Formative assessment in academic writing: Integrating online feedback within the broader teaching-learning community
In this article a proposal is put forward for redesigning formative assessment within a particular academic literacy module, focusing on integrating a specific online writing support system within existing practices of the writing program. Formative assessment is defined as essentially open-ended and socially constructed, implemented in such a way that it makes visible the discourse based nature of academic practices. This entails broadening the conception of formative assessment as a role assigned exclusively to the lecturer to signify interactions engaged in by a range of participants within the writing community who assume active roles in the process of knowledge construction. The online feedback support system Schrijfhulp Nederlands, developed by researchers in the Instituut voor Levende Talen of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, was chosen as suitable for this purpose. Comparison of a typical example of lecturer feedback with that provided by Schrijfhulp leads to the conclusion that the two modes of feedback are compatible, both in broad categories of concern and in underlying theoretical assumptions. The proposal put forward entails a fundamental shift in which the online feedback system is used not merely as add-on, but as nexus for integrating the formative assessment practices within the writing course. Despite being rooted in a specific teachinglearning environment, the discussion contributes, in a more general sense, to the ongoing debate on best practices for assessing student writing, particularly regarding the conceptualisation of formative assessment and the best use of online writing support.
Keywords: academic writing, formative assessment, online feedback, social constructivism, information gap.