Monitoring Progress in Written Expression: Implementation and Administration

Monitoring students’ writing progress is challenging. The majority of tools used to evaluate a student’s development of written English focus on the organization, style and content of the written text while others provide a diagnostic perspective (1).

One tool that may function as both a diagnostic and progress monitoring tool is theStructured Analysis of Written Language (SAWL) (2), a writing assessment for monitoring D/HH students’ development of language and written English. The SAWL uses a T-Unit analysis applied to an authentic writing sample.

Another example of a diagnostic writing assessment is the Test of Written Language 4th Ed. (TOWL-4) (3). The TOWL-4 has three composite scores:

  1. Overall Writing Score – estimates a student’s writing ability using both spontaneous and contrived formats,
  2. Contrived Writing Score- estimates a student’s writing ability using only contrived formats,
  3. Spontaneous Writing Score – estimates a student’s writing ability using the evaluation of their spontaneously composed essays.

Both the SAWL and the TOWL-4 have evidence for use with D/HH students, (4 & 5)The TOWL-4 requires a significant time commitment with a 60-90 minute administration plus scoring-time. The time commitment for the SAWL is approximately 10 minutes per writing sample plus time for scoring.

A progress monitoring measure that has potential for use with D/HH students (5) is CBM Written Expression (CBM-W). CBM-W is not a diagnostic measure. It can serve as an evidence -based tool that is sensitive to student growth in written English over short periods of time. CBM-W applies indicators of progress that include:

  • number of words written (WW)
  • number of words spelled correctly (WSC)
  • number of correct word sequences (CWS)

The process of collecting an authentic or spontaneous written English language sample is to prompt students to write a story in response to a ‘story starter’ or picture stimuli. The students are given 1 minute to think about what they would like to write and then 3, 5 or 7 minutes to write.

Valid and reliable scores for D/HH students at the elementary, middle and some high school levels can be obtained from 3-minute writing samples (5).

Scores for students at the high school level with advanced writing skills may have greater validity and reliability with 5 or 7-minute writing samples (6).

Early writing progress monitoring tools use the same indicators of student performance (WW, WSC, CWS) with the addition of number of letters written correctly, however, the writing task differs. Early writing progress monitoring includes three different types of tasks (7):

  1. sentence copying
  2. sentence dictation
  3. paragraph dictation.

Sentence dictation and paragraph dictation are not viable tasks for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Sentence copying holds some promise, however, only one study has been conducted to investigate the technical characteristics of the copying task as an indicator of progress in written English with students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Sentence copying procedure: The student is given a paper with a set of five sentences. Under each sentence is a set of lines. The student is directed to copy the sentences exactly as shown on the paper. The task is timed for 3 minutes.

Sample of the copying task

Specific instructions to administer and score the task are available online.

Written language samples:

Most teachers are familiar with gathering written language samples. When using CBM procedures, two types of probes may be used as stimuli for writing:

  • a story starter, e.g. On my way to school, I saw…..,
  • a picture that offers something to write about and is interesting and motivating for the students.

Story starter sample

Results of studies conducted with D/HH students ranging in grades 3 through 12 indicated that there no statistically significant differences between picture and story starter stimuli with elementary and middle school students who were deaf or hard of hearing. Secondary level students demonstrated greater number of words written correctly with both narrative and expository story starters when compared with picture stimuli. The D/HH students demonstrated small units of growth in the CBM-W scores (CWS-IWS) over time (6 & 8).