Posts Tagged ‘writing skills’

11
Oct

Persuasive Essay

Don’t you just love it when you can argue with someone and get them accept your point of view? That is what persuasion is all about! Persuasive writing, also known as argumentative essay, utilizes logic and reason to show that one idea is more legitimate than another idea.
It attempts to persuade a reader to adopt a certain point of view or to take a particular action. The argument must always use sound reasoning and solid evidence by stating facts, giving logical reasons, using examples, and quoting experts.

Persuasion does not reflect our stubbornness. It helps us to look at evidence; state ideas more clearly, consider the opposition’s argument fairly and justify our own position. Persuasive writing attempts to convince the reader that the point of view of writer is valid. The writer needs to select a topic which can be well defended and debatable. A debatable topic gives the writer the opportunity to bring out many important points. A writer can emphasize on these points and conclude the essay positively. On the other hand if a topic is not debatable it becomes difficult for the writer to bring out strong points. At the end the reader or reviewer is not convinced of the arguments given. It should be a statement of position and the position must be clear and direct. In the body of the essay, the writer uses specific examples, statistics or personal opinion to persuade the reader that the stated position is a valid one. The elements that go towards building a good persuasive essay include establishing facts, clarifying relevant values, prioritising, editing or sequencing and having confidence in the topic. An effective way to write a perfect persuasive essay is to generate a set of words. The essence of successful writing is representing the ownership of words in a way that is soothing for the reader. You need to develop techniques to highlight the topic of your paper and focus on your key arguments. The writer is considered the king but the reader is any writer’s most important critique. Persuasive writing is a framework of sentences that can present how you can provide experimental value to your goal and give more knowledge to your readers. It requires creativity in your writing skills to differentiate you from other readers. While persuasive writing is largely static the reader’s interface is dynamic and interactive. Structuring the reader’s interface includes all sorts of dynamic changes to your writing skills and relate to the readers frame of mind. The changes and experiments must lead to a continuous innovation process in our writing skills and generate the interest of the reader. Although you should try to stick with logical arguments, try to pinpoint any emotional reactions that people may have to the issue you are writing about. By addressing these emotions and complementing them with facts and arguments you can start writing topics which are well accepted by the readers.

We have tried to elaborate certain finer techniques that can help you frame a well-written persuasive essay. Always revise, proofread, and edit your essay before final submission.

Search terms:
  • In a reflective essay you should write in a way that captures your own voice and perspective; this does not include:
  • In a reflective essay you should write in a way that captures your own voice and perspective; this includes:
  • persuasive essay on tipping
10
Jul

Automated Essay Scoring

A need for improved admissions screening to predict potential student academic success was identified in a strategic planning session of online academic institutions. There is an increased concern student retention problems are related to the admissions process at the universities. Faculty are concerned that the critical writing skills of students who are admitted are not adequately evaluated until after students are financially committed to the enrolling institution.  The scope of this paper is to research, analyze and conduct a feasibility study of Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) software that could be used to automate essay grading.
Introduction


Student retention is a source of concern for all post secondary schools. Much research has been conducted on the subject to capture a clearer understanding of the mitigating causes of e-learning drop out rates. Retention rates have been found to be correlated to admissions standards.


With drop out rates of up to 35% in some online academic institutions (http://www.ejel.org/volume-2/vol2-issue1/issue1-art13.htm, 2004), it is imperative that the following areas of concern are addressed:


·         learner readiness for online learning


·         identification of the learner’s academic strengths and weaknesses


·         learner academic, technical and administrative support. 


There are two factors that directly affect retention rates of students, extrinsic factors (personal) and intrinsic factors (institutional). The extrinsic factors fall in the categories of financial, family, time commitment, professional obligations, subject matter interest, and academic preparation.  The intrinsic factors that directly impact retention rates are the quality and availability of study materials, technical support, and academic support.


In order for a student to be successful in online education (Colby, 1986), the learner must exhibit competence in the following areas:


·         self-directed learning (able to manage their own learning)


·         metacognitive development (interact with the content)


·         collaborative learning (interact with facilitators and classmates virtually).


These competencies are discussed extensively at most institutions during the intake interview conducted by enrollment and admissions counselors. Perspective students are informed about the time commitment associated with their program of study, the financial commitment, and of the impact attending an online university will have on them personally. However, these universities cannot evaluate the extrinsic factors affecting the potential success of students with the exception of academic preparation. It is imperative, however, that each university recognizes that student admissions standards are a fundamental element in predicting college success.


