Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Douglas B. Fisher, PhD; Cynthia L. Uline, PhD; Noriyuki Inoue, PhD; Dana L. Grisham, PhD


academic writing, adolescents, education, mixed-methods study, paragraph, pedagogical practices, qualitative, quantitative, sentence-level features, teachers, tenth grade students, whole-text structure, word features, writing prompts, writing samples


Composition, particularly when academic register is required, is a complex task. Because cognitive flexibility theory explains how humans can spontaneously restructure knowledge and adapt to situational demands, it is ideally suited to the ill-structured domain of transactional writing. Global aspects related to paragraph and whole-text structure and local operations related to word and sentence-level features define academic writing. A mixed-methods design used quantitative methods for investigation of five corpora of 10th grade students' work. Qualitative methods were used to explore the means teachers used in promoting academic writing and the interactions they intended to promote via teaching cues, including prompts. Students' perceptions were similarly explored for contrastive purposes. Descriptive statistical and qualitative analysis of five corpora of student writing samples, high school exit exam results, surveys of students and teachers, and interviews with students and teachers were employed. This study suggests that interaction with students, while they compose, is critical to successful academic writing on the part of students. Systems are slow to change; however, this study may provide some models and descriptions of successful performance needed to encourage teachers and school systems to improve practice and academic outcomes in writing and content areas that include writing as a means of learning and assessment. Increased instructional precision may be of more value than simple prescription. Results suggest that cross-disciplinary activities may improve the uptake of academic words found on an academic word list. In addition, the type and quality of the prompts or directions for writing students are given affect the quality of students' written work. As well, students and teachers valued the cues and oral feedback provided on drafts of student compositions. The results of this study suggest that when students are provided a contextually rich environment, challenging writing tasks, and support with appropriate cues, they may succeed as writers and thinkers about complex topics within and across disciplines.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access