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Collaborative learning and sense of audience in two computer-mediated discourse communities

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Collaborative learning and sense of audience in two computer-mediated discourse communities
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Napierkowski, Harriet
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170 leaves : ; 28 cm

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College students' writings ( lcsh )
Composition (Language arts) ( lcsh )
Audiences ( lcsh )
Educational technology ( lcsh )
College students -- Attitudes ( lcsh )
Audiences ( fast )
College students -- Attitudes ( fast )
College students' writings ( fast )
Composition (Language arts) ( fast )
Educational technology ( fast )
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 152-170).
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School of Education and Human Development
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by Harriet Napierkowski.

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Full Text
COLLABORATIVE LEARNING AND SENSE OF AUDIENCE
IN TWO COMPUTER-MEDIATED DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES
by
Harriet Napierkowski
B.S.. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 1965
M.A., University of Coiorado-Boulder, 1968
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2001


2001
by Harriet Napierkowski
Ml rights resorxed.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by-
Harriet Napierkowski
has been approved
by
& ----
argaret A. Bacon
R. Paul Sale
Date


Napierkowski. Harriet (Ph.D.. Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Collaborative Learning and Sense of Audience in Two Computer-Mediated
Discourse Communities
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Margaret A. Bacon
ABSTRACT
One of the hallmarks of critical thinking and thus of good academic
writing is an understanding of audience. In a comparison of composition students
in an onsite networked class and an online class, this study examined differences
in students' attitudes toward collaborative learning and evidence of audience
awareness in their writing. Both groups used computer-mediated instructional
technology, and both were grounded in collaborative learning pedagogy.
The experimental variable was the absence of face-to-face interaction
among the online students. A post-treatment experimental design was used with
random assignment of students. A Likert-type survey instrument measured
attitudes tow ard four collaborative learning constructs: sense of belonging to a
discourse community, perceived value of belonging to a discourse community,
perceived benefits of peer-response feedback on texts-in-progress. and preferred
medium for peer-response feedbackoral/face-to-face or wTitten/online. A
primary-trait scoring rubric measured six audience awareness traits in post-
tv


treatment argumentative texts: exigency, empirical support, logical appeal, ethical
appeal, emotional appeal, and treatment of opposing view s. N'o significant
differences emerged between groups in the four collaborative learning constructs
or in the audience awareness measures. This study suggests that the absence of
face-to-face communication does not significantly affect students attitudes
toward collaborative learning or their ability to inscribe audience in argumentative
discourse.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
v


DEDICATION
To Sara. David. Joshua. Rachel. Katie, Joey. Luke. Eva. and Krista
May you always have a love of learning.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
For their support and encouragement, my thanks to my committee. Professors Peg
Bacon. Nadyne Guzman. Rod Muth and Paul Sale: to my Ph.D. cohort: and to
members of the CL-Colorado Springs Writing Program, all of whom in a
multitude of ways helped bring this study to fruition. My deepest gratitude goes to
i'homas Napierkowski who. both emotionally and intellectually, has been
supportive beyond measure.


CONTENTS
Figures.....................................................xii
Tables......................................................xiii
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.............................................1
Statement of the Problem..................................3
Research Questions........................................7
Summary...................................................8
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE...................................12
Social Constructivism....................................12
A Historical View of Social Constructivism........14
Social Constructivism vs. Cognition Theory........15
Collaborative Learning...................................17
Discourse Communities in the Writing Classroom....18
Computer-Mediated Communication..........................20
Advantages and Limitations of CMC.................21
Differences Between Onsite and Online Students....24
Theorizing Technology.............................26
Computer Use in the Composition Classroom.........28
Peer Response Group Pedagogy.............................31
VUl


Audience
36
Audience Defined.....................................38
Audience as Passive Recipient........................40
Audience as Co-Constructor of Knowledge..............42
Reader-Response Theory...............................43
Audience Invoked and Addressed.......................46
Empirical Studies on Audience........................49
Audience in Argument.................................53
Summary.....................................................59
3. METHODOLOGY..................................................61
Research Design.............................................62
Research Questions, Variables, and Statistical Measures.63
Recruitment Procedure................................65
Stratified Random Blocking Procedure.................66
Dropout Attrition Between Groups.....................67
Participants.........................................70
Class Pedagogy.......................................71
The Technology.......................................72
Instruments..........................................74
tx


Post-Treatment Writing Assignment....................78
Data Collection Procedure.............................80
Collaborative Learning SurveyValidity and Reliability ....81
Audience Awareness RubricValidity and Reliability....83
Summary.....................................................89
4. RESULTS......................................................90
Differences in Collaborative Learning Attitudes.............90
Differences in Audience Awareness...........................97
Sense of Belonging and Audience Awareness Correlation.......98
Benefits of Peer Feedback and Audience Awareness Correlation.99
Essay Grades and Audience Awareness Correlation.............99
5. DISCUSSION..................................................101
Research Question 1........................................101
Research Question 2........................................102
Research Question 3........................................104
Research Question 4........................................105
Research Question 5........................................107
Research Questions 6 and 7.................................108
Research Question 8........................................112
Implications...............................................112
x


Dropping Out in Cyberspace..............113
The Delivery Truck Metaphor.............115
The No-Differences Phenomenon...........117
Summary......................................118
APPENDIX
A. AUDIENCE AWARENESS RUBRIC.................120
B. AUDIENCE AWARENESS SCORING FORM...........123
C. COURSE SYLLABUS...........................124
D. PARTICIPANTS' INFORMED CONSENT FORM.......129
E. COLLABORATIVE LEARNING SURVEY.............131
F. PEER RESPONSE PROMPTS.....................136
G. SCALE DEVELOPMENT PILOT STUDY.............138
H. POST-TREATMENT ESSAY ASSIGNMENT...........146
I. CONSTRUCT EVALUATORS' INSTRUCTIONS........148
REFERENCES......................................152
xi


FIGURES
Figure
1.1 Audience Inscribed, Audience Involved: A Constructivist
Model of Two Computer-Mediated Discourse Communities................11
xu


TABLES
Table
3.1 Research Design.....................................................62
3.2 Research Questions. Variables, and Statistical Measures.............63
3.3 Mean Grade Point Average and Class Status of Study Participants...68
3.4 Mean Grade Point Average and Class Status of Study Participants
and All English 141 Fall 2000 Students...................................69
3.5 Inter-Rater Reliability Among Three Experienced. Trained Readers 76
3.6 Mean Results. Strength of Position Held by Students on Six Social
Issues...................................................79
3.7 Collaborative Learning ConstructsEvaluators Responses..82
4.8 Differences Between GroupsCollaborative Learning Constructs...91
4.9 Differences Between GroupsSense of Belonging............92
4.10 Differences Between GroupsValue of Belonging...........93
4.11 Differences Between GroupsPerceived Peer Response Benefits...94
4.12 Differences Between GroupsPreferred Peer Response Medium ...96
4.13 Differences Between GroupsSix Traits of Audience Awareness ..98
4.14 Essay Grades and Audience Awareness ScoresCorrelations...100
xiu


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
During the last three decades, the field of composition has undergone a
significant paradigm shift from a focus on writers as solitary individuals to a
focus on writers as members of a discourse community. Historically, rhetorical
theorists have considered the production of discourse to be an individual act.
Current theorists, however, challenge this model, maintaining that writing is a
collaborative, communal act and that discourse is the product of an interactive and
negotiated exchange of meaning (Johnson, 1997). A development that has
facilitated this paradigm shift is the use of computer-mediated instruction in the
college composition classroom. At the University of Colorado at Colorado
Springs, for example, writing classes are taught in networked-computer
classrooms, where students interact both through face-to-face and through
computer-mediated communication (CMC). In this environment, students have
increased opportunities to participate in collaborative peer-response groups,
constructing webs of ideas not only within classroom walls but beyond, as well,
in the chambers of cyberspace. The networked computers thus become conduits
for linking students with one another, thereby extending the discourse community
1


through a second frameworkshared electronic spaces where continued
interaction takes place and where a repository of student work resides as a catalyst
for further dialectic.
More recently, university composition programs are experimenting with
the delivery of writing courses online, without the component of face-to-face
interaction. Few studies, however, have examined the effectiveness of this
instructional medium for college students in first-year writing courses
(Mehlenbacher. Miller, Covington, & Larsen, 2000). In my research, I compared
two groups of undergraduate students in a second-semester first-year course on
argumentative writing: one group taking the course in an onsite computer-
networked classroom and the other group taking the course online. In both groups,
students had opportunities for synchronous and asynchronous electronic
interactions about readings and text production, including group work, hands-on
workshop activities, guided discussions, and peer-response sessions. The
distinguishing characteristic was the absence of the face-to-face component in the
online group. I was particularly interested in how students experiences differ in
these two environments, and how these differences, if any, are manifested in
students attitudes toward collaborative learning and in their awareness of
audience in their written discourse. In this study, audience awareness refers to a
complex and interdependent relationship between writer and readers participating
2


in the negotiation of meaning as members of a discourse community during
production of argumentative texts (Bruffee, 1983; Lunsford & Ede, 1996).
Statement of the Problem
Although the primary purpose of college composition is the improvement
of writing skills, improvement is often defined as the use of Edited Standard
Written English. Andersen (1987) and Park (1982), for example, declare that
writers must consider particular writing conventions to make a piece of writing
meaningful to a range of readers, beginning with the generally accepted
conventions of usage and moving toward larger rhetorical conventions associated
with a particular genre. While conventions of usage are clearly important in the
composition classroom, my research focused on another central feature of writing
effectiveness: students construction of audience in the genre of argument.
Adequately addressing the importance of audience to student writers has
been an ongoing issue. As early as 1968, Moffett noted that the goal of writing
instruction should be the production of competent rhetors, not just competent
transcribers. Students need to understand that arguments convincing to self are not
necessarily convincing to others. In 1984, Cooper et al. analyzed the persuasive
writing of an entering class at SUNY-Buffalo on the topic of affirmative action.
They found:
3


More than perhaps any other type of writing, the persuasive mode should
invite a consideration of opposing points of view and involve a concern
for the audience.... What we observed instead was a consistent failure to
do so: only 16 percent [of students in the study] addressed the opposing
point of view.... The uniformity and naivete of [the] essays persuaded us
that these students had been actively taught to fear and shun complexity,
and especially to deny moral and legal ambiguity, (pp. 40,44)
A decade later in 1994, improvement of audience awareness in
argumentative writing was still not apparent. The National Association of
Educational Progress reported that students adjusting from high school to college
had difficulty making the shift from narrative to argumentative writing, which
requires greater attention to audience needs (Ramage & Bean, 1998). One study
of argumentative writing indicated that on a scale of 1 to 6, ranging from writing
that was only minimally acceptable to writing that was 'extensively elaborated,
only 3 percent of students were able to generate an elaborated or an
extensively elaborated response to the topic, thus indicating a limited
consideration in this case of readers' informational needs (Olson, 1994). Writers
often omit needed information, such as definition of terms, because they are not
sufficiently aware of their readers. Or they assume that readers know what they,
the writers, know.
Clearly, entering college students find addressing audience effectively in
argument a formidable task. Petraglia (1995) maintains that the problem is further
exacerbated by the fact that writing in composition classes often is pseudo-
4


transactional rather than authentic. Instead of focusing on purpose, persona, and
audience, assignments frequently serve primarily as occasions for grading. Thus,
students do not develop a genuine rhetorical grasp of discursive strategies for
developing ideas and attending to audience needs. Arguing for the centrality of
audience in the writing process. Mehlenbacher et al. (2000) articulate the need for
a more audience-centered approach to writing.
One pedagogical strategy that fosters a consideration of audience in
writing is collaborative learning (Duffy & Cunningham. 1996; Rickly. 1995).
Grounded in social constructivism, collaborative learning is considered by many
educators to be one of the most significant factors contributing to the learning of
college students (Astin, 1993; Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Duffy, Deuber, &
Hawley, 1998; Jonassen, 2000; Myers, 2000). In the composition classroom,
collaborative learning manifests itself most commonly in the form of peer-
response groups (Brooke, Mirtz, & Evans, 1994; Bruffee, 1993). Although such
groups have been widely accepted in composition classrooms in some form for a
number of years, a debate continues about their effectiveness in improving writing
(Brooke et al.). In chapter two, I examine peer-response theory as a particular
subset of collaborative learning theory.
A tool that enhances collaborative learning and thus, indirectly, a
consideration of audience, is computer-mediated communication (Duffy &
5


