Improving Graduate Students’ Writing Abilities: An Analysis of a Formative Outcomes-Based Assessment Technique

By Beatrice Gibbons-Kunka.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper presents a quantitative research study of the development of graduate students’ writing abilities through the ongoing use of a formative outcomes-based assessment technique. The improvement of students’ writing skills is quantified through the use of a 17-point writing rubric developed by the researcher. The average improvement in the students’ writing abilities was 20.8%. This positive increase indicates an overall improvement in the students’ writing abilities in the areas of mechanics, APA 5th edition format and content. The goals of this research project were to improve the writing skills of the students in the Organizational Studies graduate program and to provide university faculty with an evaluation instrument for the assessment of written assignments. The graduate students were adult learners who work full-time or part-time, predominately Caucasian, and middle-class. Yet, it is assumed that students who are admitted to a graduate program met a minimal standard for writing ability. Therefore, it is feasible that the use of this outcomes-based assessment tool should result in improved writing skills for graduate students in all universities. This study has implications for university professors who are interested in enhancing their students’ writing abilities in the areas of content, format and mechanics.

Keywords: Rubric, Authentic Assessment, Writing Skills

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp.279-292. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 803.725KB).

Dr. Beatrice Gibbons-Kunka

Associate Professor, Department of Organizational Studies, School of Communications and Information Systems, Robert Morris University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Dr. Gibbons-Kunka is an Associate Professor of Organizational Studies in the School of Communications and Information Systems at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA. Previously, Gibbons-Kunka served as Department Head of Organizational Studies and Elementary Education at Robert Morris University. Dr. Gibbons-Kunka earned her B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Davis; completed a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration at California State University, Bakersfield; and earned her Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Foundations at the University of the Pacific. Dr. Gibbons-Kunka began her educational career as a second and third grade teacher in Bakersfield, California and went on to serve as a K-8 elementary school principal in a culturally and linguistically diverse farming community in the San Joaquin Valley. Prior to coming to RMU, Dr. Gibbons-Kunka was Assistant Professor, Director of School of Education and Coordinator of Elementary Education at California State University, Bakersfield - Antelope Valley Campus. Dr. Gibbons-Kunka’s research interests include diversity in organizations, leadership, assessment in higher education, elementary science education, supporting science education for English Learners and effective instructional practices.

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