How To Measure Progress In Writing

I recently had a meeting with one of my students’ parents. They asked a valid question, “What is his progress? How has he progressed?” They wondered if they should be concerned he’d only written X essays over the last few months.

Writing isn’t objective like math or science. Grades may not increase linearly. To an untrained eye, writing is writing. It’s not always clear what to look for.

Here are some of my thoughts.

It’s not about quantity, like number of essays written, or number of pages filled. It’s about quality. Does the writing make sense and read smoothly? Is it clear and easy to follow? Are the main points thoughtful, well-articulated, and supported with strong reasoning? Are there grammar issues? Does it speak to the audience?

The best indicator of progress is to compare the first and final draft, and the first piece written to the last piece. Writing isn’t a one-time thing. It involves multiple steps.

Progress in writing is most often nonlinear and best seen over time. With my students and clients, sometimes it’s hard to see when looking at each session what has changed. But in a month’s time, or even better, two month’s time, real progress can be seen.

If you’re a writer yourself, take hope that even if you don’t see it yourself, sometimes you need to look back and compare the previous draft.

Look for the big picture – structure and overall flow.
The content – sound reasoning.
The details – grammar.

Does this help? What are your thoughts on how the quality and progress of writing ability can be measured?