Cunningham, 1996; Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1995; Jonassen, 2000).
Students construct knowledge in the social context of working together, a process
facilitated by computer-mediated interaction (Jonassen. Peck, & Wilson, 1999;
Rickly, 1995). Scardamalia and Bereiter (1987) explain the relationship between a
constructivist perspective and effective communication as having the following
characteristics: (a) The writer draws from both a knowledge and a value base; (b)
the writer recognizes that a messages effectiveness depends on audience
characteristics; (c) to anticipate effects on the reader, the writer engages in social
cognition, inferring audience knowledge, values, and predispositions; (d) by
considering audience, the writer infers potential communication gaps that must be
filled and strategies for doing so; (e) the writer translates this knowledge into
specific tactics in writing, such as matters of emphasis, proportion, and data
selection; (f) finally, the writer uses linguistic resources to deliver the text.
Throughout this process, the audience actively participates as a co-constructor of
meaning.
The question is whether technology facilitates this process of knowledge
constructionwhether we communicate differently in an online environment than
in a face-to-face environment (Duffy et al., 1998; Harasim, 1990; Hiltz, 1994). A
corollary question is whether computer-mediated communication facilitates
learning in the college classroom. Myers (2000), for example, argues that the best
6


kind of interaction occurs in a traditional classroomnot in a computer-mediated
environment: No computer can sharpen the mind as well as a cross-fire
discussion among students with their teacher. In human affairs, there is ultimately
no substitute for real human contact. An extensive amount of research, however,
suggests that knowledge construction is, indeed, enhanced by computer-mediated
communication (Duffy & Cunningham. 1996; Jonassen. 2000; Kemp, 1998).
The question that I investigated was the following: What is the difference
in attitudes toward collaborative learning and in levels of audience awareness
between students in an onsite computer-mediated writing class and students in a
computer-mediated-only writing class? The few studies that are available in this
area are anecdotal and speculative rather than grounded in data (Eldred &
Hawisher, 1995; Mehlenbacher et al., 2000). The purpose of this study is to add to
the body of knowledge about the role of face-to-face and computer-mediated
communication in the writing classroom in fostering collaborative learning and
increasing students audience awareness in argumentative discourse.
Research Questions
Specifically, this study addresses the following questions; In a comparison
of students in an onsite networked writing class and students in an online writing
class,
7


RQ1. Does a significant difference exist in students sense of belonging
to a discourse community?
RQ2. Does a significant difference exist in students valuing a sense of
belonging to a discourse community?
RQ3. Does a significant difference exist in perceived benefits of peer-
response feedback?
RQ4. Does a significant difference exist in students preferred medium
for peer-response feedbackoral/face-to-face or written/online?
RQ5. Does a significant difference exist in evidence of audience
awareness in students' writing?
RQ6. What is the correlation between students sense of belonging to a
discourse community and level of audience awareness in their writing?
RQ7. What is the correlation between perceived benefits of peer-
response feedback and level of audience awareness in students writing?
RQ8. What is the correlation between students' writing skill and level of
audience awareness in their writing?
Summary
This study compares two groups of undergraduate students in a second-
semestef first-year course on argumentative writing, one group taking the course
8


onsite and the other group taking the course online. My purpose was to apply
audience theory to the actual teaching of writing in a collaborative, socially
constructivist learning environment, with a focus on the role of peer review of
texts-in-progress.
In this study, onsite refers to a hybrid environment: an on-campus writing
classroom equipped with networked PC workstations and FirstClass software
(SoftArc. 2001). FirstClass is a group communication tool that allows students to
interact and collaborate asynchronously through a structure of public conferences
and synchronously through real-time discussions. Onsite students met twice a
week throughout the semester in an on-campus networked classroom and thus had
access both to face-to-face and to computer-mediated interaction.
Online, on the other hand, refers to an off-campus, distance-learning
writing class with the same capabilities for synchronous and asynchronous
exchanges. Throughout the semester, students in both groups used computer-
mediated communication for discussions of readings, responses to instructor
prompts, and peer review of texts-in-progress. The experimental variable between
the groups was the absence of the face-to-face component in the online class. I
was particularly interested in learning how students attitudes toward
collaboration and their treatment of audience in their writing differ in these two
environments.
9


Figure 1.1 provides a graphic representation of the theoretical framework
underlying this study and foregrounds the relationship between theory and
practice. First, social constructivism, the fundamental belief that knowledge is
socially constructed, provides the foundation for my investigation. The
epistemological and ontological assumptions of social constructivism in turn
interact with and inform collaborative learning theory, which provides the
rationale for a consensus-oriented pedagogy. Along with collaborative learning,
*
computer-mediated communication also facilitates a social constructivist learning
environment through the potential of synchronous and asynchronous conferencing
and discussions. The interactions of these theoretical underpinnings foster the
development of discourse communities and shape the practice of peer response
during the writing process, both of which assist students in developing a
heightened sense of audience in their writing. The question this study addresses is
how these elements of theory and practice come together in two different learning
environments.
10


Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Fiuure 1.1. Audience Inscribed, Audience Involved. A Constructivist Model
of Two Computer-Mediated Discourse Communities
Social
Constructivist
Theory
Collaborative
Learning Theory
Computer-
Mediated
. Communication
Theory
I
+
Face-to-Face
+ CMC
Discourse
Community
P
P
P
CMC
Discourse
Community
Face-to-Face
+ CMC
Peer Response
CMC
Peer Response
Audience
Awareness
Audience
Awareness
11


CHAPTER TWO
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
In this literature review, I begin by focusing on social constructivism. I
define social constructivism, provide an historical overview, and place it in the
larger context of other epistemological theories that inform composition
pedagogy. I then discuss collaborative learning in the college composition
classroom and follow this with a review of literature on computer-mediated
communication in composition and the pedagogy of peer-response groups.
Finally, I examine audience theory, particularly as it applies to the genre of
argument.
Social Constructivism
Social constructivism is a philosophy of knowledge and reality that
assumes that entities we normally call reality, knowledge, thought, facts, texts,
selves, and so on are constructs generated by communities of like-minded peers
(Bruffee, 1986, p. 774). My interest in this area stems from my experience as a
teacher of writing; students continually affirm my belief that they do, indeed,
construct knowledge by working together, exchanging papers, discussing ideas,
and thus building what Bruffee (1993) calls a discourse community. Grounding
12


his philosophy in a postmodern epistemology of learning as a social act, Bruffee
posits that knowledge is a social construct, that learning is a social process, and
that writing is centralnot ancillaryto collaborative learning and the
construction of knowledge.
Social constructivism is not a single theory but an amalgam of theories
about the social nature of knowledge, an umbrella term for a variety of
perspectives (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Petraglia, 1991). In my analysis,
however. I rely chiefly on Bruffee's (1986) understanding and interpretation of
social constructivism. Bruffee proposes that knowledge is constructed through
negotiation with others in communities of knowledgeable peers. Concepts,
ideas, theories, the world, reality, and facts are all language constructs generated
by knowledgeable communities and used by them to maintain community
coherence (p. 777). Like Freire (1998), who defies the banking, unidirectional
notion of learning, Bruffee challenges the traditional notion of knowledge-making
and argues, instead, that learning is interdependent and collaborative. This
understanding of learning, he contends, is essential to a university education, yet
this approach to learning is frequently underused and misunderstood in colleges
and universities. Duffy and Cunningham (1996) agree, articulating two basic
tenets common to social constructivist theory; (1) Learning is an active process
13


of constructing rather than acquiring knowledge, and (2) instruction is a process
of supporting that construction rather than communicating knowledge (p. 171).
An Historical View of Social Constructivism
What is now called social constructivism and what has provided impetus
for collaborative classroom practice have their origins in the pragmatism of
Dewey (1938). According to Dewey, all knowledge is related to social action.
Dewey wanted students to be active participants in preparation for democratic
citizenship and. indeed, for the democratic reconstructing of society. Along with
Dewey, another major contributor to a paradigm shift in the overall theory of
knowledge to a social-epistemic perspective was Kuhn (1970). In The Structure of
Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn's premise was that scientific knowledge is not so
much discovered as it is constructed by a community of scientists through
consensus among them. Vygotsky (1962) also theorized that our individual
consciousness is created through social relationships and internalized
conversations with others. Additionally, Brookfield and Preskiil (1999), Latour
and Woolgar (1986), Oakeshott (1959), Palmer (1997), and Sergiovanni (1996),
among others, have all emphasized the importance of social dialectic and
community-building in the construction of knowledge. Ideally, then, from a social
constructivist perspective, an undergraduate education provides an opportunity for
14


students to join communities of learners within specific disciplines, groups of
people whose common purpose is to engage in academic discourse for the
construction of negotiated knowledge.
Social Constructivism vs. Cognition Theory
By focusing on social constructivist theory, I do not mean to imply that it
is the only theory that informs the writing process. Cognitive theory also has
explanatory power as a theoretical framework from which to examine writing
classroom pedagogy. However, cognitive models of writing are linear, internal,
and individual. According to McLeod (1997), The cognition theory of writing
examines how the mind represents knowledge to itself; social construction theory
examines how those representations are shaped by context, by convention and by
expectations of particular social and cultural groups (p. 34). Socio-cognitivist
composition theorists have tried to wed the two competing theories into one that
draws on the strength of both. As Flower (1989) states, we need an integrated
theoretical vision which can explain how context cues cognition, which in its turn
mediates and interprets the particular world that context provides (p. 282).
However, the main difference between socio-cognitive and social
constructivist theories of writing is that in the first case, theorists argue that
discourse production is shaped by social context but is nonetheless an individual
15


construction originating with the writer. It is the difference between saying that
texts have a social context and that texts are social constructs. Social
constructivists challenge the distinction between writer and reader and instead
privilege discourse communities where the reader becomes an equal partner in the
construction of meaning (Haneda & Wells, 2000). For social constructivists,
audience is not an afterthought or a later concern in the writing process but is
present and collaborating during invention itself (LeFevre, 1987).
Although social constructivism has largely superseded cognitive theory as
an accepted basis on which to shape writing pedagogy, Stewart (1988) provides a
counterpoint to the enthusiasm of social constructivists. While he applauds the
virtues of social constructivism and concedes its pedagogical benefits, he also
cautions that the exuberance for a social-epistemic view is not always warranted.
For example, argues Stewart, assuming that knowledge is constructed in
communities discounts the individual genius of a Mozart or an Einstein whose
knowledge, he claims, was not a social construct. In his reasoning, however,
Stewart overlooks the contextual events and social processes that might have
affected the genius of Mozart or Einstein. According to Berger and Luckmann
(1966), both objective and subjective knowledge comes from the society we live
in and is maintained and modified by the institutions that embody it and the
individuals who embrace it. A more serious charge leveled by Stewart (1988) is
16


his concern that a sociai-epistemic view of learning can lead to groupthink.
However, scholars such as Pratt (1991) have enlarged the notion of a discourse
community as not only a site of consensus but also a site of conflict, a contact
zone. where opposing views can be voiced and respected within a social
constructivist environment. So although I am sympathetic to Stewarts (1988)
concerns. I clearly see the benefits of social constructivist theory as the central
framework for collaborative learning pedagogy.
Collaborative Learning
In its broadest sense, collaborative learning is not limited to composition
pedagogy. Scholars in a number of different fields have recognized the benefits of
collaboration in the learning process (Howard, 2001). Collaboration has come to
signify a set of practices in the teaching of writing, including collective work,
mutual aid, and non-authoritarian styles of classroom interaction (Johnson,
Johnson, & Smith, 1991a). It is the instructional use of groups of students
working interdependently to maximize their own and one anothers learning.
During the past ninety years, nearly 600 experimental and over 100 correlational
studies conducted to assess the effectiveness of collaborative learning reveal that
collaboration among students typically results in higher achievement, better
relationships with peers, and greater social competence (Johnson, Johnson, &
17


