Contextualized Writing Assessment (CoWA)

The Contextualized Writing Assessment (CoWA) is part of the Minnesota Language Proficiency Assessments (MLPA) battery of instruments developed for the purpose of certifying the second language proficiency of secondary and post-secondary students.

The CoWA is a test of written proficiency at the Intermediate-Low and Intermediate-Mid level of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The CoWA model is an efficient choice in situations where it is necessary to establish that the writer's performance meets a minimal criterion, such as for fulfilling a graduation requirement or as a criterion for placement in postsecondary intermediate level course sequences. CoWAs at various proficiency levels are currently proposed for development to meet a variety of purposes, such as immersion program standards, fulfillment of language requirements at postsecondary institutions, minimum standards for language majors, and so on.

Features of the CoWA include the following:

  • All tasks in the CoWA are organized around a theme. Each task is preceded by a context description which relates the task to the overall theme. The contextualized tasks engage the test taker in a logical sequence of events with realistic writing tasks to accomplish in the target language.
  • All tasks in the CoWA target language functions, topics, and discourse within situations appropriate to the Intermediate level. Together the tasks represent the domain of Intermediate-Low and Intermediate-Mid performance.
  • All tasks in the CoWA are preceded by an optional brainstorming, warm-up activity to provide test takers an opportunity to organize and focus their responses. Test takers respond to five tasks with a minimum of seven sentences for each one.

  • The CoWA is rated on a pass/fail basis using a holistic rubric. An online rater manual for rater training with authentic student samples is provided. Teachers can access students' CoWA via a secure server for online rating.

Sample CoWA Task

Other MLPA instruments

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