Intrinsically, a university has the ability to mitigate the flood of exiting students by implementing stricter admissions guidelines. Institution of a two step process to evaluate students could serve as a predictive measure of academic success. The use of cognitive and non-cognitive measures would create a more complete picture of the applicant. This aspect of evaluation allows for additional support for students and fosters academic success. It influences instructional strategies that can be most effective for individual learners achieving learning success at a distance.  Non-cognitive admission indicators are very useful in predicting academic success (Colby, 1986). There is a high correlation between critical writing skills and academic success. The purpose of this study is to investigate the efficacy of a fully automated pre-entrance assessment (objective and summative) for predicting potential academic success of adult learners in an e-learning environment.


Current Practices:


Currently a screening assessment is distributed to applicants at most online institutions.  The assessments evaluate four areas of student performance:


Critical Comprehension


Literal Comprehension


Composition Skills


Computation Skills


According to faculty the driving factor behind success in an online environment is the written communication of ideas.  This skill is critical to success in all academic programs. Currently, the first indication of critical writing skills is not demonstrated by the student at most on-line institution until they enter their first course. The student enters the university with a false sense of security in their potential academic performance in whatever program they have entered.  It is far too late at this point to assess their writing skills and identify their “fit” in the university. The student is now financially obligated and has plowed through their first course often floundering. Advisors are then stuck with the task of recommending courses that hopefully will meet the needs of the student. There is a great potential for students to enter with less than minimal writing skills that will haunt them the rest of their time with an institution. Faculty immediately recognize from the first writing samples which students will struggle from the beginning to make academic progress. Faculty strongly urges that a writing component be added to the screening assessment during the application phase.


The purpose of the essay component of the screening assessment would be to measure certain writing aptitudes. Essays accurately portray a student’s current knowledge base and present a snapshot of their writing and cognitive organization skills. Essay assessments require a student to create their own unique answers rather than choosing from a list of provided response options as well as demonstrating quality of writing. Essays assess non-cognitive qualities and are useful tools for identifying deficiencies in writing skills Critical writing skills are a predictive measure of online success.


The potential benefit of a two part screening assessment to each university is far reaching. The proposed screening tool using in-place automation would give admissions counselors immediate feedback for selection purposes. The proposed new instrument would provide a consistent, objective, and unbiased evaluation of student performance in five areas instead of the current four. The specific feedback with more focused skill analysis would be a valuable tool to identify a potential student’s overall writing ability thus giving academic advisors and enrollment counselors an early indication of a student’s strengths and weaknesses. This demonstration of the student’s writing skills would assist the advisor in recommending appropriate placement in remedial, basic college composition courses or an immediate recommendation for a language and communications competency exam.


The implementation of an outcomes based admissions assessment would help align admission standards with each university’s mission. The mission is to ensure that every minimally competent applicant admitted receives an opportunity for success. The ultimate effectiveness of this assessment would be measured by the increased matriculation rates of on-line post secondary students.


 Latent Semantic Analysis


Implementation of an essay assessment during the admissions application process has the potential of being a labor intensive and costly proposition. The need for an assessment component to identify and screen for critical writing skills is a crucial part in predicting an applicant’s potential success. Currently there are several software products that automate essay scoring. This software is designed using algorithms that are designed specifically for analyzing statistical data and content information from pre-programmed domains of knowledge or a “gold standard” essay (Page, 1994). The algorithm used is Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA). LSA analyzes an essay for the following components:


·         Syntactic Variety – LSA using parser technology identifies specific syntactic structures


Ш  Subjunctive auxiliary verbs


Ш  Clausal structures – compliments, infinitives, and subordinate clauses


Ш  Ambiguity


·         Discourse Analysis – identifies a conceptual framework of conjunctive relationships cued by specific language constructions


Ш  Discourse markers- words or phrases that indicate direction


Ш  Conjunctions (and, or, but, nor, etc)


Ш  Pragmatic Particles


·         Content Vector Analysis – weighted words proportioned to word usage


Frequency


·         Lexical Complexity Features – identifies the frequency of a number of word forms that may exist for use in different syntactic roles.


Ш  Range


Ш  Frequency


Ш  Morphological vocabulary complexity (prefixes, free stem words, bound root words, form and meaning, how the forms combine)


·         Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics –identifies errors in subject-verb agreement, verb form, punctuation, and typos.


