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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A comparative study of three methods of grading compositions Wormsbecker, John Henry


The present study was undertaken to examine under controlled conditions the opinions of certain educators regarding methods of marking compositions and their effects upon improving pupils' composition. Three grading schemes were considered: the Overall Impression method by which one mark is awarded; the Content/ Form method by which two separate marks are awarded, one for content and the other for mechanics; and the Single Point Per Theme method by which several grading factors are used individually on different occasions as a basis for grading. The problem stated was: Which, if any, of the three grading methods used in the experiment under similar learning conditions, is most effective in assisting pupils to improve their writing? Six teachers and two hundred and thirteen grade six pupils from three elementary schools representing a cross-section of the school population, participated in the study. These groups were taught the same written composition lessons under standardized conditions for a ten week period during the fall term. Teachers graded the groups' weekly composition assignments by one of the three methods under observation. These methods had been previously outlined to the pupils, who were supplied with mimeographed marking guide sheets. The gains in composition skill achieved as a result of the experiment were obtained by measuring the difference between initial and final scores on a standardized language test and initial and final scores on samples of pupils' compositions written under standardized conditions and graded by a team of three English teachers. The Null Hypothesis was assumed and no differences in the degree of composition improvement were anticipated. Classes were divided into three roughly equivalent groups and each teacher marked the three class groups by the experimental methods. (In this and in other matters teachers were guided by a Teacher's Manual.) From these eighteen sub-groups, three groups totalling 156 subjects, matched on a group intelligence test and a standardized language test, were obtained. The study was conducted from late September to the middle of December during the year 1954. A final standardized language test identical to that given eleven weeks before and similar samples of written work such as were obtained earlier provided the final scores and concluded the experiment. Conclusions 1. The subjects participating in the study achieved highly significant gains in their level of composition writing. In a two and one-half month period, the gain in the Standardized Language Test scores, according to grade norms supplied for the test, was 1.2 grades. A corresponding significant Increase in the quality of sample written compositions was also observed. 2. The importance of the method of grading, perhaps, is overestimated. If the pupil receive a mark for written assignments and understands its basis, it would appear that this may be one important factor in composition improvement. The suggested salutory psychological effects of one method, the simplicity of another, or the realistic basis of still another marking scheme does not seem to affect the pupils' interpretation of their grade. It may be that the three methods have approximately equal effects upon improving pupils1 written work. 3. On the basis of results obtained in this study there would seem to be no evidence to support claims of the superiority of any one of the three marking methods under observation.

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