RooWriter - Writing Assessment

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RooWriter Frequently Asked Questions



What is the RooWriter assessment?

The RooWriter is a directed self-placement writing assessment designed to provide you, a UMKC undergraduate student, direct information on your current ability to read and write critically. In taking the RooWriter, you select a Reading Packet and write a documented, critical essay in response to a prompt based on the Reading Packet you chose. The criteria for assessing student performance on the RooWriter are based on the criteria used to assess student reading and writing in the UMKC Core, the 30-hour University-wide General Education Program. If your essay is evaluated, rather than a grade (such as pass/fail) being assigned to the essay, a critical assessment of your essay will be composed by RooWriter Evaluators and provided to you.


Why do I have to take the RooWriter?

First, taking the RooWriter is a mandatory graduation requirement because the University is required to assess its undergraduate student population's writing skills.

Second, if your major is in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), you must take the RooWriter in order to be eligible to enroll in WI (Writing Intensive) classes and most other WI courses at UMKC. Pathway will not allow you to enroll in such a course unless it has a record that you have previously taken the RooWriter. The reason is to offer you a current assessment of how prepared you are for the rigorous reading and writing requirements of a WI course that assumes completion of the Discourse II class in the 30-hour General Education Program. Also, WI instructors will have access to the RooWriter reports for students enrolled in their WI course, so they can efficiently provide writing advice and assistance early in the course.


What are the expectations for a RooWriter essay?

After you login to the RooWriter website, please go to the "Writing Expectations" page and read the "RooWriter Essay Expectations" PDF for the full description of what is expected in a RooWriter essay. The minimal requirements include:

  • Read ALL the articles in your chosen Reading Packet. We will assume that you have done so.
  • You MUST write your essay in response to the prompt (question) assigned to you when you “Start Essay”.
  • You may NOT use or cite any sources outside of those in your Reading Packet.
  • You MUST cite within your essay from at least 3 of the 5-7 different URL sources in your chosen Reading Packet.
  • You MUST use the Reading Packet sources to develop your argument.
  • You MUST complete the “Works Cited” box for all sources you use within your essay.
  • You MUST follow the directions “When writing your essay” that appear on the essay writing web page.


What accommodations do you make for students with disabilities?

If you have a documented disability and need academic accommodations to take the RooWriter please contact the UMKC Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at (816) 235-5696 or (816) 235-5672, or email


When can I take the RooWriter? Can I take it more than once?

The RooWriter is offered to you online at any time and place you have access to the internet, over a 72 hour period. You may also take the RooWriter again as many times as you wish during your career at UMKC in order to get a current assessment of your proficiency. In fact, we encourage students to do so, especially as you prepare to graduate and enter the working world, or graduate school.


How often can I take the RooWriter?

You may take the RooWriter at most once every two (2) weeks.


At what point in my undergraduate program can or must I take the RooWriter?

You may take the RooWriter any time as an undergraduate student. However, it will only satisfy the UMKC graduation requirement once you have completed Discourse II (or ENGLISH 225 for students on the old General Education program).



How are RooWriter Essays evaluated?

The Evaluators will insert comments into a copy of your essay, and also produce an Essay Evaluation report consisting of numerical indicators on certain scales, displayed in various ways, along with some writing recommendations for you.



Who evaluates RooWriter essays?

Evaluators will be instructors and graduate students from several disciplines, who have been trained by the RooWriter staff.



What does a RooWriter student essay evaluation report look like?

See the attached Student Report Example.



Can a RooWriter Essay be rejected before being evaluated?

Yes. First, a RooWriter essay requires a minimum word count of 750 words and a maximum word count of 1,500 words. Any submitted essay with a word count outside those restrictions will be automatically rejected by the RooWriter before the essay is sent to an Evaluator. Second, an Evaluator will have the option to immediately reject an essay if it does not meet the minimal requirements for a RooWriter essay or exhibits intentional plagiarism according to guidelines devised by the RooWriter writing specialists. Note: If an essay is rejected, it cannot satisfy the university graduation requirement.



When will I get a report on my RooWriter Essay? Who else can see this report?

If your essay is evaluated, as soon as both the first and second evaluators have submitted an assessment of your essay, an email alert will be sent to you. You, your academic advisor, and the instructor of any subsequent course you take will be able to read the report on your most recent Essay.



I submitted my RooWriter essay, but Pathway won’t let me enroll in my Writing Intensive course.

You cannot enroll until you both take the RooWriter, and Evaluators have produced an assessment of your essay. As soon as that assessment is submitted, you will be informed by email. This information is sent to Pathway twice a week on Monday and Thursday mornings. You can only enroll once that is done. Be patient.



After I receive an email from the RooWriter that a report on my submitted essay is ready to view, how long is it before that information is communicated to Pathway?

