assessment of students' writing.
In 1993 the Learning Centre was commissioned by the University
of Sydney to design a diagnostic instrument to measure students'
academic writing. The instrument requires students write a short
essay or other genre based on some disciplinary content. It
assesses the student's ability to write about a given body of
knowledge in a reasoned and critical way, together with their
ability use the language resources appropriate for the required
task. Their writing is rated from 4 (excellent) to 1 (inadequate)
on each of 4 main criteria:
Each of these criteria is further broken down into sub-criteria,
representing a complex spectrum of perspectives on the student's
writing. Research involving linguistic analysis of a large corpus
of student writing from different disciplines formed the basis
of the descriptors of the instrument.
MASUS is designed to be used by academic departments as an
integral component of their courses and to provide a systematic
framework for follow-up support for those students identified
as needing it. Since 1993 MASUS has been used in the University
of Sydney with a number of departments, with over 7000 students
(mainly first years) participating. It has also been adapted
for use in other universities in Australia and in the UK. Early
research sought to validate the instrument , to check rater
reliability and to analyse the relationship between students'
MASUS results and a range of other variables such as HSC English
and language background. More recent research, conducted longitudinally
using one cohort, has examined the relationship of students'
MASUS results to progression through their degree, to selection
procedures, and to choice of HSC school subjects.