KU News Service

KU develops writing tool to help Kansas students, teachers in virtual environment

Thu, 08/25/2011

LAWRENCE — A new writing tool developed at the University of Kansas can take students step-by-step through the writing process and allow teachers to evaluate and score student writing as well as provide valuable feedback, all in a virtual environment.

The Kansas Writing Instruction and Evaluation Tool, known as KWIET, was developed by the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at KU. It is free and accessible to Kansas students and teachers beginning this fall.

As the latest addition to the computer-based Kansas Assessment Program, KWIET is part of the center’s mission to develop programs that integrate testing into teaching. While it can be used to deliver the Kansas Writing Assessments, KWIET can also be used by students and teachers in other subject areas, such as mathematics, reading, science and social studies. Because it can be used throughout the school year and across subject areas rather than solely as an end-of-the-year writing test, KWIET offers many advantages for both students and teachers.

For students, KWIET provides tools for both individual student writing and for online student collaboration. It models the traditional concept of the writing process from prewriting and drafting to collaborating, revising and publishing in an online environment. Sheryl Plattner, an elementary teacher at Sabetha Elementary and an early user of the program, envisions the ongoing benefits to her students.

“As children mature as writers, KWIET will allow them to self-evaluate their writing,” she said.

Matt Copeland, education program consultant in writing for the Kansas State Department of Education, agreed.

“KWIET is a phenomenal tool that can be used to create a kind of online portfolio of student writing that allows students to track writing progress and achievement,” he said.

A key feature for teachers is KWIET’s flexibility. Teachers can integrate the tool into the classroom by using it to supplement the materials they already use. Teachers can create and edit their own writing prompts and grading rubrics within KWIET. However, they also have access to pre-loaded writing prompts and grading rubrics based on the six-trait model. Teachers can choose to score student writing according to all six writing traits: ideas and content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions. They can also choose to score using one or more parts of the rubric, allowing targeted feedback where students need it most. Teachers can print student writing with teacher comments to share with students and parents.

Future versions of KWIET will use feedback from Kansas educators to create additional features and improvements.

For more than 30 years, the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation has partnered with the Kansas State Department of Education to deliver a variety of assessment services under the Kansas Assessment Program. The center also offers online training resources, practice tests and tutorials to help prepare students and educators for the Kansas assessments.

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