Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


Jane E. Matson


Brevard Community College (BCC) enrolled over 3,000 students in the course Communications I (BNC 1101), a freshman writing course, in 1988. These students upon entrance into BCC were placed in their academic courses according to the scores they received on a mandatory state placement test. One section of the test determined their level of basic writing skills. BCC uses the ASSET (Assessment of Skills for Success Entry and Transfer) test for placement. Upon completing two years of the Associate of Art academic courses, these students will be awarded a degree upon passing a state test called the CLAST (College Level Academic Skills Test) test that has an essay writing section to measure the college-level writing skills of the students. BCC students on the average have placed into the lower fifteen percent range in basic writing skills on the placement test. Likewise, on the essay section of the CLAST test over the past five years, BCC students have scored below the state mean in ten test administrations out of a total of fifteen administrations. Additionally, over the past seven years, articles in writing journals and magazines have debated the use of computers in the writing classroom as a valid methodology. Therefore, this study synthesized three significant issues of the 1980s: improving freshman basic writing skills, improving freshman college-level writing skills, and using the computer in the writing classroom. The two major research questions this study addressed were (1) Can a computer method of instruction be more effective in improving basic writing skills than the use of a traditional handwritten method of instruction?, and (2) Can a computer method of instruction be more effective in improving college-level writing skills than the use of a traditional handwritten method of instruction? Additionally, this study was designed to test two null hypotheses: (1) No statistically significance difference will be observed between the computer and traditional instruction methods on mean difference scores difference between pre/posttest performance for basic writing skills; and (2) No statistical difference will be observed between computer and traditional instructional methods on mean scores for college-level writing skills. The sample for this study consists of ninety-eight students enrolled in freshmen writing classes at BCC. Four freshman classes were used in this study. Two classes, Group I, fifty students were selected to be taught writing by using the computer, and two classes, Group II, forty-eight students were selected to be taught writing by the traditional method. For the first section of this study, basic writing sKills were studied. Zach student's pre-placement soR was secured from the state-mandated entrance test, the ASSET test at BCC, and then each student's incorrect answers on the Language Usage section were recorded for an item-by-item analysis. Based on these data, each class was required to spend concentrated time on each incorrect item. One group wrote by the computer method, and the other group wrote by the traditional method. Next, a posttest was administered and analyzed. Statistically, the results were reported on each group's pre-test and posttest mean scores, and the results were reported using the t-test analysis of mean score differences of each group to determine if there were any significant differences. Next, using V-P Planner's spreadsheet, the percentage of increase in improvement was calculated for each group, and then the results were compared. For the second section of this study, college-level writing skills found in Florida's sophomore exit test, CLAST, were identified. Students in both groups handwrote a fifty-minute essay for their end-of-the-term exam. Then, each student's essay was holistically scored. A composite was then made of each group's scores. Then to test for significance, a t-test was conducted to obtain a mean score for each group at a .05 level of significance. Additionally, student computer-users answered a student questionnaire evaluating the computer writing courses. To complete this study, conclusions and recommendations were given. The conclusions addressed the two null hypotheses of the study and two research questions of the study, and four recommendations emerged from this study. The decision to not reject null hypothesis (1) was based on the fact that even though both groups' basic writing skills increased, there was no significantly statistical difference between the groups' improvement. Also, because the differences in the results of the college-writing skills were not statistically significant, null hypothesis (2) was not rejected. The data also showed that the computer methodology was an effective method as the Computer Group performed as well as the Traditional Group. Four recommendations emerged from this study. The four recommendations offered to BCC administrators are 1. It is recommended that the college under BCC's Staff and Program Development program (a program to assist BCC faculty in professional growth) provide funds for the Communications faculty to assist them in researching ways to improve BCC's students' basic and college-level writing skills. 2. It is recommended that the Liberal Arts Division Chairperson offer more opportunities for more students to improve basic and college-level writing skills through the computer methodology. 3. It is recommended that BCC's Office of Educational Research and Planning conduct a study on the cost effectiveness of implementing computer writing labs college-wide. 4. It is recommended that BCC's Office of Educational Research and Planning collect and retain on a regular basis the end-of-the-term essay scores of freshman students so that compa:ative data is available for comparison with CLAST results data.

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