The RooWriter transfers data to the Registrar's office every Monday and Thursday. Afterward, the Registrar’s office loads that data into Pathway.


Is there any charge for taking or using the RooWriter?

The first time you as an undergraduate student log in to the RooWriter web site a one-time usage charge of $15.00 will be billed to your UMKC account as soon as you start an essay. You may then use the RooWriter as many times as you like for the rest of your UMKC career. There are no other charges.



Are any undergraduate students exempt from taking the RooWriter to meet the graduation requirement?

Yes. Any undergraduate student who has taken and passed the WEPT (Written English Proficiency Test) has already met the university graduation requirement and need not take the RooWriter for that purpose. (Note that the WEPT no longer exists, and was last given on June 12, 2013.) Also, undergraduate students who already possess a Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution are exempt from taking the RooWriter to meet the university graduation requirement. However in all cases we encourage undergraduates to take the RooWriter as a personal diagnostic whenever they wish.



How can I petition for exemption from the RooWriter university requirement?

Complete and submit the attached Petition for RooWriter Writing Assessment Exemption.



Why offer the RooWriter at all? Why offer any such assessment?

Interviews with UMKC instructors, especially those teaching Writing Intensive (WI) courses, indicate that some form of assessment is needed, especially to help balance the varying levels of proficiency we see in WI courses, but such assessment should not be a barrier to WI courses. UMKC’s local base includes more than 60% transfer students, who come in with an equivalent to Discourse II, who should be ready for a WI course, but are sometimes not prepared. The RooWriter may be re-taken as often as needed as a diagnostic tool for the student, which helps students make more informed decisions about when to enter WI courses, and if needed when to get additional writing assistance to prepare. The RooWriter eliminates the burdensome and ineffective aspects of the WEPT, while maintaining and expanding on its helpful evaluation guidelines, placing the assessment within a context of tools that support writing across the curriculum and our broad mission of collaborative teaching and learning.



How does the RooWriter differ from the WEPT (Written English Proficiency Test)?

The RooWriter is not a pass/fail instrument, but a diagnostic tool of assessment which serves

    • to assist instructors in knowing the writing-skills levels of their enrolled students,
    • as a means to produce targeted data collection for ongoing individual student progress assessment,
    • offers continuous informational support for individual instructor curriculum development of WI or other courses in their respective fields,
    • and lastly allows for cooperative instructor and administrative decision-making about program development.

Is the RooWriter offered anywhere on campus as a handwritten, paper assessment?

No. The RooWriter can only be taken online.



What success does research report of “directed self-placement” assessments?

Studies from universities with directed self-placement assessment indicate that students’ understanding of writing improves and that students are successfully self-placing in Writing Intensive courses in various disciplines. Moreover, students perceive the information they obtain from the assessment as worthwhile, and feel that they can use the feedback to select an appropriate college-level reading and writing course.

    • From Daniel Royer and Roger Gilles, Grand Valley State University: "With directed self-placement we've found a way to place the focus first and foremost on students and their own self-understanding, capabilities, and purposes. Our teachers have been freed from an uncomfortably hasty kind of assessment so that they can focus entirely on the more authentic kinds of assessment that go on over the course of an entire semester. And the integrity of our program has benefited from the honest challenge presented by our promise to stick to our advertised course standards and objectives and to offer help and preparation"
    • From Pamela Bedore and Deborah F. Rossen-Knill, University of Rochester: "The question was whether or not we could responsibly leave writing placement decisions to students, recognizing first, that students might lack the necessary information to make this choice or might simply make a mistake and also that giving a choice, particularly within the complex rhetorical context of a college, does not necessarily mean that the choice is received as intended. So far, our assessment results show that we provide a great deal of information to the students in our target group, and that they receive this information and do feel free to choose. Results also indicate that most students judge their choices to be worthwhile and the resulting course experience to be appropriate to their level."



Who coined the word “RooWriter”?

In late Spring 2009, during a meeting of the Campus Writing Board (precursor to the UWRB) on replacing the WEPT, our colleague from History, Shona Kelly Wray, suggested "RooWriter" as the name of the new assessment and we all immediately agreed. This was one of the many ways that she contributed to the early discussions of the RooWriter. We were later sad to learn that Shona unexpectedly died on May 6, 2012 while on leave in Florence, Italy.



I am a UMKC Instructor or Academic Advisor and would like to access RooWriter information about undergraduate students. What is the procedure for doing so?

As a UMKC Instructor or Academic Advisor, when you log on to the RooWriter you will have access to the RooWriter “Report Creation” page. That page explains which collections of UMKC undergraduate students you have legal access to according to FERPA regulations and what RooWriter reports you will be allowed to create, then instructs you how to create those reports. In addition, if you are an Instructor, you must include in your syllabus a statement that you will be accessing RooWriter information about your students.



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