Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Wei Zhu, Ph.D.

Keywords

ESL academic writing, ESL writing and computer, Knowledge-telling, Knowledge-transforming, Writing expertise

Abstract

Pre-writing strategies are conscious thoughts, actions, or behaviors used by writers when they plan before writing. Research in second language writing suggests that specific writing strategies related to writing purposes, audience, brainstorming, and organizing ideas are teachable and have a potential to improve the quantity and quality of writing produced by English as second language (ESL) learners. This study investigated the effects of computer-based pre-writing strategy training guided by procedural facilitation (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987) on intermediate ESL students' writing strategy use, writing quantity, and writing quality. A sequential mixed methods design was utilized with an initial quasi-experimental phase followed by semi-structured interviews. Forty-one participants from four intact intermediate-writing classes in an intensive English program participated in the quasi-experimental phase of the study.

The classes were randomly assigned into two control and two experimental groups. The instructional modules for the control groups included writing instruction related to paragraph writing, essay writing, and opinion essays whereas the training modules for the experimental groups consisted of pre-writing strategies related to writing purposes, audience, and idea generation and organization. In addition, the experimental groups were trained to generate and organize ideas using Inspiration 6, an idea graphic organizer software program. The participants' writing performances and uses of pre-writing strategies prior to and after the training were analyzed. In addition, six semi-structured interviews conducted shortly after the post-test helped to illuminate the quantitative results.

Results demonstrate a significant training impact on ESL students' pre-writing strategy use but fail to detect significant effects on the students' writing quantity and writing quality; however, a trend of improvement regarding the writing quality variables was detected among the strategy-trained students. Furthermore, the qualitative analysis revealed some similarities and differences of less experienced and experienced writers' writing processes and strategies. Overall, the findings suggest the complex interplay among the factors influencing student writing development including writing strategy use, writing processes, writing tasks, task conditions, their past writing experience, and their language proficiency.

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