Smith, 1991b). In one such study of 309 baccalaureate-granting institutions, Astin
(1993) found that collaboration among students affected more educational
outcomes than any other variable studied.
Collaboration enhances connectivity and socio-emotional commitment to
the learning process by involving the student as an active participant. Students
achieve greater cognitive development working together than they do working
individually (Oliver & Reeves, 1996; Sharan, 1980), constructing meaning
through divergent thinking, idea linking, and idea structuring (Harasim. 1990).
Both through conversation and issue-based discussion, collaborative problem-
solving supports intentional learning and develops critical-thinking skills (Duffy
et al., 1998, Muth et al., 1999).
Discourse Communities in the Writing Classroom
The application of collaborative learning to the writing classroom is a
development of the last two decades, resting on recent critical trends advocated by
such analysts as Brooke et al. (1994), Bruffee (1993), and Trimbur (1985). It does
not necessarily entail co-authoring; in most classrooms, the act of drafting
remains an individual effort. But students collaborate in a community of writers
on all other phases of the writing processgenerating ideas, critiquing, revising,
and editing drafts. This process of collaboration also helps give students a better
18


understanding of audience as co-participators in the creation of ideas rather than
as passive recipients of text (Porter 1992), a concept most students have difficulty
taking into account (Kroll, 1978).
In Bruffees (1993) view, the classroom becomes a forum for the
exchange of ideas, both in written and oral form, thus expanding students notion
of audience. In this manner. Bruffee believes students are empowered by working
together in small groups on tasks designed by the teacher. The teacher is the
orchestrator. creating conditions conducive to learning and then allowing the
students to take the lead during their collaborative interactions (Holt, 1988).
Through this process, students become a part of what Fish (1980) calls an
interpretive community. Students construct knowledge through written and oral
conversations that take place within a community with specific conventions,
vocabularies, and guidelines, depending on the particular academic discipline.
They use language to join communities to which they do not yet belong and to
cement membership in communities to which they already belong (Bruffee,
1986).
Audience theorists who subscribe to the idea that knowledge is created in
language communities have linked the construct of audience and the construct of
discourse communities (Reiff, 1996). Indeed, Rafoth (1988) proposes that the
term discourse community may be conceptually more useful than audience for
19


capturing the language phenomena that relate writer, readers, and texts (p. 132).
Pratt (1991) redefines Bruffees (1984) notion of the discourse community,
however, as a contact zone, (p. 34), a site of conflict rather than consensus,
social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in
contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power (p. 34). Pratt advocates a
rethinking of composition pedagogy so that we recognize the reality of contested
cultural ground in our society. She views the discourse community as not a site of
consensus-building but one of conflict and difference. In spite of their
oppositional perspectives on the notion of discourse communities, both Bruffee
and Pratt agree that knowledge is socially constructed through them. If one
accepts this premise, then it follows that discourse communities can play an
important role in the university classroom. And if writing is central to the
formation of discourse communities, then writing is also central to collaborative
teaming and to the construction of knowledge.
Computer-Mediated Communication
While earlier research focused on collaboration in a face-to-face
environment, more current research has focused on student-student interaction in
a computer-mediated environment (Berge, 1995; Fishman, 1997; Wells, 1992).
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is a text-based tool that can be
20


synchronous or, more frequently, asynchronous, using a computer as a transfer
medium to allow individuals to communicate without geographical or time
restrictions (Hartman et al., 1995; Holden & Wedman, 1993). Taylor (1992)
maintains that electronic discourse is a decidedly social phenomenon; it cannot
succeed or even exist without the explicit decision of individuals to pursue a
common goal (p. 145). Taylor further suggests that electronic conferencing
incorporates the grammatical features of both written and spoken discourse,
reinforcing the importance of discussion in learning, which he views as significant
for helping students consider their audience.
Advantages and Limitations of CMC
While the effectiveness of these collaborative tools has not been
extensively studied, computer-mediated communication has some recognizable
strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include student enthusiasm, more time on
task, and student satisfaction (Shotsberger, 1996). Students appear to like CMC,
find the instructor is more accessible, and regard problem-based learning and
case-study learning more useful than they are in a traditional classroom (Gregor &
Cuskelly, 1994). From a practical perspective, online courses eliminate travel
time and expense, allow for flexible scheduling, and provide for convenient
access to course materials and instructor. And from a pedagogical perspective,
21


they provide opportunities for social apprenticeships with experts, enhance
opportunities for class interaction, and allow time for reflection and response
(Lehman, 1995; Palmquist, Kiefer, Hartvigsen, & Godlew, 1998). Sheingold,
Hawkins, and Char (1984) compared interaction in writing classes that used
networked communication tools with interaction in classes that used traditional
modes of communication. They found that CMC can facilitate collaborative
interaction among students and increase opportunities for students to act as
resources for one another.
CMC thus appears to change both the quality and quantity of
communication by allowing time for critical reflection and greater involvement in
discussion than is allowed in the traditional classroom where one or two students
may monopolize the conversation. Group conferencing decreases the emergence
of a group leader, allowing more students a greater role (Harasim, 1990). As a
result, student-directed conversation and participation level are higher in the CMC
classroom, which shifts the role of the teacher from content expert to facilitative
guide (Wells, 1992). CMC enhances peer-to-peer discussion (Jonassen, Davison,
Collins, Campbell, & Haag, 1995; Palmquist, 1993), with participation fairly
evenly distributed among students. Although attitudes toward and use of CMC are
influenced by such factors as computer experience, social influence,
communication apprehension, academic self-concept, parental education, and
22


gender (Fishman, 1997), students report that they work harder and produce higher
quality work, since work is visible to their peers (Oblinger & Maruyama, 1996).
From the instructors perspective, computer conferencing tools are also
perceived as beneficial (Bonk & King, 1998). These tools allow instructors to
observe students' contributions to discussion, obtain a record of the discussion for
future feedback, participate in the discussion to model critical-thinking skills, and
ask questions to coach critical thinking and to provide expertise when necessary.
To be pedagogically useful, the conferencing tool should be designed to support
structured inquiry, collaborative inquiry, and elements of argumentation (Duffy et
al., 1998). Through reflective journal writing, critical analysis, active learning,
and peer and instructor facilitation, CMC enhances critical reflection (Wagner &
McCombs, 1995). Web-based tools such as e-mail, electronic partnerships,
project-based learning, synchronous discussion, and asynchronous conferencing
foster collaborative learning (Bonk & King, 1998).
Disadvantages include communication anxiety, feelings of
disconnectedness from conversational thread, and frustration over delayed
feedback. Additionally, making decisions from group consensus can be time-
consuming (Harasim, 1990), while software and hardware problems may limit
interaction (Oliver & Reeves, 1996). Another drawback to computer-mediated
communication is the lack of visual and verbal cues available in face-to-face
23


interaction. Developing and delivering online courses also places a burden on the
faculty, requiring use of unfamiliar technical equipment that is always subject to
hardware and network problems (Lehman. 1995).
Furthermore, some researchers contest the claim that computer-mediated
communication provides a more egalitarian class atmosphere by freeing students
of class status and ethnicity markers (Cooper & Selfe. 1990; Regan, 1993;
Romano. 1993). On the other hand, Barker and Kemp (1990) contend that
electronic genres accommodate difference, giving each writer an equal voice, yet
acknowledging the multiple voices and perspectives of various readers. But both
Romano (1993) and Regan (1993) point out that online interaction can also
increase the risks of students using rhetorically offensive language with peers in
the absence of face-to-face communication. Regan notes that students who are
traditionally marginalized in the academic community because of their race,
ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation are often victims of such language.
Differences Between Onsite and Online Students
A comparison of online and traditional students shows that online students
learn on average as well as traditional students with respect to midterms, finals
and grades. More mature and better students Ieam more in an online environment,
while students who lack good study habits and have difficulty writing and reading
24


learn less (Harasim, 1990). Hiltz (1990) examined learning in online and
traditional classes, using pre-and post-surveys, case studies, institutional data,
interviews with students and faculty, and surveys of dropouts. She found no
significant difference between mastery in the online class and traditional
classrooms. Hiltz concludes that online students learn as well as traditional
students. Maushak. Simonson, and Wright (1997) concur: Students who are
motivated, prepared, and intelligent can potentially learn as much online as in a
traditional classroom. Indeed. Harasim found that online students who are self-
motivated and self-disciplined and who have average or better quantitative and
verbal skills perform at a higher level than they do in a traditional course.
However, students who lack motivation and basic college skills have quite the
opposite tendency. They are more likely to drop out, to participate more
irregularly, and to perform at a lower level than they would in a traditional course.
Attrition rates are generally higher for online courses; however, researchers have
found little correlation between performance outcomes and individual
characteristics, especially for mature learners (Kember, 1990).
Some researchers (Meritosis & Phipps, 1999; Russell, 1999) question
whether any difference exists between outcomes of online and conventional
classes. Russell, for example, reviewed 355 articles, papers, and research studies
on distance learning and concluded that learning outcomes of online students are
25


similar to those of students in traditional classrooms, with no significant
differences.
Theorizing Technology
Oblinger and Maruyama (1996) point to some sobering statistics about
changes in society that suggest a need for technology-enriched learning. While
80% of teaching is in the form of lecture, students face new information at an
increasingly exponential rate; for example, students are exposed to more new data
in a year than their grandparents were in a lifetime (Oblinger & Maruyama).
Additionally, 65% of all workers use some kind of technology in their jobs, with a
projection that this will increase to 95% in the upcoming years. At the same time,
good writing skills are increasingly important in the information age, and yet,
research shows that students do not develop adequate writing skills during college
(Fadiman& Howard, 1979; Olson, 1994).
Duffy et al. (1998) suggest that the new model for learning should put the
student at the center, with flexible access to people and information. This
involves changing the instructor from a gatekeeper to a designer of the learning
environment, changing the classroom from teacher-centered to learner-centered
and creating virtual communities of learners, so that time and location become
26


variables rather than fixed elements. Technology, argue Duffy et al., is the means
to that end.
But what, exactly, is technology? Cultural myths about technology
abound, and the lack of a theoretical grounding poses serious impediments to
rational inquiry about the relationship of technology and literacy. In Writing
Technology. Haas (1996) defines technology "not [as] an object, but rather [as] a
vital system that is bound to the world of time and space... technology is always
inextricably tied both to a particular moment in human history and to the practical
action of the human life world in which it is embedded (p. xii). She goes on to
state that implicit in arguments about the revolutionary power of computers is the
assumption that communication, language, and words are intimately tied to
culture, and that a transformation in the technology also means a transformation
of language, and thus a transformation of culture.
Further, technology and writing are not distinct and separate phenomena,
for writing itself is a technology. Whether one uses a quill, or carves letters in
stone, or uses a computer, one is using technology to create text. Both technology
and writing are highly complex and rapidly changing systems. Both involve
intricate social processes. Additionally, writing is also affected by technology and
thus further complicated by it. Writing with a stick in the sand, says Haas (1996),
is not the same as writing with a computer. As writers, we want technology to be
27


transparent so that we can focus on the ideas we wish to articulate rather than on
the tools that allow such articulation. From a theoretical perspective, however,
Haas argues that we ought not to lose sight of the way in which technology affects
writing and. thus, culture itself.
Computer Use in the Composition Classroom
But how does computer-mediated communication affect patterns of
interaction in writing classes? After nearly 20 years of computer use in the writing
classroom, few definitive answers are available as to the efficacy of using
computers to teach writing. In a landmark article, The Winds of Change: Thomas
Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing, Hairston (1982) proposed a
new model for the teaching of writing, encouraging students to write multiple
drafts, to interact with others, and to make revisions, both local and global,
throughout the writing process. Drawing on Aristotles emphasis on democratic
persuasion, she argued for a writing process that helps students build a sense of
community and be aware of multiple audiences. Computers were seen to be in
perfect alignment with such goals, creating a constructivist environment in which
the emphasis is on process (Papert, 1984). Yet today, in a post-process era that
valorizes the consumption of text through critical reading as much as the
production of text through ones particular writing process (Olson, 1999), clarity
28


is still lacking as to the role that computers should play in the college composition
classroom.
Computer technology was first introduced into writing classrooms in the
early 1980s via stand-alone workstations. At that time, computers were generally
used as glorified typewriters, helping students type and edit their work more
efficiently. This was viewed as their most important advantage (Hawisher,
LeBlanc, Moran, & Selfe, 1996). Interaction was essentially between student and
machine. By the late 1980s, however, a dramatic shift occurred with the
networking of computers. Students were now primarily interacting not with the
machine, but via the machine with other students through asynchronous
communication software and postings in public conferences. Networks linked
computers and, thus, people together.
The evolution of networked computers also led to synchronous
conferencing, the use of simultaneous interaction of messaging (Gardner &
Peluchette, 1991), which provided another avenue for increasing the participatory
nature of the writing classroom (Rickly, 1995). The model for synchronous
conferencing is conversationseveral people speaking at once, with each
participant able to hear and to respond to any other participant. Technology thus
changed from a tool used for individualization to one used for socialization.
29


