[EAS] Grammar & Grading

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Mon Apr 11 22:04:39 EDT 2005

The deskilling consequences of poor tools are well-known. Even
decent tools, like spell checkers, can deskill, by less re-reading
and thinking about syntax. Maybe Prof. Brent can fix Microsoft
Word's presumptions. Or is he the next-higher problem?  --PJK

(from Edupage, April 11, 2005)

Sandeep Krishnamurthy, associate professor of marketing and e-commerce
at the University of Washington, is so incensed with the grammar
checker in Microsoft Word that he has taken to posting examples of what
he sees as the checker's failings on his Web site. He has also called
on Microsoft to improve the checker. Citing egregious grammar mistakes
that the tool does not question, Krishnamurthy said that although it
might be helpful for above-average writers, it actually impedes
below-average writers' efforts to improve their writing skill.
Krishnamurthy said Microsoft should modify the tool to allow users to
select the level of help they need, from basic to advanced. For its
part, Microsoft said in a statement that the tool is not intended to
find or identify all errors. Instead, it is designed "to catch the
kinds of errors that ordinary users make in normal writing situations."
Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 April 2005 (sub. req'd)

A professor at the University of Missouri has developed a computer
application that grades papers and offers advice on writing. Ed Brent,
professor of sociology, created the application, called Qualrus, using
a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Qualrus
evaluates papers based on the structure of sentences and paragraphs and
on the flow of ideas. Instructors can specify which factors of an
assignment are most important, and Qualrus incorporates that
information into the scores it provides. Brent claims the application
improves students' papers and estimated that it saves him more than
200 hours of grading per semester. The tool has been approved for use
across the university, but so far Brent is the only instructor using
it. Brent is also looking for ways to distribute the tool to other
universities and to businesses.
CNET, 7 April 2005

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