The Standard English Template and Essay Evaluation Database:
A Writing Teacher's Comment Palette
   An excellent evaluation of a student composition speaks directly to the individual writer, validates effort, and inspires the student to explore his thoughts in an even more engaging manner, with clearer language, and more effective argumentation. Even so, there are a number of aspects of a teacherís typical response to a student composition which can be expressed using objective standards. Time and again we all make similar comments about a studentís punctuation, grammar, language usage, diction, organization, and documentation.  If we ask the computer to search for particular objects or word strings, these standard comments can be quickly read, tabulated, and evaluated by a computer.
    This objective report can quickly assess the studentís progress towards a designated level of achievement appropriate to his age and educational development. We can quickly assess the studentís mastery of English punctuation and usage, his understanding of essay form, the quality of his organization and argumentation, even his use of the various rhetorical forms essential to effective sentence variety.
     No computer in the near future will possess the versatility to assess the English language with the same skill as a good teacher. Assessment of student writing requires the experience and subjective intuition of a teacher. However, the computer can still serve the teacher in ways hitherto impossible.
    In a series of meetings during the winter of 2000-01 members of Gilmanís English department devised a toolbar to assist them in the marking of student compositions on line. Recognizing the way that word processors can facilitate student revision, a group of English teachers resolved to mark papers electronically and return papers online. Our initial motivation for moving towards computerized grading was our recognition that this type of document exchange makes it easier for students to revise and improve their writing. However, we quickly realized that the computer could serve writing teachers in new and interesting ways.
    We devised a tool bar that could be used by teachers to insert the standard comments both positive and negative that typically appear in any composition. As a basis for our toolbar standards, we referred to the punctuation rules and composition handbook that have been in use at Gilman for over sixty years. Next, we devised a search program that could quickly tabulate the number of times a particular comment appeared in a given document or series of documents. The program creates a report that suggests the particular aspects of the studentís writing that need attention.
 

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