With an emphasis on socialization, the networked classroom has
developed its own pedagogy, one based on the precepts of social constructivism,
promoting group work in an open, inclusive, non-hierarchical environment
(Barker & Kemp. 1990). Such increased participation has become the focus of
recent research, with terms like cooperative learning (Slavin, 1983) and
collaborative learning (Bruffee, 1993) falling neatly in line with the participatory
features of networked computers. As James Berlin (1988) notes, The real is
located in a relationship that involves the dialectical interaction of the observer,
the discourse community (social group) in which the observer is functioning, and
the material conditions of existence (p. 488).
Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1981) argues that our ideological
interrelations with the world (p. 342) are based on two types of discourse. The
first is authoritative discourse, or the tendency to assimilate others discourse
(p. 342) or words. The second type is internally persuasive discourse, which
comes from the person without authority, but with opinions, ideas, and self-
generating insights. He contends that the two types of discourse struggle
dialogically to form a persons consciousness. With the advent of networked
computers, the focus has shifted to a greater emphasis on internally persuasive
discourse, with students working collaboratively as a community of writers,
generating self-directed and substantive electronic discussions, driven more by the
30


social context of student-student interaction rather than teacher-student interaction
(BrufFee, 1993).
Schwartz (1990) argues that electronic discourse can facilitate a genre-
based perspective on audience. He points out that in such exchanges students
learn to write for a real audience of peers, thus encouraging them "to play the
scales of discourse, adjusting language to the reader, the topic, the purpose for
writing, and the image they want to project (p. 17). According to Miller (1996),
computer-mediated communication "may help us finally understand students as
rhetors, communicators for whom genres are not academic forms but effective
social instruments (288). And Schriner and Rice (1989) noted in their research
that students who participated in electronic conferencing knew they had an
audience beyond the teacher and as a result their writing emerged as 'real,'
volunteered, even urgent (p. 475).
Peer-Response Pedagogy
Peer-response groups in which students work in small groups reading and
responding to one anothers papers-in-progress (Brooke et al., 1994; Riel, 1995)
have been hailed as an innovation in writing instruction despite the fact that they
have a long history in American pragmatism (Gere, 1987). Grounded in social
constructivist theory, research on peer-response groups has indicated several
31


benefits, among them, helping students give constructive feedback to one another
through a reciprocal and participatory model of writing (Johnson, 1997). Working
in peer-response groups also increases motivation to perform (Slavin, 1983), leads
to improved interpersonal relations among its members (Johnson & Johnson,
1999). and improves self-esteem (Slavin, 1983). In regard to audience, peer
response helps overcome what Piaget (1932) has termed egocentrism, a persons
failure to perceive other peoples perspectives. Piaget discovered that children
before the age of seven found it difficult to adapt a speech that could be
understood by other children or adults. He also found that 50% of a childs speech
in a play setting is seif-oriented, a kind of vocal expression of inner speech, not
other-directed. While some first-year composition students have already
developed a sophisticated awareness of audience in their discourse, this tends to
be the exception rather than the rule, and an immersion in peer-response
pedagogy can help students increase such awareness.
Vygotsky's (1962) perspective on learning lends further support for the
use of peer-response groups during the writing process in the construction and
negotiation of meaning. In Vygotskian terms, learning is not an individual but
rather a social activity, mediated by social interaction. The true direction of the
development of thinking is not from the individual to the social, but from the
social to the individual (p. 20). Thus, peer-response groups can facilitate writing
32


development by allowing students to construct meaning in the context of social
interaction. Hillocks (1995) agrees, maintaining that through their interactions
with peers, students can move beyond their level of functioning, what Vygotsky
calls the zone of proximal development. And teachers use of peer-response
groups signals their respect for students' knowledge-building capabilities.
In one study. Weinstein and Fantini (1970) identified three concerns
students have about themselves: self-image, disconnectedness, and lack of
control. Peer-response groups can be helpful in all three areas, allowing students
to demonstrate individual strengths, build self-confidence, and take risks. Peer
response helps foster an atmosphere of trust among students and encourages risk-
taking in their writing, expanding their linguistic possibilities and at the same time
building self-esteem.
Sitko (1992) examined the role of student feedback on the effectiveness of
revisions completed by students in five case studies. The author used audiotapes
of student readers as they read essays, and then Sitko analyzed what revisions
writers made based on the feedback. The writers were able to observe the readers
in the act of reading and had access to the audiotapes for later review. Through
this process, students were made aware of the need to examine the structure of
their essays, add information at points where readers need it, and delete text that
was interesting to them but misleading to the readers. Sitko observes that it is
33


important for students to be specific in their comments rather than to respond in
vague terms. Sitkos research suggests that the interaction between readers and
writers during the writing process helps writers to address audience needs.
Students, however, do not always welcome peer response. Ziegel (1995)
conducted a qualitative interview study of the experiences of ten 12th-grade
students in a suburban high school composition class that was grounded in peer-
response pedagogy. The central focus was on improving students sense of
audience. The most strongly voiced theme to emerge from the interview data
concerned students' negative feelings about peer-response groups. When writing
personal narratives, the participants found peer-response groups of little value
except with trusted audiences. Feedback was most frequently sought from
teachers, parents, and trusted friends. Students wished to control how, when, and
with whom they shared information on personal writing. At one level, this may
have been the result of peer dynamics among high school students. My sense is
that college students are less resistant to peer response, especially when they are
writing on social rather than on personal issues.
Newkirk (1984), however, warns that peers can misdirect one another, and
Berkenkotter (1984) found that the benefits of peer commentary were limited or
uncertain. In another study that included 136 first-year college students, Louth,
McAllister, and McAllister (1993) found no significant differences in writing
34


performance between students who worked in groups and students who worked
independendy. However, attitude measures were significantly higher for students
who worked in groups than they were for the students who worked independently.
Peer response does appear to help writers build an increased consideration
for their readers. Many students at the secondary and even the college level still
have difficulty assuming other people's perspectives in their writing (Perry 1970).
In his studies of peer-response groups, Nystrand (1990) concluded that peer
response "concretizes readers for writers.... It heightens writers' awareness of
the balance their texts must strike between their own intentions and their readers'
expectations (p. 17). Through dialogue, students discover something about their
use of language and can clarify their messages by rethinking, reshaping, and
rewriting. At first students may be reluctant to provide peer response, having little
self-confidence in their own writing skills. But through this very process, students
can develop an attitude of trust, discovering the common bond that writers share
and recognizing their interconnectedness. Peer response also increases student
involvement, and it is a widely accepted principle that people learn best when
they are actively involved (Dewey, 1938). In Deweys words, The principle that
development of experience comes about through interaction means that education
is essentially a social process (p. 65). As students share and focus on differences,
35


they begin to be more aware of varieties in content, style, flavor, and diction,
functioning as collaborators in the communication process.
Audience
In this section of the dissertation. I discuss theories of audience in
composition studies as a conceptual framework for how I operationalize the
presence of audience in argument. In my analysis, I rely extensively on Porters
(1992) understanding of audience theory. With a survey of conceptions of
audience from Aristotle to the New Rhetoric, reader-response criticism, and social
constructivism, Porter shows that other disciplinary concerns, as well as cultural
and political trends, influence which notion of audience prevails. Porter advocates
adherence to a social constructivist view in which the audience collaborates with
the writer in various ways throughout the composing process.
One of the hallmarks of critical thinking and thus of good academic
writing is the ability to examine an issue from various perspectives, to take into
account opposing views, to be aware that one is writing not primarily for oneself
but for an audience of readers who have multiple perspectives (Hays, 1983; Hays
& Brandt, 1992; Ryder, Vander Lei, & Roen, 1999). The best way to increase
ones credibility with readers is to acknowledge their likely questions and
concerns and to address them, summarizing readers views fairly (Ramage &
36


Bean, 1998; Rogers, 1961; Toulmin, Rieke, & Janik, 1979). Fundamentally, a
writers obligation is not to create barriers between the writer and reader but
rather to build bridgesto find common ground. As beginning writers, students
in first-year composition have difficulty doing so. largely because they are often
locked in their personal perspectives, viewing the world through a dualistic, right
and wrong lens ( Hays, 1983; Hays. 1992; Perry, 1970). Collaboration during the
writing process helps students consider their audience and thus, presumably, helps
them improve this important aspect of their writing (Handa, 1990; Hartman et al.,
1995).
In classical rhetoric, Aristotle considered audience a key element of the
rhetorical situation (Willey, 1990). Williams (1989) defines rhetoric as the
conscious control of language to bring about an intended effect in an audience
(p. 27). Without an audience, no dialogue is possible. Bakhtin (1986) maintains
that addressivity (p. 95), the quality of turning to someone, is an essential
feature of the utterance; without it, the utterance does not and cannot exist, since
from the very beginning, the utterance is constructed while taking into account
possible responsive reactions, for whose sake, in essence, it is actually created
(p. 94). This view challenges traditional notions of the writer-reader relationship
with the writer as the primary maker of meaning and the reader as passive
recipient. Instead, it situates meaning in the interaction of reader, writer, and text
37


Research on audience includes historical studies (Willard & Brown,
1990), studies of writers sense of audience during the writing process (Moffett,
1968; Dillon, 1981), studies of audience as a discourse community (Enos, 1990;
Mangeisdorf, Roen, & Taylor. 1990; Rafoth, 1990; Roth, 1990), and links
between audience awareness and syntactic and lexical features (Rubin &
OLooney, 1990). This interest in audience is related to the increased focus on
examining composition from a social constructivist perspective (Bruffee, 1986)
and renewed attention to the rhetorical ends of language. According to Johnson
(1997):
The audience has been marginalized by a preponderance of scholarship
that... places the receivers of discourse... at a distance, rendering them
invisible to the writers naked eye. In addition... members of audiences
are not allowed access to the discourse production act; they are only
written or spoken to, not with. (p. 363)
Johnson maintains that audience has not been consistently valued as a central
player in the communicative process.
Audience Defined
The concept of audience is difficult to define and apply. In part, this is due
to the complexity and comprehensiveness of audience as a rhetorical construct
(Porter, 1992). In writing elements as diverse as style, punctuation, or argument,
one inevitably encounters audience theory. The notion of audience is also
38


complicated by the multiplicity of writer-reader relationships. The student who
writes to express herself might envision herself as both the writer and the reader,
with no one else involved (Ryder et ai., 1999). Another reader-writer relationship
is dyadic, with the writer directly addressing a specific person (Rogers. 1961;
Teich. 1992; Young. Becker, & Pike, 1970). A third relationship between writer
and audience is triadic, with the actual reader 'listening in to a written message
that is actually directed to a different audience (Ryder et al 1999). In each case,
the notion of audience shifts ground considerably.
ICroIl (1984) describes three concepts of audience that are influential in
composition theory; rhetorical, informational, and social. A rhetorical
understanding draws from Aristotle, who recommends adapting writing to the
characteristics of the audience. Kroll sees this perspective as limited because it
casts audiences as adversarial and ignores the danger of taking an unsophisticated
view of reader psychology. The second approach frames text as a conveyor of
information that must attend to the difficulties readers have of extracting meaning
from texts. But this model tends to give a mechanistic and reductive account of
text-processing. The third approach views all writing as a social act, requiring a
decentering from the self that allows the writer to take a readers perspective.
Collaborative writing and peer response support this approach pedagogically
(BrufFee, 1993; Porter, 1992).
39


Audience as Passive Recipient
Berlin (1988) identifies four rhetorics directing contemporary practices,
each of which places a different value on the role of audience in discourse: current
traditional, expressivist. neo-Aristotelian, and new rhetorical. Each privileges a
competing notion of audience. Current-traditional rhetoric privileges conventions
of usage and form; expressivists privilege the writers voice"; neo-Aristotelians
privilege the Aristotelian elements of logos, ethos, and pathos; and the new
rhetoricians" privilege situatedness, contextuality. and the notion of writing as a
social act.
From the Western rhetorical tradition, we have inherited a conception of
audience" as a group of real people passively listening to an oral discourse, mere
receivers of the communicators message (Porter, 1992). Two key assumptions
about audience underlying current traditional and expressivist rhetorics are the
notions of audience as physically present and audience as passive. Current-
traditional rhetoric in particular assumes that the writer has a privileged view of
an experience that the audience does not have. While compositionists in this camp
espouse the value of audience awareness, they define such awareness primarily
through the writers conformity to Standard Written English. In this view,
audience needs are addressed by the adherence to conventions of writing and
formalistic principlesclear organization and correct syntax, grammar, usage,
40


and mechanics. The concern for audience has more to do with conventions than
with meaning. Indeed, the assumption is that correct use of conventions
guarantees clear meaning. When current-traditional assumptions underlie the
teaching of audience, the primary focus is on the general rules of literacy and on
the notion of a universal audience (Berlin, 1988).
Expressivists have an even narrower view of audience in writing. While
for current-traditionalists audience is universal, for expressivists, audience is the
self. Indeed. Elbow (1987) contends that in some cases the 'presence' of audience
can even be an impediment to writing, arguing for the benefit of ignoring
audience, at least in the early stages of the writing process:
Its not that writers should never think about their audience. Its a question
of when. An audience is a field force. The closer we comethe more we
think about these readersthe stronger the pull they exert on the contents
of our minds. The practical question, then, is always whether a particular
audience functions as a helpful field of force or one that confuses or
inhibits us. (p. 51)
Clearly, neither current-traditionalists nor expressivists privilege audience.
Expressivists disdain audience; current-traditionalists see its value only through a
focus on formalist structures. In spite of significant differences between these two
camps on other theoretical issues, on the issue of audience, these seemingly
disparate rhetorics have this much in common.
41


