Publications & Resources

New Writing Assessments: The Challenge of Changing Teachers’ Beliefs About Students as Writers

Jan 1997

Shelby A. Wolf and Maryl Gearhart

During a two-year collaboration with elementary school teachers, researchers examined ways that teachers’ beliefs about their students as writers mediated their investment in new methods of assessing students’ narrative writing. While some teachers demonstrated considerable growth in their competencies with narrative assessment, others were unable to significantly change their practices or to alter their beliefs about how young elementary school children can make meaning through narrative. The researchers inferred two possible reasons why teachers were unable to change their practice: (a) The teachers maintained beliefs of writing as a set of hierarchical skills to be taught and assessed sequentially; or (b) the teachers felt that assessment of student work would silence student creativity. If teachers are to change their instruction and beliefs, concluded Wolf and Gearhart, teacher capacity-building activities should (a) directly confront teachers’ existing beliefs [see also CSE Technical Report 421]; (b) ask teachers to share students’ writing and tell stories about their students as young authors; and (c) model effective conferencing methods for teachers, either directly with children in their classrooms or through videotapes of teachers holding productive assessment conferences.

Wolf, S. A., & Gearhart, M. (1997). New writing assessments: The challenge of changing teachers’ beliefs about students as writers (CSE Report 422). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).