·         Confusable Words – homophones


·         Undesirable Style – passive voice, repetition, etc.


·         Discourse Elements – introduction, thesis statement, main idea, supporting details, conclusion.


LSA scores for information content versus factors in the quality of the writing. It looks for strong relationships between semantic content and the quality of the writing using a component scoring system. LSA is an effective tool for scoring and commenting essays by providing accurate judgments of the internal consistency of a text compared to the actual quality of the writing. This computational model provides evaluation on a secure server, scores that are an accurate measure of essay quality, and scores as precisely as a human rater. The scores can be delivered in two ways:



  • Holistic Scoring: – a single score based on the overall (quality) impression of an essay.

  • Componential Scoring – an analytical scoring of multiple facets of an essay scored in the areas of coherence, punctuation, topic coverage, etc.

Either method of scoring provides a highly consistent and objective assessment of critical writing skills. Feedback of results is totally automated and is specifically articulated in a scoring guide. The scoring guides are linked to established writing standards and give an overall view of student writing skills.


Many post secondary institutions have already implemented automatic scoring using LSA software to evaluate student writing. ETS uses e-rater and c-rater  to assess the volumes of essay assessments they administer in the GMAT, GRE, and TOEFL exams. They use authentic topics developed by in-house assessment development experts that meet stringent assessment specification guidelines. ETS has successfully scored over two million assessments (Washington Post, 2004). The Rand Corporation’s Institute for Education and Training uses e-rater for measuring analytical reasoning in their program. Other colleges and universities using LSA technology for automated essay grading are Azusa Pacific, Baylor College of Medicine, The Citadel, University of Maryland, University of Oklahoma, and the University of Illinois, to list a few.


Besides ETS’s e-rater and c-rater (Criterion) products, there are many other LSA assessment products used around the globe. Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA), developed by Thomas Landauer (University of Colorado, Boulder doctoral candidate who first conceptualized and authored LSA programs) and Peter Foltz (New Mexico State University Professor), is distributed by Pearson Knowledge Technology. The University Of Colorado School Of Technologies uses IEA to assess student essays in the Physical Sciences/Engineering/Information department (http://www.knowledge-technologies.com/) .


Project Essay Grader, distributed by The Vantage Learning Corporation, is used by Indiana University, Purdue University, and Indianapolis University to assess their perspective students in a one hour admissions/placement essay exam.


Perception’s QuestionMark assessment product line has an essay grader that fully integrates with their Perception automated data base. The U.S. Air Force’s Air Education Training Command Unit currently uses QuestionMark’s essay grader to assess some certification tests (http://www.questionmark.com/us/casestudies/index.htm).


Application of LSA


Question Mark uses an online platform for delivery of all objective assessments. The delivery system is fully automated on a secure server. The assessments are delivered to the student, scored, recorded, and a snapshot of information (assessment results and individual component results) is disseminated to the assessment administrator in a span of 30 seconds. Question Mark’s essay grader component can provide the same immediate feedback tailored to individual university assessment needs. It is a fully automated, touchless system that reports scores not only to the university but can even direct the feedback to the student via an email response.


Statistical analysis of composition has been conducted for over thirty years. LSA is proven to grade to 85% rater reliability compared to 80% rater reliability between two human judges. The computer is capable of completing the task in significantly less time (20-25 second elapsed rating time average). Humans are influenced by many external factors in their rating of essays; time available to grade, reader bias, etc. The greater burden of using human graders is the added expense that is eventually passed on to the student in the form of tuition and fees. By instituting a fully automated essay assessment in the admissions process, the enrollment counselors in conjunction with the appropriate academic assessment development team could better identify potentially successful students for writing intensive programs. The cost factors involved would be minimal due to in-house assessments developed by QuestionMark. The essay grader does not require incurring extra fees for its use. The current version of QuestionMark requires minor reconfigurations to accommodate the essay grader component of their software. An automated component scoring system would provide accurate unbiased judgment of writing quality and would be an effective tool for scoring and commenting essays of perspective students.


The student admission experience is an essential factor in college success. The direct implications of incorporating a battery of admissions evaluations (intake interview, objective assessment, and an essay demonstrating critical writing skills) are extensive. With a more complete picture of each applicant, universities would have more information to correlate student admission scores with predicting potential academic success. Additionally, academic advisors could immediately identify those students who required some form of writing remediation and recommend a course of action for academic support. The effectiveness of implementing new admission standards would ensure that every minimally competent student admitted to the university would have an equal opportunity to succeed in the e-learning environment.