Porter (1992) is critical of the current-traditional approach to audience,
labeling it as 'managerial (p. 41). As an example, he points to the Flower and
Hayes (1981) model of audience analysis. In this model, audience is not a
participator in the development of content or knowledge. Instead, content is
between the writer and the subject matter, and audience enters in later, in the
revision phase, rather than co-determining the direction of the text from the start.
Knowledge of audience is applied to adapt an already existing position, to make
more accessible a position already determined. The model does not ignore
audience, but regards it as a passive receptor, a theoretical stance that Porter finds
problematic.
Audience as Co-Constructor of Knowledge
The current-traditional and expressivist approaches to rhetoric were
challenged by the rediscovery of classical rhetoric and the consequent emergence
of the neo- Aristotelians and the new rhetoric (Berlin, 1982). These rhetorical
approaches fostered a greater focus on audience not in terms of formal principles
and conventions of writing but in terms of rhetorical, contextual, and situational
principles. Rhetoric cannot neglect audience because the audience provides the
basic premises from which any argument must proceed (Perelman, 1982). To
argue effectively, then, the writer must have a sense of audience, an
42


understanding of readers as socially and culturally situated. Porter (1992) thus
argues against the early classical rhetorical tradition we have inherited, in which
audience is primarily a receiver of the writers message. In the view of social
constructivists, audience is determined by the particular social context and
cultural exigencies in which the writer operates (Eldred & Hawisher. 1995;
Handa. 1990; Long. 1990). According to Porter, The audience is a discourse
community constraining, defining and in effect creating the writer (p. 83). In a
sense, the audience helps construct the text through collaboration with the writer
during the composing process. Audience is not a passive receptor of information
but rather a co-constructor of ideas in the writing process. Meaning cannot
emerge from text without an active process of construction, a process in which the
reader is as much an agent of construction as is the writer. Indeed, Porter (1998)
maintains that
[t]he rhetoric that constructs the audience as a passive receiver of the
message determined by the author and that talks only to the rhetor about
strategies for changing the audience over to his [or her] point of view is a
rhetoric of domination. The rhetoric that constructs the audience as an
interlocutor, as a source of knowledge, and as a necessary participant in
the construction of discourse is a rhetoric of democratization, (pp. 67-68)
Reader-Response Theory
A parallel to the social view of audience in composition studies is reader
response theory in literary studies. Reader response theorists, who focus on
43


published literary works rather than on students' compositions, recognize
audience as meaning-makers, acknowledging the multiple nature of audience and
the presence of audience in the text (Fish, 1980; Porter, 1992). For them, meaning
is not locked in the text but is a result of interaction between the text and the
reader, with the reader constructing meaning through the act of reading. Meanings
are multiple and various, existing not in the text or in the "form, but in the
readers construction of meaning. They challenge the text-based view of readers,
arguing instead for a convergence between text and reader, with the reader acting
as an "actively mediating presence (Fish, 1980, p. 23).
Porter (1992) denies the notion that text can be understood or defined in
isolation; "The traditional notion of the text as the single work of a given author,
and even the very notion of author and reader, are regarded as simply convenient
fictions for domesticating discourse (p. 68). Texts not only refer to but also
contain other texts. Even the youngest reader knows that "Once upon a time
signals the opening of a fictional narrative. In another example. Porter points out
that Jefferson was a skilled writer, but chiefly because he was an effective
borrower of tracesthe Declaration was constructed from bits and pieces of other
textswhich came, in a sense, from the very audience Jefferson addressed. The
same process of "intertextuality (p. 68) is true to a degree for composition
students in a collaborative, constructivist classroom. This intertext exerts its
44


influence partly in terms of audience expectations and community conventions.
The papers that students write in composition classes rely on real readers to have
some of the characteristics, or at least the essential ones, of implied readers
presupposed by the texts. Audience is thus responsible, along with writer, for the
"production'' of text. In the reader response view, readers, along with writers,
construct discourse.
Jonassen (1998) describes several qualities of constructive learning:
active, cumulative, integrative, reflective, and goal-directed. Students process
information meaningfully, build on prior learning, and elaborate on new
knowledge, relating it to their current knowledge. They reflect on what they know
and assess what they need to know. From a constructivist perspective, an
important goal for learners is to recognize that multiple perspectives exist on any
problem or idea (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Duffy et al., 1998). Cooper (1989)
suggests that writing is an activity through which a person is continually engaged
with a variety of socially constructed systems (p. 6), a line of reasoning that
supports the importance of audience in writing and the role that peer response
plays in its development. This community view of audience holds that a writers
understanding of audience is shaped by the writers participating in a discourse
community and by reading the texts of the community. In similar fashion, readers
45


use their knowledge of the communitys conventions and culture to construct
textual meaning (Bartholomae, 1985; Rafoth, 1988).
But what is the source of a writers ability to envision audience? Does it
emerge from writers experience with real world readers or with text? Kroll
(1978) points to two goals of research on audience: to specify what a speaker or
writer does in being aware of audience... [and] to chart how this awareness
develops, since it is obvious that mature audience awareness does not emerge full
blown" (p. 271). In this regard, the question of contextual factors such as face-to-
face and online peer response in facilitating students ability to inscribe audience
in their discourse is one that this research study explores.
Audience Invoked and Addressed
Ede and Lunsford (1984) describe two divergent theories of audience: One
posits that writers address a real audience, the audience addressed; the other, a
theory proposed by Ong (1975), maintains that the audience is a fiction, a
function of signals or cues given in the text, or the audience invoked. Ong
argues that writers project an audience onto their text through style and voice as a
way of prompting an imagined audience to respond in a desired way. He contends
that texts are not written for real readers; rather, writers create fictional
audiences to which real audiences adapt. Ongs point is that the writer imagines a
46


reader and then addresses that imagined construct. Hashimoto (1999) is skeptical,
however, that we can really know what imagined readers want or need.
Yet in the collaborative writing classroom, the imagined construct can be
informed by the interaction of writers during peer-response sessions and the
resulting feedback they get from one another. Peers can take on the role of the
"imagined" audience and help one another address that audience's needs, entering
into a dialogue with writers and providing feedback to them. As Cooper (1989)
notes, writers
leam to employ the devices of audience-adapted writing by handing their
texts to colleagues to read and respond to, by revising articles or memos or
reports guided by comments from editors and superiors, by reading others
summaries or critiques of their own writing, (p. 11)
Cooper thus represents a social view of audience based on writers knowing their
readers through actual encounters and receiving feedback from them. She argues
that writers not only analyze or invent audience, they, more significantly,
communicate and know their audiences (pp. 10-11). In the writing classroom,
these are the members of the discourse community with whom writers discuss
texts-in-progress. These members are not only addressed as audiencethey also
contribute to the construction of meaning in the text through the feedback they
provide, bringing with them particular attitudes, values, and ideologies. The
47


question this study addresses is whether online interaction enables an actual
encounter or whether such an encounter requires face-to-face interaction.
Ede and Lunsford (1984) contend that both views of the addressed and the
invoked audience distort the dynamic element of rhetorical situations and the
interdependence of reading and writing. Both senses of audience must be
understood within the larger rhetorical situation, either pointing toward a fictional
audience implied by the text itself or pointing toward real people with a set of
beliefs and expectations. Cooper (1989), however, maintains that the conception
of audience delineated by Ede and Lunsford, the distinction between audience
invoked and audience addressed, varies little. Whether an audience is invoked or
addressed, in both cases it is the writers linguistic construct.
Selzer (1992) points out that even though we may want to distinguish
between readers invoked by the writer, readers in the text, and actual readers,
these constructs of readers have blurred lines of distinction. All three interact in
the construction of meaning. He further argues that there is no generic Real
Reader, only temporal and situated real readers of various abilities and
motivations and backgrounds who exist in differing and dynamic relationships to
the text they are working with (p. 172). In Brandts (1990) words, Writer and
reader must contemplate each other into existence within the confines of a text
world (p. 71), accomplishing understanding together.
48


More recently, Lunsford and Ede (1996) have revisited their earlier views
on audience. They still resist efforts to characterize audience as solely textual
(invoked) or material (addressed) and affirm the importance of considering
audience in the context of the rhetorical situation (p. 170). However, in their
current view on audience, they recognize students lack of power and freedom in
some rhetorical situations.
[W]e [did] not pursue the multiple ways in which the student writers
agency and identity may be shaped and constrained not only by immediate
audiences but also, and even more forcefully, by the ways in which both
she and those audiences are positioned within larger institutional and
discursive frameworks. ... That a student might find herself full of
contradiction and conflict, might find the choices available to her as a
writer confusing and even cripplingmight in fact find it difficult, even
undesirable, to claim the identity of writerdid not occur to us. (pp.
170-171)
While Lunsford and Ede do not reject their earlier views on audience, they now
see them in the larger context of social embeddedness, including not only the
ways audience can enable but also silence writers and readers (p. 170),
particularly students who do not have equal access to the resources of language
and who have historically been marginalized in the academic arena.
Empirical Studies on Audience
While much has been written about composition theory, empirical
research on how one actually assesses students sense of audience in their
49


discourse is more limited. Canilio (1990) examined 13 ESL students' perceptions
of their level of audience awareness. Survey results indicated that the students
sense of audience reflected a current-traditional conception of writing, viewing
the teacher as the primary reader. Students assumed that the teacher was chiefly
concerned with structure, clarity, and correctness, and that these concerns were
best met by using the standard conventions of discourse: introductions, topic
sentences, transitions, and conclusions. As a result, students often aimed for safe
and clean" writing rather than meaningful and rhetorically effective writing. One
way to combat this tendency is to shift students gaze from the teacher as the sole
audience to their peers as audiencea process that can be effectively facilitated
through peer-response groups (Brooke et ai., 1994).
Kuhlemeier and van den Bergh (1997) found that, of 36 instructional
characteristics in teaching writing, effective ones included writing for a specific
purpose and tailoring to a particular audience. Black (1989) found that students
who could envision an audience wrote stronger arguments and conveyed more
persuasive ideas. But research on the efficacy of teaching audience awareness is
mixed. A study by Redd-Boyd and Slater (1989) examined the effects of
assigning an audience on college students attitudes, composing strategies, and
persuasive writing. Eighty-seven students in an intermediate composition course
took a writing pre-test without an assigned audience. Then, they were randomly
50


assigned to post-test conditions, including (a) an assigned reader, and (d) no
assigned reader. Redd-Boyd and Slater found that assigning an audience had a
limited effect on the assigned readers scores and no significant effect on the
teachers* scores. However, the survey and interview data indicated that assigning
an audience did increase students' interest, effort, and use of audience-based
strategies. In addition, students who reported that they had thought of someone
like the assigned reader were twice as likely to persuade the assigned reader than
students who had not.
Kroll (1984) completed a study evaluating junior high school students
egocentrism and their sense of audience in essays, using a six-point scale
developed by Myers (1980). Kroll used context-creating elements, which included
a problem statement and a purpose statement. In his results, Kroll notes the
tendency of children, perhaps because of their limited experiences with rhetorical
strategies, to over-emphasize emotional appeal, an approach contrary to effective
audience awareness.
Droge (1991) examined how college students revise as a result of written
peer response. An analysis of survey results from the students at the end of the
course indicated that they perceived the written peer review process as improving
their sense of audience. However, no control group was used. Additionally,
students were not allowed to exchange feedback with one another orally, and this
51


created an artificial condition that puts into question any conclusions one might
draw from the study.
Walker (1992) conducted an experimental study to examine the effect of
instruction and practice that emphasized audience adaptation skills on eighth
graders' level of writing achievement and their awareness of writing for an
audience. Twenty instructional groups, each consisting of a teacher and
approximately 25 students, were systematically assigned to two groups, an
experimental group that completed 15 lessons focusing on the development of
audience consideration skills and a comparison group that completed parallel
lessons that did not consider audience. The experimental group exhibited a
significant increase in writing achievement while the change for the comparison
group was not significant. However, the study did not make clear what features of
students' prose made improvement in audience consideration evident.
Me Alexander (1996) identified four subskills in audience awareness: the
ability to execute text clearly, to develop content adequately, to understand and
respect readers' perspectives, and to predict readers responses. McAlexander
maintains that development writers lack these particular subskills, and thus need
strengthening in their awareness of audience. Crowhurst and Piches (1979) study
of syntactic complexity in writing examined audience, mode of discourse, and age
as variables. Accommodation to audience was greatest in the argumentative
52


