Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Curriculum and Instruction PhD

First Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Second Advisor

Tevni Grajales Guerra

Third Advisor

Larry D. Burton



While previous writing performance studies have examined a range of motivational variables such as self-efficacy or writing apprehension, certain contextual variables and variables related to current writing pedagogy and practice have not been included, which has resulted in gaps in the research literature.


A non-experimental, correlational, cross-sectional, ex post facto, survey research design was used to examine the personal, behavioral, and environmental factors that had been identified as being of potential influence to students’ writing performance. A census was conducted among the 233 students enrolled in English Composition on the two campuses of a small two-year college in Michigan. The final sample consisted of 125 participants enrolled in 14 sections of a first-semester Freshman English course. Instrumentation for this study consisted of three questionnaires: The Writing Survey (TWS), the Writing Tasks Scale (WTS), and three researcher-developed measures, The Student Information Form (SIF), and two survey record reviews, the Previous Writing Achievement Spreadsheet (PWAS), and the Writing Performance Spreadsheet (WPS). The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to store and organize the data, and generate descriptive statistics. The research hypothesis was tested using structural equation modeling (SEM) with IBM SPSS Amos 21 (Arbuckle, 2012).


Structural equation modeling hypothesis-testing procedures indicated an acceptable fit between the theoretical covariance matrix and the observed covariance matrix. The chi-square test of the model was not statistically significant χ2 (33, N = 125) = 41.11, p = .157, which in SEM indicates that the model fits the data. The model yielded acceptable fit indices for all indices except one. The other fit measures attained the recommended target values. The value of the GFI was .94, which indicates a good fit. The NFI was .80, which is below the target value of .95. The CFI was .95, and the RMSEA was .045. The null hypothesis was therefore retained, indicating empirical support for the theoretical model. Non-significant correlations were found between Personal Factors (PF) and Environmental Factors (EF), r = .29, p = .359, Behavioral Factors (BF) and Environmental Factors (EF), r = .29, p = .325, and Personal Factors (PF) and Behavioral Factors (BF), r = .19, p = .105. Personal Factors (PF) was the only significant predictor of writing performance. The path coefficient of .26 indicated a large effect size (> .25, Kieth, 2006). Writing performance was influenced by the direct effect of Personal Factors (PF), which accounted for approximately 7% of the variance in writing performance.


The theoretical model of writing performance was supported by the findings. In addition, the causal contribution of Personal Factors, consisting of previous writing achievement, self-regulatory efficacy, and self-efficacy for writing tasks to first-year composition students’ writing performance was validated, achieving both statistical and practical significance. Overall, the findings point to the important predictive role of personal factors in students’ writing performance. The findings of this exploratory study hold implications for classroom practice, and point to the necessity of continued interdisciplinary writing research.

Subject Area

Composition (Language arts)--Research, English language--Written English, English language--Composition and exercises, Written communication, Michigan Community College, College freshmen