WriteForward - A skills-based writing assessment

Corrie Rhyasen Erdman, Community Learning Network

0 2 15 June 2016


writeforward is a new writing assessment tool for adults. The Adult Literacy and Essential Skills Research Institute at Bow Valley College spent the last couple of years developing and refining this tool so it provides practical feedback on adult learners’ writing skills.

Since CALP programs customize learning based on learners’ skill gaps and their learning goals, this tool is a good option for a writing assessment. It pinpoints the specific writing skills the learner is missing. This is a win for practitioners, tutors and learners because instruction can use the assessment results to target the very writing skills learners need to achieve their learning goal.

What is unique about writeforward are the discussions with learners. Each assessment involves on-going conversation with learners about their own writing practices, skills and learning progress. These are important areas to cover not only to build confidence in their own writing abilities but also to create a healthy rapport so learners feel this is a safe and supportive place to learn.

So where do you start?

writeforward is available as a free download from www.writeforward.ca. Be sure to read through the User Guide before using these assessments with learners.

I like to think of the writeforward assessment process as a ham sandwich. The assessment exercise (the slice of ham) is held together on either side by 2 learner conversations (the slices of bread) – one before the assessment and one after. Let’s walk through how to make a writeforward assessment sandwich.


The writeforward Assessment Sandwich

Step #1: Conversation - Prepare the learner with a beginning conversation

The beginning conversation with the learner is the bottom slice of bread. This intake process guides learners in exploring the different ways they are already using writing in their lives and discussing their beliefs around writing. This initial conversation also includes an easy-to-use placement exercise so you, as a practitioner, know which level of assessment to begin with.


There are 2 ingredients for this part of the assessment sandwich.


Writeforward provides a simple one-page instruction guide and a video to explain how to use the tools for the intake conversations and placement exercise.


Step #2: Assessment - Give the assessment exercise to the learner to complete

The assessment exercises are the ham and cheese of the assessment sandwich.


There are 57 different assessment exercises from five Writeforward levels. Each assessment exercise comes with a customized rubric with criteria to evaluate the writing task.


There are simple guides and a video to help you administer and mark the assessment. You will also find sample exercises with instructor notes and feedback to help you learn how to mark an assessment. For more detailed information refer to the writeforward User Guide.


Step #3: Conversation - Share the assessment results with the learner

The follow-up conversation with learners is the top slice of bread. The purpose of this conversation is to provide feedback on the assessment results.


There is only one ingredient for this step. Each Assessment Exercise and Rubric Booklet includes a set of guiding questions for the practitioner-learner discussion. The focus of the conversation is to help the learner gain awareness of their own writing skills, strategies and next steps for learning.


This recipe is simply to introduce you to writeforward. The website includes many more resources and tools for both learners and practitioners, such as instructional strategies, lists of “what to teach” at each level, learning/study guide for learners and more.

Bon appetit!

Corrie Rhyasen Erdman
CLN Regional Support Staff
West-Central Alberta


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