mode. They theorize that writing argument is more likely to require a sense of
audience on the part of the writer than does narrative or expository writing. And
Rafoth (1985), based on an analysis of 50 proficient and 50 non-proficient student
writers, found that proficient writers were more likely to take advantage of
audience information and respond with appropriate textual cues to evoke that
audience.
Audience in Argument
Kinneavy (1971) identified four primary "aims" of writing: expressive,
expository, literary, and argumentative. Expressive discourse emphasizes the
writer; expository discourse emphasizes the information to be conveyed; literary
discourse emphasizes the medium of language; and argumentative discourse, the
genre focus of audience in this study, emphasizes the reader. In practice, these
aims of writing overlap, but it is nonetheless clear that some aims require a
greater attention to audience than do others. Indeed, Porter (1992) contends that
all discourse is argument in the sense that all discourse works to effect the
adherence of the audience. Emmel, Resch and Tenney (1996) define argument as
a genre that comprises three essential and intertwined moments of linguistic
connection among members of a community taking part in a dialogue involving
differences of opinion (p. xii). These essential elements include (a) an issue that
53


leads to differing positions, (b) a set of values or assumptions that underlie the
positions taken, and (c) the use of reasoning to understand how values and
positions are connected.
To a degree, a writers sense of audience comes from genre knowledge,
familiarity with the rhetorical conventions required in a particular context and
situation. Thus, in argumentative discourse, a writers sense of audience emerges
in large part from the writers understanding of argument as genre. Berkenkotter
and Huckin (1993) define genre knowledge as inherently dynamic rhetorical
structures that embrace both form and content, including a sense of what content
is appropriate to a particular purpose in a particular situation at a particular time
(p. 478). Just as genre helps a writer create meaning, so too genre helps a reader
(reconstruct meaning. Gerhart (1992) suggests that genre helps readers to
organize their responses to the text and to recognize the understanding toward
which the conventions of the text appear to be directed. Through their knowledge
of argument as genre and their experience of internalizing and generalizing the
reactions of specific readers responses, students can begin to develop a sense of
how readers are likely to respond to their text. According to Culler (1980), it is
the writers experience of reading, the writers notion of what readers can and
will do that enables the author to write, for to intend meanings is to assume a
system of conventions and to create signs within the perspective of that system
54


(p. 50). An understanding of argument as genre thus mediates between the writer,
the reader, and the text, in part constructing the rhetorical situation.
Part of the difficulty with assessing students level of audience awareness
in their prose can be resolved by considering the assumptions underlying the
purposes of argument. Historically, the term argument has referred to the rational,
logical, non-emotional reasoning processes involved in persuasive writing, often
associated with an agonistic strategy of persuasion (Joliffe, 1996). In this view,
Joliffe states. "An argument is seen as something that involves a proponent,
armed with a thesis, and an opponent (p. 14), something that can be won with
evidence or proofs that are better than the opponents.
Compositionists have distanced themselves from a purely combative
approach to argument, fearing that it shuts off dialogue between writer and reader,
especially on issues involving strong values and beliefs. The goal has been to
foster in the writing classroom a view of argument as understanding rather than as
difference, emphasizing inquiry over conflict. In a textbook on argument, Gage
(1991) states, I have treated argument here as a matter of finding and presenting
the best possible reasons you can for your readers understanding and assent, and
not as a matter of trying to win your case by overpowering the opposition
(pp. vii-viii). If the goal of the writer is to win, then the writer will use
strategies that may include manipulation, distortion of information, and an effort
55


to show why the writers view is correct (Young et al., 1970). If, on the other
hand, the writers goal is to establish cooperation between the writer and reader,
motivated by a desire to eliminate or at least diminish differences in viewpoints,
then the writer will use strategies to build trust, to build bridges between the
writer and the reader. The point of education, according to Rorty (1982), is for
students to have "interesting conversations with one another," and the point of the
conversations is not to seek Truth but just to bind us together (p. 11).
While both Aristotles (1932) rhetoric and Toulmins (1958) model of
argument, a modem permutation of Aristotelian rhetoric, are associated with an
agonistic strategy of persuasion, LeFevre (1987) maintains otherwise. She argues
that Aristotle's focus on logos, ethos, and pathos is not intended as a combative
approach to argument but, rather, reflects the audiences participation in the
construction of the argument. Logos refers to the logical argument set out in a
text, ethos to the presentation of the writer as a trustworthy character, and pathos
to the emotional effect created by the text on the audience. According to LeFevre,
Aristotles audience is actively involved in building the argument in that the
rhetor must look to the audience to supply the premises of the enthymeme on
which the argument rests (p. 45).
Unlike the Aristotelian method of beginning with premises and syllogizing
about the conclusion, the Toulmin model begins with a claim the writer makes.
56


The Toulmin model is most valued for its conceptual framework of critical links
between claims, reasons, assumptions, backing, qualifiers, and rebuttal (Ramage
& Bean, 1998). Readers can challenge the claim and demand to have their
attention drawn to the grounds on which the merits of the claim depend. In the
Aristotelian approach, the writer moves from premises to a conclusion; in the
Toulmin approach, the writer moves from a conclusion (claim) to premises that
can then support it.
Features of both Aristotle's rhetoric and Toulmin's model of argument are
commonly taught in composition classes, but a third view of rhetoric that in
particular fosters a view of argument as understanding rather than as difference is
articulated by Rogers (1961). A psychotherapist rather than a compositionist by
profession, Rogers has nonetheless had a significant impact on argument theory,
with views much in line with constructivist thinking as well as feminist
composition theory (Joliffe, 1996). What has become known as Rogerian rhetoric
is essentially a strategy for defusing a skeptical audience, an audience whose
skepticism often emerges, Rogers believes, from a sense of feeling threatened. In
such a situation, Rogers advises writers to seek strategies for reducing threat,
mainly by understanding the readers position and accommodating that position in
the text. This is a particularly difficult conceptual move for first-year composition
students. They often want to forge ahead in argument with their own positions,
57


'demanding agreement from a dissenting audience rather than seeking common
ground. Peer-response groups, both through face-to-face and computer-mediated
interaction, facilitate students moving beyond intransigence to a greater
awareness of audience (Hartman et al., 1995; Hays, 1992; Lunsford & Ede, 1996).
According to Young et al. (1970), who introduced Rogerian rhetoric to
composition studies.
The writer who uses the Rogerian strategy attempts to do three things: (a)
to convey to the reader that he is understood, (b) to delineate the area
within which he believes the readers position to be valid, and (c) to
induce him to believe that he and the writer share similar moral qualities
(honesty, integrity, and good will) and aspirations (the desire to discover a
mutually acceptable situation, (p. 275)
In many composition classes studying argument, students are introduced to all
three approaches to argumentAristotelian, Toulminian, and Rogeriansince
each has its particular strengths and may be appropriate within particular contexts
of situated discourse. Ail three methods require a focus on audience, and all three,
therefore, are represented in the audience awareness rubric developed for this
study (Appendixes A and B). Rogerian rhetoric, however, is most closely aligned
with constructivist, social-epistemic principles, in which this study is theoretically
grounded, and thus is the primary lens through which the analysis of audience
presence in students argumentative texts is examined in the following chapters
of this dissertation.
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Fundamentally, the multiple theories of audience are grounded in different
epistemic beliefs. The theory of audience on which the research in this study is
grounded views audience as a co-participator in the creation of ideas rather than
as a passive recipient of text. In the case of the composition classroom, students
co-construct arguments through their ongoing conversations and discussions, both
face-to-face and online, during the writing process, particularly through peer-
response groups. Through the discourse communities in which peer-response
groups are situated, students work together in their production of argumentative
texts. Argument thus becomes not only a vehicle for persuasion but for
understanding and consensus-building.
Summary
This literature review has examined discourse communities and the use of
peer-response groups within the framework of a constructivist epistemology,
collaborative learning, and computer-mediated communication for students'
construction of audience in argumentative texts. The social epistemic
understanding of audience comes closest to recognizing the complex nature of
audience, the dynamic interaction of the writers imagined readers, the textually
constituted readers, and the actual readers, who may be multiple and varied.
Social construction learning theory informs collaborative learning as a
59


pedagogical method and computer-mediated communication as a pedagogical
tool; and they, in turn, foster the development of discourse communities and
shape the practice of peer response, a support structure for assisting students in
developing a heightened sense of audience in their writing. Figure 1 (p. 11)
provides my conceptual model of how these elements are linked and interact
within a constructivist framework.
In the final analysis, writing classes, whether onsite or online, should be
places where writers can collaborate and interact with real readers. Through such
interactions, students increase their understanding of how readers will react to
their texts (Reiff, 1996). The question is whether this understanding differs in an
online and an onsite composition class. To what degree do these two contexts
shape a writers mental construct of audience? I pursue this question further in the
following chapters of this dissertation.
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CHAPTER THREE
METHODOLOGY
One of the hallmarks of critical thinking and thus of good academic
writing is students' ability to inscribe audience in their discourse (Lunsford &
Ede, 1996: Porter, 1992; Trimble, 2000). This ability to examine an issue from
various perspectives is particularly difficult for college students enrolled in
beginning composition classes (Kroll. 1984; Olson. 1994; Perry. 1970). The
objective of this study was to examine differences between onsite and online
students in their perceptions of collaborative learning and their treatment of
audience in the construction of argumentative texts. Both groups used the same
technology and were grounded in collaborative learning and peer-response
pedagogy; both groups had the same syllabus (Appendix C), the same writing
assignments, and the same instructor, experienced in teaching composition in the
onsite networked and online environments. The experimental variable between
groups was the absence of face-to-face interaction among the online students.
Onsite students gave one another oral and computer-mediated feedback on
papers-in-progress. Online students were limited to computer-mediated feedback
on texts-in-progress, without face-to-face interaction.
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Research Design
This study used a post-test-only control group design, represented in Table
3.1, with students randomly assigned (Campbell & Stanley, 1963).
Table 3.1
Research Design
Random Assignment Treatment Posttest
Experiment Group R X O
Control Group R O
The independent variable was the instructional delivery method, and the values
defining it were (a) the onsite writing class and (b) the online writing class. The
dependent variables were (a) sense of belonging to a discourse community; (b)
perceived value of belonging to a discourse community; (c) perceived benefits of
peer-response feedback on texts-in-progress; (d) preferred peer-response
mediumoral/face-to-face or written/online; and (e) audience awareness in
students' post-treatment argumentative texts. Audience awareness was
operationalized as comprising six rhetorical traits: exigency, empirical support,
logical appeal, ethical appeal, emotional appeal, and treatment of opposing views.
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Research Questions. Variables, and Statistical Measures
Following is a table delineating the research questions, the independent
variables, the dependent variables, and the statistical measures used in the study.
Table 3.2
Research Questions. Variables, and Statistical Measures
Research Question In a comparison of students in an onsite networked writing class and students in an online writing class, Independent Variables Dependent Variable Statistical Measures
1. Does a significant Onsite Group Sense of l.MANOVA on all
difference exist in and Belonging to a four attitude
students' sense of Online Group Discourse constructs in
belonging to a discourse community? Community collaboration survey. 2. Then, ANOVA, if warranted.
2. Does a significant Onsite Group Perceived Value l.MANOVA on all
difference exist in and of Belonging to a four attitude
students' valuing a sense Online Group Discourse constructs in
of belonging to a discourse community? Community collaboration survey. 2. Then, ANOVA, if warranted.
3. Does a significant Onsite Group Perceived 1. MANOVA on all
difference exist in and Benefits of Peer- four attitude
perceived benefits of peer- Online Group Response constructs in
response feedback? Feedback collaboration survey. 2. Then, ANOVA, if warranted.
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Table 3.2 (Cont)
Research Question Independent Variables Dependent Variable Statistical Measures
4. Does a significant difference exist in students preferred medium for peer responseoral/face-to- face or written/online? Onsite Group and Online Group Preference for Peer-Response Medium 1. MANOVA on all four attitude constructs in collaboration survey. 2. Then, ANOVA, if warranted.
5. Does a significant difference exist in students' level of audience awareness in their writing? Onsite Group and Online Group Audience inscription MANOVA on ail six audience inscribed traits; then, ANOVA on individual traits, if warranted.
6. What is the correlation between students' sense of belonging to a discourse community and their level of audience awareness in their writing? Sense of Belonging Score and Audience Awareness Score Correlation Between Sense of Belonging Score & Audience Awareness Score Pearsons Product- Moment Correlation
7. What is the correlation between perceived benefits of peer response and students level of audience awareness in their writing? Valuing Peer Feedback Score and Audience Awareness Score Correlation Between Valuing Peer Feedback Score & Audience Awareness Score Pearsons Product- Moment Correlation
8. What is the correlation between students writing skill and their level of audience awareness in their writing? Instructors Essay Assessment and Audience Awareness Score Correlation Between Instructors Essay Assessment and Audience Awareness Score Pearsons Product- Moment Correlation
64


