter of this section reports on the three measures that research in the field identifies as robust indicators of a learner’s written competence, namely, Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency, dealing with each of these constructs both individually and considering the relationships between them.

Section II examines a large collection of empirical studies that use the Complexity, Accuracy and Fluency (CAF) constructs as assessment measures in different educational contexts. These studies use Complexity, ← 12 | 13 → Accuracy and Fluency measures with the purpose of gauging proficiency, describing performance, and benchmarking development, among the main reasons. This section includes eight chapters. The first seven chapters in this section each include a final Table that collects all the studies examined previously in the chapter. This Table provides information about the participants’ proficiency level, about the measures used in each study and a summary of the main results obtained.

The opening chapter of this section focuses on the construct of complexity and examines a large number of studies that address syntactic and lexical complexity in L2 writing; this chapter approaches several domains of research within this issue: the relationship between complexity and proficiency, the development of complexity with writing instruction, and the relationship between complexity and gender. The second chapter of this section focuses on the construct of accuracy and examines a number of studies that address accuracy and accuracy developmental trajectories in L2 writing. Chapter 3 focuses on a subtype of accuracy works, namely studies that address the use of cohesive devices in L2 writing. This chapter analyses a series of research works concerned with the relationship between presence of cohesive devices and writing quality as well as studies that focus on L2 learners’ difficulties in the use of cohesive devices like conjunctions in their writing. Complexity in L2 writing has also been analysed within Dynamic Systems Theory-inspired approaches to SLA; consequently, this section also includes a chapter that explores the development of L2 writing via CAF measures from a dynamic perspective. A series of studies into L2 writing assessment in primary, secondary and tertiary-level education use Complexity, Fluency and Accuracy as measures. Many of these studies are carried out within CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) contexts and compare written performance in CLIL and non-CLIL educational contexts. Two chapters are devoted to this issue: one addresses stu dies on L2 writing assessment in primary and secondary-level education CLIL contexts and another examines studies on L2 writing assessment in tertiary-level education CLIL contexts. The following chapter of this section scrutinizes studies on writing assessment including some additional factors in their design: Instructional ← 13 | 14 → setting, learner L1, topic, writing approaches, writing environment, task complexity, pre-task planning, task complexity and task types, task repetition, corrective feedback, discourse types, raters’ disciplinary origins, writers’ internal factors, and raters’ judgements of writing proficiency. The final chapter in this section highlights the main research tenets addressed in the different chapters of this section in an attempt to provide some hints for future research in the field.

Finally, section III focuses on pedagogical issues related to writing and writing assessment. The initial chapter in this section puts forward some pedagogical implications to improve the teaching of writing in the L2 classroom. The final chapter highlights the importance of developing pedagogical resources so that students learn to evaluate their own and peers’ work, during writing with a view to making improvements and furthering learning.

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2.  Theoretical issues

2.1  The skill of writing and writing assessment


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2018 (December)
assessment L2 writing teaching primary education secondary education tertiary education
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 224 pp., 11 tables

Biographical notes

Ana Cristina Lahuerta Martínez (Author)

Dr Ana Cristina Lahuerta Martínez is assistant professor at the University of Oviedo. From a research perspective, her work focuses on language learning and teaching, bilingual education, reading and writing in a foreign language, and ESP. Her research publications include numerous articles in national and international journals.


Title: Assessing ESL/EFL Writing