References


Birch, P. E-Learner Competencies. Learning Circuits American Society for Training and Development.1(3) Retrieved February 28, 2005, from http://www.learningcircuits.org/2002/jul2002/birch.html


Colby, A.Y. (1986). Writing Instruction in the Two-Year College. [Digest]. Los Angeles       ERIC Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges.


DeLoughry, T.J. (1995, October 20). Duke professor pushes concept of grading essays by computer. Chronicle of Higher Education, 42(8), A24.


Education Testing Services (NJ) Integrating criterion into your assessment and instructional activities. ETS Technologies. 1(2), Retrieved March 1, 2005, from http://etstechnologies.com/html/integratingcriterion.htm


Foltz, P., Laham, D., Landauer, T.(1999). Automated essay scoring: Applications to educational technology. EdMedia. 1(7) Retrieved March 1, 2005, from http://www-psych.nmsu.edu/~pfoltz/reprints/Edmedia99.html


Foltz, P., Gilliam, S., Kendall, S.(2000). Supporting content-based feedback in online writing evaluation with LSA. Interactive Learning Environments. 8(2): 111-129. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.


Hofmann, J. Building Success for E-Learners. Learning Circuits American Society for Training and Development.. 1(4)Retrieved February 28, 2005, from http://www.learningcircuits.org/2003/jul2003/hofmann.htm


Hughes, J. (2004) Supporting the Online Learner.[Digest]. Retrieved February 28, 2005, from http://www.athabascau.ca/main/studserv.htm


Jones, P., Packham, G., Miller, C., Jones, A. ( 2004, December). An intitial evaluation of student withdrawals within an e-learning environment: the case of e-College Wales. Electronic Journal of e-Learning.2(10). Retrieved February 28, 2005, from http://www.ejel.org/volume-2/vol2-issue1/issue1-art13.htm


Murray, B. (1998, August). The latest techno tool: essay-grading computers. APA Monitor, 29(8).


Page, E.B. (1994). New computer grading of student prose, using modern concepts and software.  Journal of Experimental Education, 62(2), 127-142.

Search terms:
  • critical writing skills
  • IEA - Essay Scoring
20
Mar

Selling Yourself as a Writer — Marketing

Being a freelance writer is tough business, as there are more writers working freelance than almost any other profession in the country. It’s tough to compete with all of the other freelance writers that have more years of experience, better writing skill, lower rates, and a higher education than you, but the good news is that you don’t have to! All you have to do is market “you” as a brand, and you’ll be able to sell your writing skills on their own merits.

How can you sell your personal brand as a writer?

Guest Posting — Do you follow any blogs faithfully? If you have a topic in which you are knowledgeable, why not offer to provide guest posts for the blogs that you love? You’ll find that all great blogs are willing to accept quality guest posts, and it’s a good way to spread your name around. If you can provide people with links to posts you made on popular websites, it will be better than a professionally-worded resume. Quality examples of published content will speak much more loudly than any boring resume!

Create a Website — This may sound costly, but you’ll find that a simple website with a few static pages and a blog can cost you as little as $50 or so per year. You can use a simple WordPress template, buy the domain name and hosting, and get everything set up easily. Once you have your website, start writing and posting content to your blog. A professional-looking website will be one of the best marketing tools, and you can point potential clients to your site to see your writing style first hand.

Use Social Media — You’ll be amazed at how effective social media websites can be for building your personal brand. LinkedIn is the ultimate tool for professional freelancers, and you can expand your network, find job opportunities, and expand your horizons using this free social media site. Post a good profile complete with your information, projects, and links to content, and refer people to the page whenever you send out your resume. The larger your network, the greater your scope of influence. Leverage social media sites to help you market yourself, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do!

Email People About Your Services — If you happen to be the creative type of writer then maybe the best way to get the word out about your services is to have people you know be your first clients. Make sure you have plenty of examples and proof to share before you email your friends a sales pitch. If you are part writer part crafter you can create some Invitationbox customized wedding invitations or perhaps some blog post samples if you are a blogger for hire. You’ll be amazed at how extensive your network can become if you just let people know what you can do.

Set Up Portfolios — Websites like oDesk and Elance are great places to find freelance work, but they’re actually better for setting up a professional profile. Even if you never get a job from these websites, you can point people to your profile – where they can check out what you can do. Guru and Freelancer are also excellent sites to use, and you should take full advantage of these job board websites.

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