In response to the research questions, I posit the following hypotheses:
HI. No significant difference exists between groups in students sense of
belonging to a discourse community.
H2. No significant difference exists between groups in perceived value of
belonging to a discourse community.
H3. No significant difference exists between groups in perceived benefits of
peer feedback on texts-in-progress.
H4. No significant difference exists between groups in the preferred medium
for peer feedbackoral/face-to-face or written/online.
H5. No significant difference exists between groups in their level of audience
awareness.
H6. No statistically significant correlation exists between students sense of
belonging to a discourse community and their level of audience
awareness.
H7. No statistically significant correlation exists between students perceived
benefits of peer feedback and their level of audience awareness.
H8. No statistically significant correlation exists between students' writing
skill and their level of audience awareness.
An alpha level of .05 was used to establish statistical significance for all tests.
Recruitment Procedure
Recruitment of students to participate in the study began in February 2000.
I visited the Composition I classes to let students know about the opportunity to
participate in this research study during the fall 2000 semester. I also posted flyers
65


on campus and made the information available on the Writing Program Web site.
Enrollment began in May and continued through the census date in early
September, the last day to add or drop classes with no financial penalty. The
enrollment cap for the class was set at 44, and my aim, therefore, was to recruit 44
volunteers and to randomly assign them either to the onsite or the online group.
Stratified Random Blocking Procedure
Students were volunteers enrolled in Composition II (English 141) who
agreed to participate in the research study (Appendix D). Letters to 44 students
enrolled by August 1 were sent, informing them of their random assignment. The
assignments were made based on a stratified random blocking procedure to ensure
similarities between groups in regard to grade point average and year of studies
(Crowl, 1996). Grade point average and class status are both predictors of writing
proficiency (Hayes et al., 1992; Zhao, 1999), of which audience awareness, a
dependent variable, is an important element (Porter, 1992; Trimble, 2000). The
data on grade point average and class status were gathered from the Student
Information System, the university database for student demographics.
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Dropout Attrition Between Groups
During the interim from August 1 when letters informing students of their
group assignment were sent until September 7, the last day to add or drop class
without financial penalty, two onsite students were administratively disenroiled,
as was one online student, and three online students chose to disenroll. Of the two
onsite students, one failed to complete the prerequisite Composition I course
successfully during the summer of 2000 and therefore was dropped from the
study: the other had completed the course in the summer of 2000 and neglected to
disenroll from the study in a timely manner. Of the four online students, one had
missed the deadline for tuition payment; a second withdrew completely from the
University; and two students had heavier workloads than expected.
It was at this point that I used a decision rule based on date and time of
enrollment for assigning students to the openings that became available as a result
of the drops. The first additional student to enroll was assigned to the onsite class,
the second to the online class, and so on, in alternating fashion. As a result of
these additions and still further drops from the study after the census date, the
grade point average and the class status of students determined by stratified
blocking in early August underwent something of a transformation as the
semester evolved.
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Table 3.3 indicates enrollment status in the study at the time of random
stratified blocking, at census date, and at the end of the semester.
Table 3.3
Mean Grade Point Average and Class Status of Study Participants
Date Group N GPAM Year l Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Random Onsite 22 2.98 12 6 2 2
Assign Date. 8/1 Online 22 2.84 15 2 2 3
Census Onsite 23 3.00 13 7 1 2
Date 9/7 Online 22 3.03 13 2 J 4
Semester Onsite 20 3.02 12 5 1 2
end 12/15 Online 16 3.18 8 2 3 3
Note. Through an administrative error, one student in the onsite group was over-
enrolled at the census date.
For the 36 participants who underwent the study treatment, no significant
difference emerged between groups in grade point average, F = (1,34) = .505, p <
.482, or in numbers of first- and second-year students versus third- and fourth-
year students, x2 (1* N = 36) = 2.40, p < .121.
Nine students dropped the class after the census date, three from the onsite
group (one first-year student and two second-year students) and six from the
online group (five first-year students and one fourth-year student). All nine
students were asked if their action was connected to the technology used or to any
68


other course-related factor. Only one student of the nine, an onsite student, cited
the need to attend the on-campus class regularly as the reason for withdrawing
from the study. Nonetheless, a disproportionate number of students who dropped
the class were in the online group, supporting previous research on the dropout
phenomenon in distance education (Meritosis & Phipps, 1999).
By the end of the semester, the onsite group comprised 20 students and the
online group 16 students. The large number of first-year students who dropped the
online class resulted in an uneven number of first-year students between groups.
However, the correlation between class status and treatment of audience in
students' texts was virtually non-existent, r =.003 (g<.988), suggesting that class
status was not a factor in students ability to inscribe audience in their writing.
To confirm population validity (Bracht & Glass, 1968), I compared grade
point average and class status of participants with those of all students enrolled in
English 141 during the term of this study.
Table 3.4
Mean Grade Point Average and Class Status of Study Participants and All English
141 Fall 2000 Students
Group GPA Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
N % N % N % N %
Study (N=36) 3.09 21 58% 7 18% 4 11% 5 13%
All (N=260) 2.93 105 40% 72 28% 38 15% 45 17%
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No significant difference emerged between the study group and the larger English
141 population in grade point average, F = (1, 292) = 2.508, g < .114, or in
numbers of first- and second-year students versus third- and fourth-year students,
r(l.N = 296) = 2.227, g < 136.
Participants
Participants in the present study (N = 36) were students enrolled in a
second-semester required composition course at a mid-size state university in the
western part of the United States. Participants were primarily first-year students,
but the population also included second-, third-, and fourth-year students who had
postponed completing their composition requirement. Mean age of onsite students
was 26. Mean age of online students was 24. The onsite group comprised 14
women and 6 men. The online group comprised 11 women and 5 men. Analysis
of variance of demographic interval data and chi square analysis of demographic
nominal data revealed no significant differences between groups in terms of age,
gender, or any other demographics gathered through the collaborative learning
survey (Appendix E) except in the area of competency using FirstClass software,
the course technology. Online students felt significantly more competent using
FirstClass than did onsite students, F (1,34) = 7.158, g < .011.
70


Class Pedagogy
To get a better sense of the day-to-day interactions of students in both
groups, I attended the classes for the onsite group and also reviewed the FirstClass
conferences for both groups each week. As a passive observer, I was essentially
invisible to the onsite and online students, but my observations gave me an insight
into the day-to-day pedagogy and interactions that took place in both groups.
The objective of the course was to improve students* critical, analytical,
and argumentative skills in thinking and in writing. Students wrote four
argumentative texts of 1.000 to 1,200 words and a longer research paper. With
each writing assignment, students went through the cycle of determining their
purpose and their audience, planning, inventing, drafting, revising, and editing
their work before they submitted a final draft for review to the instructor. Students
also had the option of revising a submitted draft based on the instructor's
feedback if they chose to do so. Of particular importance to this study during this
iterative process were the peer-response sessions in which students engaged.
Working in groups of three, students read one anothers texts-in-progress and
provided feedback to one another. Students were randomly assigned to peer-
response groups by the instructor, rotating groups throughout the semester. In this
way, students had the opportunity to establish relationships with a greater number
of their peers (Brooke et al., 1994), forming a community of learners. Students in
71


the onsite class gave one another feedback both through oral and through
computer-mediated interaction. Students in the online class conducted all their
peer-response sessions exclusively online. In both cases, students received written
comments from their peers on texts-in-progress, but only the onsite students
received oral/face-to-face feedback. For each peer-response session, the instructor
distributed a handout with a series of prompts as a guide (Appendix F). Students
were also encouraged to generate their own prompts in response to the drafts they
read.
The Technology
Hiltz (1994) notes three basic principles that instructors should observe in
online teaching: (a) media richnessto compensate for the lack of voice and
gestures, (b) timely responsiveness to students online queries, and (c) a high level
of interaction. The course instructor in this study met all three of these conditions
through a creative use of FirstClass, a platform-independent communication and
conferencing tool that facilitates students ability to collaborate with peers and to
engage in the various stages of the writing process, both synchronously and
asynchronously. According to SoftArc, the vendor of FirstClass software, faculty
are using FirstClass to publish course materials, moderate class discussions, and
engage students minds in ways that simply are not possible with other
72


products(2001). Because Composition II is a second-semester writing course,
most students were already familiar with using FirstClass technology. Students in
both groups were able to access FirstClass, and thus their electronic class space,
both from home computers and from campus lab computers.
The onsite students met twice a week in a computer classroom equipped
with 24 networked PC workstations. While students* desks are traditionally
arranged in rows for listening to the instructor rather than for student participation
and interaction, in the onsite networked classroom the computers were arranged
around the perimeter of the room, with comfortable chairs on rollers that allowed
students to swing towards the center of the room for whole group discussions and
for peer-response sessions or other small group workshops.
For both onsite and online students, the virtual learning environment
consisted of several conferences where students engaged in computer-mediated
interactions. These included the Handout conference, where the instructor
provided students with a repository of course materials; the Tum-in conference, a
one-way virtual mailbox where students could deposit assignments for instructor
review; and six workshop conferences, read-and-write spaces where students
could engage in threaded discussions, exchange works-in-progress, and complete
various interactive, collaborative writing tasks. Each conference was represented
by an icon that acted as a metaphor for the conferences central purpose. To take
73


the place of face-to-face discussion, the online group had one additional
conference, a Roundtable that consisted of an instructor prompt, usually related
to a concept or rhetorical strategy under discussion for that week, to which
students then responded asynchronously in conversational style. Additionally,
students had access to a synchronous discussion conference for real-time
interactions with their instructor and their peers.
Instruments
The first instrument used in the study was the collaborative learning
survey (Appendix E) that measured students post-treatment attitudes towards
four collaborative learning constructs (these constructs emerged from a pilot study
for this research, which I discuss in Appendix G): (a) sense of belonging to a
discourse community; (b) perceived value of belonging to a discourse community;
(c) perceived benefits of peer-response feedback; and (d) preferred medium for
peer responseoral/face-to-face or written/online. Eight survey items represented
each construct. In addition, the survey instrument included 24 demographic
questions. While some of the items were adapted from the Flashlight Project
Inventory (Ehrmann & Zuniga, 1997), a validated set of survey items for use by
researchers on computer-mediated communication in colleges and universities, a
review of existing instruments revealed no instruments that measure precisely the
74


specific constructs this study examined, thus necessitating the development of the
survey items for this study.
The second instrument was the audience awareness rubric (Appendix A),
used in this study to measure students* ability to inscribe or to represent audience
in argumentative discourse. Several researchers (Canilio. 1990; Hays & Brandt,
1992: Walker. 1987) have developed instruments to measure writers' level of
audience awareness, but for my purposes these instruments have the limitation of
not being grounded in social epistemic theory. I therefore developed the audience
awareness instrument used for this study.
Post-treatment papers were coded using a random numerical coding
system and were assessed by three experienced compositionists. Neither the
course instructor nor I was a reader of the post-treatment papers. The readers first
completed a "norming of the papers (Elbow, 1996) that was conducted until a
.90 level of inter-rater reliability was achieved (Cronbach, 1970; Crowl. 1996). If
readers were apart by two or more numbers in their scoring, readers re-examined
their scores until they came to closer agreement. The level of inter-rater reliability
considered minimally acceptable in direct assessment is .70 (Cooper, 1977). The
ratings in this study proved highly reliable, with scores for each of the six
audience awareness traits at .90 or higher, as Table 3.S indicates.
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Table 3.5
Inter-Rater Reliability Among Three Experienced. Trained Readers
Audience Awareness Trait Reliability
Establishment of Purpose d = .9073
Empirical Support d = .9025
Logical Appeal d = .9173
Ethical Appeal 5 =.9175
Emotional Appeal a = .9127
Treatment of Opposing Views a = .9139
The readers assessed the papers based on a six-item rubric, using a
primary-trait criterion-referenced scale (Walvoord & Anderson. 1998) that ranged
from one (very deficient) to six (very proficient). Odd-numbered scales have the
disadvantage of a midpoint, an easy way out for readers confronted with papers
clustered around the center. An even-numbered scale forces a choice and thus
more deliberation about mid-range papers (White, 1985). The traits represent six
elements important to audience in argument, the genre focus of the composition
course in which the students were enrolled: (a) exigency, (b) empirical support,
(c) logical appeal, (d) ethical appeal, (e) emotional appeal, and (f) treatment of
opposing views.
While a sense of audience is reflected not only in the writers rhetorical
choices but also in organizational and linguistic decisions, I chose to limit my
focus to rhetorical choices, based on a combination of Aristotelian, Toulminian,
76


