Stephanie Rummel

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The Diagnostic English Language Needs Assessment (DELNA) is used at the University of Auckland to help identify the Academic English needs of students following admission in order to direct them to appropriate support (Elder & Von Randow, 2008).  The second tier of DELNA is composed of listening, reading and writing sections, with the writing component rated by trained raters using an analytic rating scale. Language advisers then discuss the marking sheet with the student during an advisory session to provide a detailed overview of the strengths and weaknesses. 

The current study was carried out because of difficulties language advisers were experiencing with utilising the marking sheets to draw students’ attention to their strengths and weaknesses. A selection of 66 marking sheets with detailed comments from a variety of experienced raters was analysed and coded by two independent researchers. Themes were established regarding features that make a comment valuable or not valuable.  Some of those same comments were then shared with students to determine whether or not they agreed with the advisers’ assessment. The results show a mismatch at times between language advisers and students.  The findings have been used to improve adviser practice and implement a more in-depth rater training programme to help raters better understand the descriptors and to utilise the rating scale to its full potential.