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Survey for Assessing Students’ Motivation, Confidence, and Goals for Writing

Name: Dudley Reynolds, Carnegie Mellon, Qatar
Scope: Course – Art History
Assessment Tool: Writing Survey


What factors/data/circumstances initiated the action?

I was acting as a consultant to an Art History professor at a large, urban U.S. university who was concerned about the quality of writing in a large, introductory survey course he was teaching. He had asked the Writing Center to identify students who could benefit from a tutoring session prior to completing the first assignment, but he was also interested in understanding more about why students were having difficulties with writing.


What did you hope to learn from the assessment?

We had designed a writing task that would build a profile of the students’ writing. With the survey we wanted to expand our understanding of the students as writers by asking about their confidence levels, motivation, and goal orientation with respect to writing, their reasons for taking the class, and their previous experience with English.


How was the data collected?

We administered a brief, 7-item questionnaire asking students to gauge their confidence levels, motivation, and goal orientation and to report major and previous experience with English.


How was the assessment activity carried out?

Students were asked to complete the questionnaire prior to completing the diagnostic writing sample at the beginning of the second class meeting.

Who were the participants?

This was a freshmen course.  All enrolled students participated.

When was/will the data be collected?

The survey was administered at the beginning of the second class meeting.

What is the current status?


How was the data analyzed/interpreted?

A research assistant collated the responses. Items employing the Likert-like scales were reported using mean scores with standard deviations. The frequency of different responses were reported in tabular form for items 5 (previous writing about art), 6 (intended major), and 7 (native language and age at which began learning English).


How is the data being used?

A report was prepared for the instructor providing a profile of the class. The report helped the faculty member understand his students better and know how to frame his discussions of the writing assignments when presenting them to the students. The information was also shared with Writing Center personnel who would be working with students from the class. Information about the number of students who considered themselves to be non-native speakers of English was particularly helpful for administrators deciding which tutors should work with this group.


Writing is often discussed as a skill or set of abilities. However, affective traits such as the writer’s motivation to write, expectations for achievement, and goal orientation can also have a great impact on the success or failure of an individual piece of writing. This questionnaire reminds both faculty and students of this fact.

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