Placing Students in Writing Classes: One University’s Experience with a Modified Version of DSP

Document Type

Journal Article



Standard Number


Journal Title

Composition Forum



Publication Date

Spring 2012


This article discusses our university’s attempt to analyze whether our system of First Year Writing placement serves the needs of our diverse student body. The theory behind Directed Self Placement (DSP) is appealing, so our program adopted a modified version of it, and after several years, decided to evaluate it quantitatively. The authors, a First Year Writing professor and a psychologist trained in statistical analysis, teamed up to gather and analyze data. We sorted our sample by course grade, standardized test scores, gender, race, and prior course grades, running regressions and searching for correlations between these data and our DSP matrix. Our research shows that DSP in the modified form of our placement matrix does not predict student success as measured by First Year Writing grades as well as simple standardized test scores do. Though placing students using test scores alone has limitations, we conclude that DSP, at least in the simplified form in which we use it, does not correct for these limitations, and therefore is not preferable.