The effects of teacher written comments on the persuasive compositions of low-achieving inner-city high school students

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Eveleen Lorton - Committee Chair


This study compares the effects of two styles of teacher written comments on the persuasive writing ability and attitudes toward writing of low-achieving, inner-city high school students.Eighty-six students from four summer school classes of ninth grade English at an inner-city public high school in Dade County participated in the study. Before participating in a four week program of writing instruction, students wrote a pretest persuasive composition and filled out an 11 item attitude survey modeled after one used in the National Assessment of Educational Progress's (NAEP) 1984 evaluation of writing achievement in American schools (Applebee, 1986). Students were randomly divided into three groups: One received short, general, reader-response style comments on their compositions (Butler, 1980); another received longer, text-specific, directive comments (Olson and Raffeld, 1987); the third, a control group, received no comments. At the end of the subjects wrote a posttest persuasive composition filled out the 11 item posttest attitude survey. Pretest and posttest compositions were scored holistically by a team of four raters.Analysis of covariance of posttests using pretests as covariates indicated that subjects in the Butler treatment group scored significantly higher than the Olson and Raffeld subjects on both the writing and attitude measures. These findings support Butler's (1980) claim that detailed, directive, text-specific comments do not make low-achieving students feel good about writing nor do they help the students to write better. Results also indicated that there were no significant differences between the Butler group and the control group on either measure. These findings are congruent with those from previous studies which indicate teacher written comments, in general, do not help students to significantly improve their writing ability.


Education, Language and Literature; Education, Secondary

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