Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Composition Studies

Committee Chair

Susan L Popham

Committee Member

Teresa S Dalle

Committee Member

Joseph Jones

Committee Member

Loel Kim


A study was conducted to discover how first-year composition (FYC) teachers at large, public, 4-year universities respond to students who write prose with numerous Standard Written English (SWE) errors, the techniques the teachers use, and if the teachers perceive themselves as positively impacting the students’ writing. The researcher believed the teachers’ background (i.e., education and experience) would have an effect. Method: An anonymous survey was sent to FYC teachers at large, public, 4-year universities. A follow-up interview was conducted, and a web search performed. Results: One hundred and twenty-one participants completed the survey; three were interviewed. Over 49% used the majority of techniques listed in the survey at least sometimes. Most frequently used techniques include making SWE comments on students’ papers (84%), and using peer reviews (59%), mini lessons (54%), handbooks (36%), and handouts or worksheets (33%). Teachers with a creative writing degree were more likely to make comments on the students’ papers (r = .278, p = .002), as well as teachers who have taken creative writing courses (r = .271, p = .005). Those with a linguistics degree were not as likely to use the technique (r = - .359, p = .00). Participants with higher degrees were less likely to use peer reviews (r = -0.289, p = .001). Participants who have taken more graduate courses in linguistics were more likely to use non-technical terms when explaining SWE. No correlation existed for experience teaching and techniques used. A positive correlation was found between techniques teachers used and their perceived effectiveness, except for handbooks, using excerpts from students’ papers, and students keeping track of errors. However, at least one-third believed the techniques they used were not effective. Of the total participants, 73 wrote detailed comments regarding the teaching of SWE in FYC. Over half believe SWE should be taught during class; 22% during individual conferencing. Almost all felt either somewhat or very prepared to teach SWE, but those with creative writing degrees felt less prepared (r = -.194, p = .035). Teachers found the following helpful in preparing them to teach SWE: teaching (r = .304, p = .001), taking writing courses (r = .197, p = .043), and taking linguistics courses (r = .321, p = .008). Discussion: Participants would like better preparation and more effective ways to teach SWE. Better teacher preparation may include linguistic courses and writing courses, especially for those with a creative writing background. More research is needed in the area of effective ways to teach SWE.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.