Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation
by Heidi McKee and Dànielle DeVoss:
A Review


Heidi McKee and Dànielle DeVoss have compiled a collection of essays discussing assessment and evaluation of multimodal and digital composition in the writing classroom. In the 14 chapters of this book, they look for answers to the tough questions faced by composition instructors hoping to take advantage of the new technologies our students are facing. Questions such as “What heuristics might we use to help new instructors learn to evaluate and grade multimodal texts?  How might the multimodal, networked affordances of digital writing affect issues of equity and access? How might groups often disenfranchised by more traditional assessment be impacted by digital writing assessment? and How might digital technologies be used to deliver and assess first-year composition in ways other than one-instructor to 20-some-student models and in ways that directly connect classroom evaluation and program assessment?”  They then arrange these chapters into an open source website that allows the readers to easily move from text to text in search of the answers to these questions. The book is divided into four parts: Equity and Assessment; Classroom Evaluation and Assessment; Multimodal Evaluation and Assessment; Program Revisioning and Program Assessment.

The text begins with a foreword by Andrea Lunsford that sets the tone of the entire book. She presents the trials and tribulations over the years of using computers as instructors in the composition classroom and the debates over using said computers to score student work. She points out that eleven of the fourteen chapters are collaborative which speaks to the nature of multimodality and composition. The foreword is nicely bookended with an afterword by Edward White who also begins with his first experience with technology and teaching and shows how it has evolved into something more than “a better pencil” for teachers in the composition classroom. He states that this text, “It is anchored fully in the teaching of writing in digital environments and considers a wide range of possible assessments, all related clearly to the teaching situation. It considers assessment as an integral part of teaching in any environment and directs our attention consistently to the best teaching practices available in this new digital environment.” Positing that this book is a response to the perils of Automatic Essay Scoring to which Lunsford alluded in her foreword.