Browsing PhD e-theses by Subjects
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The effect of the prompt on writing product and process: a mixed methods approachThe aim of this thesis is to investigate the effect of the writing prompt on test takers in terms of their test taking processes and the final written product in a second language writing assessment context. The study employs a mixed methods approach, with a quantitative and a qualitative strand. The quantitative study focuses on an analysis of the responses to six different writing prompts, with the responses being analyzed for significant differences in a range of key textual features, such as syntactic complexity, lexical sophistication, fluency and cohesion. The qualitative study incorporates stimulated recall interviews with test takers to learn about the aspects of the writing prompt that can have an effect on test taking processes, such as selecting a prompt, planning a response, and composing a response. The results of the quantitative study indicate that characteristics of the writing prompt (domain, response mode, focus, number of rhetorical cues) have an effect on numerous textual features of the response; for example, fluency, syntactic complexity, lexical sophistication, and cohesion. The qualitative results indicate that similar characteristics of the writing prompt can have an effect on how test takers select a prompt, and that the test time constraint interacts with the prompt characteristics to affect how test takers plan and compose their responses. The topic and the number of rhetorical cues are the prompt characteristics that have the greatest effect on test taking processes. The main conclusion drawn from the study findings are that several prompt characteristics should be controlled if prompts are to be considered equivalent. Without controlling certain prompt characteristics, both test taking processes and the written product will vary as a result of the prompt. The findings raise some serious questions regarding the inferences that may legitimately be drawn from writing scores. The findings provide clear guidance on prompt characteristics that should be controlled to help ensure that prompts present an equivalent challenge and opportunity to test takers to demonstrate their writing proficiency. This thesis makes an original contribution to the second language writing assessment literature in the detailed understanding of the relationships between specific prompt characteristics and textual features of the response.
Genre-based literacy pedagogy: the nature and value of genre knowledge in teaching and learning writing on a university first year media studies courseIn the teaching and learning of literacy, descriptions of text have a problematic status as a result of the growing understanding of literacy as both a cognitive process and a social practice. In the teaching of academic subjects at university, student text is not usually an object of study. The research in this thesis draws on a language based theory oflearning to place textual description at the centre of the teaching and learning of both literacy and academic subjects at university. Participant observation and practice-based research methods were used to implement a form of text-oriented literacy teaching and to explore its compatibility with processes and practices orientations to literacy. Over an eighteen month period, systemic functional grammar was used to investigate and describe the texts of a film studies classroom and the descriptions were used in genre based literacy pedagogy. The effects of the pedagogy are measured in terms of students' performance in an end of course assignment, students' accounts of their writing processes, and student and subject-tutor perception of the text description and the pedagogy. In the thesis, a linguistic description of a key curriculum genre -a Taxonomic Film Analysis -is presented. An account is given of the pedagogy by means of which this essay genre was represented in the film studies classroom as a realisation of choices from linguistic, conceptual and activity systems. Systemic functional grammar-based text description is seen to have provided a means whereby a literacy tutor could collaborate with a subject tutor to provide a subject-specific form of literacy teaching which was evaluated as relevant by students and tutors. The account and the evaluation help to clarify the role that description of text can play in relation to processes and practices ofliteracy use in the teaching and learning of literacy in a film studies classroom and have implications for the teaching and learning of literacy at university more generally.
How do we raise attainment in literacy at Key Stage 3 in a supplementary school?This research project is concerned with raising attainment by addressing the problems associated with literacy (reading, writing and spellings) at Key Stage 3 in the context of a supplementary school. It looks at different ways of addressing specifically identified problems associated with reading, writing and spellings by designing relevant forms of intervention and tracking progress within an emancipatory approach of the sort advocated by Freire (1970; 1972). Students’ low performance in literacy at Key Stage 3 as observed in a survey carried out by Clark, (2012, p.9-13) revealed that more than fifty per cent of Key Stage 3 students (11-13 years) do not enjoy reading or writing, and/or experience difficulties. Current legislation, the Children and Families’ Act, 2014, provides for additional funding in schools for those young people with the most serious difficulties in learning, for example those who are severely dyslexic. Around two percent of the student population receive additional support for their learning needs in this way (Wearmouth, 2012). It is obvious, therefore, that there are many students, in addition to this two percent, who require additional specialist support for their learning needs that is not available through individual resourcing in schools. The current study, albeit small-scale, indicates that students who experience difficulties in literacy can make rapid improvement in a supplementary school that is based on the principles underpinning supplementary schools in general, but, in the case of adolescents who are disengaged from literacy learning, also adopts an emancipatory approach that takes seriously their own views of their learning and the difficulties they have experienced, and supports their own agency in enhancing their literacy learning outcomes. Lessons learnt from this study can contribute to thinking around alternative approaches to re-engaging students with their literacy learning when provision is designed to engage their personal interests and the young people have a measure of control over their own learning. There may be a suggestion that high-achieving students may also benefit in this way.
Investigation into the features of written discourse at levels B2 and C1 of the CEFRValidation in language testing is an ongoing process in which information is collected through investigations into the design, implementation, products and impacts of an assessment (Sireci, 2007). This includes the cognitive processes elicited from candidates by a test (Weir, 2005). This study investigated the English Speaking Board’s ESOL International examinations at levels B2 and C1 of the CEFR. The study considered the role of discourse competence in successful performances through examination of cognitive phases employed by candidates and metadiscourse markers and whether the use fit with models such as the CEFR and Field (2004) and so contributed to the validation argument. The study had two strands. The process strand of the study was largely qualitative and focussed on the cognitive processes which candidates used to compose their texts. Verbal reports were carried out with a total of twelve participants, six at each level. The product strand of the study analysed the use of metadiscourse markers in the scripts of sixty candidates in order to identify developing features of discourse competence at levels B2 and C1. The process strand of the study identified that there were statistically significant differences in the cognitive phases employed by the participants in the study. The investigation also identified a number of differences in what B2 and C1 learners attended to while carrying out the different phases. The product strand of the study found no statistically significant differences in the use of metadiscourse markers used by candidates at the two levels, but observed differences in the way particular metadiscourse markers were employed. These differences indicate the direction for a possible larger-scale study. Unlike previous studies into metadiscourse (Burneikaite, 2008; Plakans, 2009; Bax, Nataksuhara & Waller, forthcoming) the study controlled for task, text type and rhetorical pattern and nationality. The study suggested that discourse competence contributed to higher-level performances in writing and that the examinations under investigation elicited a wide range of cognitive phases from C1 candidates. The study also suggested that many of the CEFR’s statements about the development of discourse competence at the higher levels are correct.