Macken-Horarik, M. & Sandiford, C. (2016). Diagnosing development: A grammatics for tracking student progress in narrative composition. International Journal of Language Studies,10(3), 61-94.
Teachers commonly assess students' written narratives, but how do teachers recognize and evaluate different aspects of student achievement? For example, how do they tackle the incomplete narrative that includes a creative foray? This paper presents a multifaceted framework for diagnosing and tracking primary and secondary student progress in narrative composition drawing on data from classrooms where teachers were implementing tools from systemic functional grammatics (Macken-Horarik, Love & Unsworth, 2011)--a way of thinking about language with 'grammar in mind' (Halliday, 2002). In systemic functional grammatics the study of wordings is situated within a larger account of language that is contextual, multilevel and multidimensional. The framework presented in this paper offers a means to analyse students' written narratives at different levels of organization (genre, phase and sentence) and different degrees of accomplishment. We show how the framework can be used to take account of strengths and weaknesses in students' crafting of narratives, deployment of interpersonal meanings and control and development of sentence messages. We propose that if a grammatics is to serve assessment practices in English, it should provide grammatically informed ways of diagnosing strengths and weaknesses, illuminate teachers' intuitions about students' achievements and difficulties, and enable them to lead development in writing more effectively.
Learning Sciences Institute Australia
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