Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor

Ruth H. Bahr

Co-Major Professor

Robin L. Danzak


academic language, bilingual, critical literacy, noun phrase complexity, persuasive writing, Self-Regulated Strategy Development


English Language Learners (ELLs) are a growing population within the U.S. school system. In the secondary grades, this diverse group requires instruction to improve not only English language proficiency but also utilization of the academic language register, especially in writing tasks. The present study focused on ELLs in middle school. The aim was to explore the effects of enhanced Self–Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) writing instruction on the use of complex language, particularly elaborated noun phrases (ENPs) when SRSD was combined with linguistic instruction on increased sentence complexity.

As a part of a larger study exploring critical literacy and the persuasive writing instruction of Spanish–English speaking students, this repeated measures design detailed the effects of two six–week instructional periods aimed at teaching 19 ELLs methods for organizing, planning, and constructing persuasive texts (the macr–-structure level), as well as ways of incorporating academic language forms and functions in their writing (the micro–structure level). Within the critical literacy project that involved topics and themes related to immigration, the 19 students produced three texts in English (pre–, mid–, and post–instruction essays). These texts were analyzed for ENP frequency and complexity. Three case studies were also chosen to highlight the variation in ENP outcomes and to discuss additional aspects of persuasive writing at both the macr–- and micro–structure levels.

Statistical analysis of group use of ENPs revealed no significant increase in frequency or complexity across essays as simple pre–noun modifications were produced in amounts greater than all other ENP type across all essays. The three case studies revealed that frequency of ENP use generally corresponded to strength of abilities at either the macro–structure level, such as inclusion of more persuasive elements, or the micro–structure level as indicated by increased text length and variety of vocabulary. One implication of these outcomes indicates the need for more in–depth emphasis on the coordination of both the macro– and micro–structure levels in writing instruction studies with ELLs. Other implications pertain to further analysis of classification approaches for designating ENP complexity, and how enhanced understanding of ENP production signals aspects of the academic language register.