This qualitative study was conducted to investigate teacher decision-making while grading samples of 10th grade student writing in English language arts. Extensive research spanning 100 years has shown that inter-rater agreement of student work is weak at best (Ashbaugh, 1921; Brimi, 2011; Starch & Elliot, 1912). A cognitive laboratory interview method was chosen to focus on real-time teacher decision-making due to a discrepancy between teacher beliefs and teacher practices (Phipps & Borg, 2009). Qualitative data were gathered from 21 cognitive laboratory interviews in which the participants graded two samples of student writing while verbalizing their thoughts. The grading data revealed discrepant scores with a range of 40 points and 25 points for each student essay. The findings revealed that participants interrupted their reading of student work to consider the conventions of standard English, the thesis, or to ask themselves or the imaginary student questions about the writing. The differences were that participants' interruptions focused on the conventions or the thesis, but not both, and participants either made binary or quality decisions regarding the thesis and conventions. Furthermore, participants exhibited an evaluation focus either on the thesis or the conventions of standard English, but not both. A substantive grounded theory emerged from the qualitative data: The Theory of Disparate Purposes of Writing Assessment. This emergent theory states that teachers' grading practices indicate the purpose of student writing is for the student either to demonstrate the five-paragraph essay or for the student to express something important in their writing. The theory offers an explanation for the differential application of rubrics and for the lack of rater agreement in student writing. These findings may inform teachers, school district leaders, and teacher preparation programs in ways to improve writing assessment practices and instruction.
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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
College of Community Innovation and Education
Educational Leadership and Higher Education
Educational Leadership; Executive Track
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Swenson, Guy, "An Analysis of Teacher Decision-Making in Grading 10th Grade Student Writing in English Language Arts" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 139.