*
and Rogerian rhetoric. I define audience awareness in argument, then, as the
writers deployment of six rhetorical elementsexigency, empirical support,
logical appeal, ethical appeal, emotional appeal, treatment of the opposing
viewsto secure trust and assent from a multiple and varied audience (Ramage &
Bean, 1998). These were measured in this study by the audience awareness rubric
(Appendix A).
By exigency, I mean the quality of establishing significance and urgency
in an argument, providing an audience a reason for reading (Fahnestock & Secor,
1990). Empirical support refers to the use of sufficient and appropriate evidence
such as facts, examples, illustrations, case studies, statistics, and testimony of
experts to bolster an argument, sufficient to communicate the texts message to
readers effectively (Ramage & Bean, 1998). The third element, logical appeal,
refers to the internal consistency of an argument and its impact on an audience
the clarity of its claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its
supporting evidence" (Ramage & Bean, 1998, p. 81). Ethical appeal refers to the
trustworthiness or credibility of a writer, conveyed through the tone and style of
the message and through the way the writer...refers to differing views (Ramage
& Bean, 1998, p. 81). Emotional appeal is that quality of argument through which
an author invites the audience to identify with the authors point of view by
connecting to the audiences sympathies and imagination. It is the power with
77


which the writer's message moves the audience to decision or action" (Ramage &
Bean, 1998, p. 82). Finally, treatment of opposing views is the method by which
the writer opens channels for conversation, expresses a genuine commitment to
the audience, and employs the principle of charity, avoiding biased summaries,
oversimplifications, and distortions of opposing views (Ramage & Bean, 1998, p.
173).
Post-Treatment Writing Assignment
While students wrote on a variety of topics of their own choice throughout
the semester, for the final assignment in the course, students were instructed to
write a position paper on the death penalty and address it to a dissenting audience
(Appendix H). The students purpose was to gain the readers respect, if not their
assent, for the position argued. The topic choice was determined by the results of
a quasi-experimental pilot study, summarized in Appendix G, that compared pre-
treatment and post-treatment papers between onsite and online writing groups
(Napierkowski, Gaddis, Guzman, & Muth, 2000). Because we wanted the pre-
and post-topics to be similarly challenging for the students, we polled the
students, asking them to rank six issues on a scale of one to five, one
representing a weak or indifferent position on an issue, and five" representing a
strongly held position. Table 3.6 indicates the results of this poll.
78


Table 3.6
Mean Results. Strength of Position Held bv Students on Six Social Issues
Writing Topic Mean
Immigration 3.0244
Genetic engineering 3.2381
Animal experimentation 3.4762
Gun control 3.6429
Death penalty 3.6667
Euthanasia 3.8571
Note. 1 = indifferent position; 5 = very strong position.
The two topics that emerged with the most similar means and on which students
had relatively strong positions were gun control and the death penalty, indicating
that these topics would require similar levels of cognitive challenge for students in
addressing a dissenting audience (Hays & Brandt, 1992). The first writing
assignment in the pilot study instructed students to take and support a position on
the issue of gun control, while the final writing assignment instructed them to take
and support a position on the issue of the death penalty. For my dissertation study,
I decided to use the same post-treatment topic of the death penalty to determine
differences between onsite and online groups in their treatment of audience.
Kroll (1984) notes the difficulty of an assignment as a factor in the mental
work of writers. The more difficult the assignment, the greater the cognitive effort
required of the writer. Additionally, using a specified topic for the assignment is a
necessary element of research methodology. Studies in the past on the role of
79


audience in argumentative writing have been weakened by methodological
shortcomings. For example, Clark and Delia (1977) asked subjects to persuade
different audiences on different topics. In this case, it was not possible to separate
the effects on messages due to audience inscription and those due to different
topic demands. Additionally, for writing to be effective, it is generally agreed that
it should focus on a real-world problem or event, so writing about current,
controversial topics is likely to produce effective arguments (Scardamalia &
Bereiter. 1987). The writing task should also be directed at a specific target
audience and should be written from the perspective of a knowledgeable, credible
individual (Scardamalia & Bereiter). Finally, because each writing assignment is a
unique entity, we must be cautious not to draw conclusions about students' level
of audience awareness from a single sample of their writing. In this study,
however, the post-treatment papers were studied in aggregate, in a comparison of
groups audience awareness level rather than a determination of individual
students' performance.
Data Collection Procedure
Participants in both the onsite and online groups completed the
collaboration survey online during the final scheduled class meeting, with results
saved to a text file, then imported to Excel and SPSS. Online students came to the
80


campus to complete the survey, a requirement to which they had agreed on the
Participants Informed Consent Form (Appendix D). The instructor was not
present during the survey completion, and students were reminded that their
confidentiality would be protected.
For the audience awareness part of the study, students sent their post-
treatment essays to their respective FirstCIass conferences. The course instructor
coded the essays using a random number coding system, and the papers were then
printed, with no identification of the participant or the group variable. Three
experienced composition instructors read the essays using the audience awareness
rubric as the basis for their assessment. The three readers first completed a
norming of the essays, reading a random sampling of five essays to ascertain
that they were reading to the same criteria. This direct method of assessing
students writing proficiency has been found to be highly reliable (White, 1985).
Collaborative Learning SurveyValidity and Reliability
The content validity of both the collaborative learning survey and the
audience awareness rubric is based on the theoretical framework outlined in the
literature review of this dissertation. To further determine the validity of the
collaboration items on the survey instrument (Cook & Campbell, 1979), I
distributed the survey ungrouped by constructs to a panel of ten evaluatorsa
81


writing program director, two English literature faculty, and six composition
instructors. I gave the evaluators the definitions for the four constructs and asked
them to assign each of the 32 survey items to one of the four constructs being
measured: sense of belonging to a discourse community, perceived value of
belonging to a discourse community, perceived benefits of peer response, and
preferred medium for peer response, oral/face-to-face or written/online (Appendix
I). I also asked the evaluators to consider the level of difficulty of discerning the
category to which a particular survey item belonged (Muth. 1971). Responses are
reported in Table 3.7.
Table 3.7
Collaborative Learning Attitudinal ConstructsEvaluators Responses
Survey # Belong Value Peer Oral Agree # Construct Ease M
1 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.7
2 7 3 0 0 7 Belong 2.0
3 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.0
4 1 9 0 0 9 Value 1.2
5 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.1
6 1 9 0 0 9 Value 1.3
7 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.2
8 10 0 0 0 10 Belong 1.0
9 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.5
10 1 9 0 0 9 Value 1.2
11 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.4
12 10 0 0 0 10 Belong 1.0
13 0 10 0 0 10 Value 1.0
14 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.0
15 10 0 0 0 10 Belong 1.0
16 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.1
82


Table 3.7 (Contd.)
Survey # Belong Value Peer Oral Agree # Construct Ease M
17 0 10 0 0 10 Value 1.1
18 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.2
19 1 9 0 0 9 Value 1.0
20 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.0
21 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.1
22 1 9 0 0 9 Value 1.2
23 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.2
24 10 0 0 0 10 Belong 1.0
25 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.0
26 10 0 0 0 10 Belong 1.2
27 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.0
28 0 10 0 0 10 Value l.l
29 0 0 10 0 10 Peer 1.3
30 8 2 0 0 8 Belong 1.2
31 0 0 0 10 10 Oral 1.2
32 9 l 0 0 9 Belong 1.2
As is evident from the table, the evaluators of the collaborative learning survey
had a high level of agreement as to the construct to which a particular item
belonged, indicating a degree of content validity for the survey instrument. And
Cronbach's alpha for internal reliability was .9 or higher for the eight items in
each of the four constructs.
Audience Awareness RubricValidity and Reliability
The audience awareness rubric is grounded in argument theory
(Fahnestock & Secor, 1990; Ramage & Bean, 1998), social constructivism
(McLeod, 1997; Porter, 1992), Aristotelian logic (Aristotle, 1932; JolifFe, 1996),
83


Toulmin (1958) reasoning, and a Rogerian understanding of audience (Brent;
1996; Rogers, 1961). As Reiff (1996) notes, The assumption that writers can
somehow shape texts to conform to readers expectations implies that there exist
some shared interpretive criteria (p. 83). Just as writers use the conventions and
norms of the discourse community to invoke audience in a text, readers use these
same norms and conventions to re-construct the text (Secor, 1992). Based on their
understanding of the norms and conventions used in argument to inscribe
audience, twelve experienced compositionists examined the rubric for measuring
audience awareness in students' texts. All the compositionists agreed that the
measurement rubric was content valid.
In addition, I want to make the argument that the direct assessment
approach used in this study was valid and appropriate as a method of measuring
audience awareness.In evaluating student writing, instructors have moved away
from indirect assessment to direct assessmentfrom using multiple choice
examinations like the Test of Standard Written English to using students actual
written discourse. Although the reliability of multiple-choice tests tends to be
higher than that of more direct measures, the validity of indirect measurement has
been challenged (Ketter & Pool, 2001; Walvoord & Anderson, 1998; White
1985). The question has been whether indirect measures such as multiple choice
tests actually measure what they purport to measure.
84


Taylor (1990) argues that even direct assessment is based on positivist
assumptions and that good writing cannot be defined by universal, objective
criteria. Hillocks (1995), however, challenges this critique, maintaining that both
measurement scholars and their constructivist counterparts are concerned with
developing fair assessment models that provide an argued approximation of
reality in some way, to some degree (p. 48). Both groups promote assessment
that does not privilege one group of students over another; both groups aim for
reliable and valid information about students' writing skills.
Huot (1996) proposes a writing assessment theory that links measurement
theories to constructivist theory, advocating writing assessment based on criteria
developed, by community stakeholders rather than by a standardized list of
traits developed by external experts. Such a shift, Huot maintains, would foster
writing assessment methods that honor local standards, include a specific context
for both the composing and reading of student writing, and allow for the
communal interpretation of written communication (p. 561). In such a model,
writing would be judged as good when it functions well within the specific
contexts determined by the writing task and when it meets clearly stated criteria
that describe excellence within those contexts (Ketter & Pool, 2001). The direct-
assessment audience awareness rubric developed for this study is grounded in
such an understanding of assessment.
85


Direct assessment comprises a number of different methods of
measurement, including the use of portfolios, holistic grading, and primary-trait
scoring. Holistic grading, developed by the Educational Testing Service, treats
writing as a whole entity. That is. an essay receives a single score. For holistic
measurement to be effective, it must meet two important criteria, reliability and
economy, and still be a valid measure of writing quality. A second direct
assessment tool for evaluating writing, developed by the National Assessment of
Educational Progress, is primary-trait scoring. Primaiy-trait scoring is based on
the same premise as holistic scoring, but isolates a specific aspect of writing for
analysisin the case of my study, for example, awareness of audience. The
premise behind primary-trait assessment is that the rhetorical situation drives the
criteria forevaluation (Lloyd-Jones, 1977). Both holistic and primary-trait
methods are grounded in similar rationale and theory (White, Lutz, & FCamusikiri,
1996). Primary-trait scoring simply defines with greater precision the criteria to
be used in the holistic scoring. Thus, it is useful to think of primary-trait scoring
as a type of holistic scoring, since it is based on the same assumptions (Walvoord
& Anderson, 1998). This study used primary-trait scoring to measure students
treatment of audience in argumentative texts.
Primary-trait scoring can achieve acceptably high reliability by adding a
number of constraints to the practice of general impression scoring (White,
86


1985). First, the writing assignment must be carefully developed to reduce
unnecessary variability in the scoring process. The following three procedures
have been developed for scoring, and when they are implemented, scoring results
can be highly reliable. All three of these procedures were followed to assess
audience awareness in post-treatment papers.
1. Controlled essay reading. Readers come together to read at the same
time and place, under the same conditions. This controlled reading eliminates
extraneous variables and establishes a positive social climate among the readers,
promoting a sense of community. It is this "interpretive community" (Fish. 1980)
that interprets criteria and must be consistent in its assessment.
2. Scoring criteria guide. A criterion-referenced scoring guide should
identify the characteristics that define the points on the scale (White, 1985;
Walvoord & Anderson, 1998).
3. Sample papers. Papers are given unmarked to readers to score during a
training session. Readers read the sample papers and then discuss them, working
to come to close agreement on scores and on what qualities determine a score.
Then, a reliable reading can begin.
A primary-trait score is similar to a percentile rating. It has meaning only
in reference to the group that was tested and the criteria of the scoring guide. It
does not have an absolute value in itself but, rather, a ranking, especially since no
87


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