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New assessment approach helps writing students

Employers have been concerned that college graduates don’t know how to communicate well, especially when it comes to writing.

So, after years of research and classroom work, OTC developmental English instructor Jennifer Dunkel has been able to help assess students’ readiness for college-level writing.

A new assessment program has been put into place in the OTC developmental writing program that helps both students and instructors assess how well a student can write before that student advances to other English classes.

The ability of college students to write proficiently has been an issue among potential employers, said Dunkel, one of the lead instructors of the Colleges Developmental English program.

“There are so many reports available that talk about how employers expect that college graduates know how to communicate well and think critically,” she said.

“We in the developmental writing program believe that our assessment process is one small way to help students develop the foundations of good writing and thinking skills they will need to be successful in college-level courses and the professional workplace.”

The program was in its pilot stages for several semesters, until a grant paid for instructor training in 2012. Now, all sections of developmental English use the process. Under it, students have to pass two of three requirements: individual instructors coursework, a standardized final exam and an exit-essay.

“We believe that a combination of these helps give us a clearer picture of what’s happening both at the individual course level and the department level,” Dunkel said.

Students work on their writing proficiencies for two weeks before final exams. Last year, 1,346 essays were evaluated. Instructors got together for three days before finals to evaluate the students work.

Last fall, there were 805 essays submitted and 75 percent passed.

Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Steven Bishop said he’s pleased with the early outcomes.

“This process assures that students are graded fairly and instructors have clear criteria to assess their students,” Bishop said. “This collaborative process that Jennifer coordinated not only improves the grading process but also improves writing instruction since teachers share their best ideas on a quality piece of writing.”

Dunkel said in addition to helping students better prepare for advanced English classes, the assessment also helps instructors see if they need to change how they teach the course.

“It gives them a way of seeing how others are teaching and what works and what doesn’t,” she said. “I am fortunate to work with so many instructors who have helped make this assessment process what it has become. The ultimate goal is, of course, to help our students succeed, and that comes from ongoing collaborative efforts.”


Steve Koehler is coordinator of media relations at Ozarks Technical Community College.


College Director of Communications

Phone: 417.447.2655


Steve Koehler

Coordinator of Media Relations

Phone: (417) 447-2666


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