The Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) is a set of software tools for scoring the quality of essay content. The IEA uses Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), which is both a computational model of human knowledge representation and a method for extracting semantic similarity of words and passages from text. Simulations of psycholinguistic phenomena show that LSA reflects similarities of human meaning effectively. To assess essay quality, LSA is first trained on domain-representative text. Then student essays are characterized by LSA representations of the meaning of the words used, and they are compared with essays of known quality in regard to their degree of conceptual relevance and the amount of relevant content. Over many diverse topics, the IEA scores agreed with human experts as accurately as expert scores agreed with each other. Implications are discussed for incorporating automatic essay scoring in more general forms of educational technology.
While writing is an essential part of the educational process, many instructors find it difficult to incorporate large numbers of writing assignments in their courses due to the effort required to evaluate them. However, the ability to convey information verbally is an important educational achievement in its own right, and one that is not sufficiently well assessed by other kinds of tests. In addition, essay-based testing is thought to encourage a better conceptual understanding of the material and to reflect a deeper, more useful level of knowledge and application by students. Thus grading and commenting on written texts is important not only as an assessment method, but also as a feedback device to help students better learn both content and the skills of thinking and writing. Nevertheless, essays have been neglected in many computer-based assessment applications since there exist few techniques to score essays directly by computer. In this paper we describe a method for performing...