Layers of Inequality in Academic Writing Assessment

Authors: Grace Saqueton (University of the Philippines-Diliman, The Philippines)
Speakers: Grace Saqueton
Strand: Language Ideologies
Session Type: General Session


“Rubrics are important in language and academic writing assessments. They are instructional tools that are useful in evaluating a student’s performance. However, they can also act as a sorting machine that creates categories and divisions (Turley & Gallagher, 2008). Moreover, rubrics are also ideological apparatuses that reflect the accumulated practices of a dominant group which decides what is appropriate vs. inappropriate, exceptional vs. substandard, passing vs. failing. Rubrics then could mirror dominant beliefs and silence less dominant ones (Mueller, 2009). Given the hegemonic potential of a rubric, it is important to problematize the role that it plays in academic writing assessment, especially in the context of a nation like the Philippines which uses English in a neocolonial context. For quite some now, the acceptability of Philippine English (PhE) in academic writing has been an ongoing discussion. This issue is also tied to the question of the legitimacy of PhE as a nativized variety of English.

In this paper, I examine the rubric developed by the General Education Committee of the English department of the University of the Philippines in order to surface linguistic inequalities between PhE and a certain “standard” English. I employ the Unequal Englishes paradigm in interrogating the interplay between the rubric and the constructs that defined and mandated the development of the rubric. I argue that there are layers of inequalities in the creation of the rubric, namely: symbolic, linguistic, and material inequalities. These layers are inextricably linked that they may be overlapping and are difficult to untangle. The paradigm of unequal Englishes will be used to make sense of the conflicting conversations that surround these inequalities and to make explicit the gaps between the rubric and the reality of PhE and the language reality of the students, by extension. This is in the hope to contribute to the ongoing discussion on language assessment, language ideologies, and power relations.”

Keywords: Rubric, Language assessment, Ideological apparatus, Language ideology, Unequal englishes, Language assessment, Politics of english