Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Smith, Lynn

Second Advisor

Glassett, Kelly


This mixed methods study combining a single-subject experimental design with an embedded case study focuses on the impact of a visual treatment on the handwritten and typed output of a struggling male writer during his 5 th through 7 th grades who has undergone a longitudinal remedial phase of two and a half years creating text-only material as well as graphic novels (on paper, on the computer, and online). The purpose of this research was to develop and assess the effectiveness and practicability of a visual treatment in order to help this high-achieving student with excellent comprehension and oral skills but impaired execution of writing tasks to produce cohesive, well-organized stories within a given time. It was hypothesized that by breaking up the assignments into visual chunks (speech bubbles), taking away the threat of a blank page to be filled by text only, exercising his artistic capabilities, and fostering pride of authorship and achievement through (online) sharing, this treatment would improve the participant's written output in quality, quantity, and pace. The 6+1 Trait ® Writing Scoring Continuum (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, early 1980s) was employed to assess the participant's writing performance, and the Flanders Interaction Analysis Categories (FIAC) (Flanders, 1970) were used to note his on-task/off-task behavior and the categories of his responses during tutoring sessions. An auditor was employed to confirm the investigator's evaluations; if contradictions occurred, the artifact in question was omitted from the study. The participant underwent extensive educational assessment regarding his reading and writing predilections and habits prior to study begin (quantitative data) in the form of rating scales, such as the Classroom Reading Inventory, the Elementary Writing Attitude Scale, and others. He was further observed during clinical supervision (audio- and videotaping), and underwent qualitative assessment (content analysis of written output) during the study, and post-study performance tests (quantitative and qualitative data). Baseline graphs were employed to establish the traits of his writing behavior during all three experimental stages (pre-treatment, treatment, post-treatment), and tutor logs shed further light on the participant's feelings and behavior under each condition. The interwoven mixed data revealed that the participant enjoyed the tutoring sessions, and even cried twice when he missed one, but that his attention deficit and off-task behavior severely interfered with the organization and quantity of his written output. The Flanders analysis showed that the slightest distraction through his environment (tutor, second tutee, etc.) took his focus off his writing tasks, and that the tiniest thing out of order (e.g., a wrong digital display of the current time of day on his computer screen) could occupy his thoughts for minutes, or trigger an exaggerated outburst after half an hour. Flanders also confirmed, as the higher quality of his output had shown, that the boy was strongly motivated by what interested him (Star Wars), and that he would put extra care in the creation of corresponding tasks. It can be concluded that self-chosen material, and not the format of graphic novels, motivated the participant to work. The content analysis of his post-treatment essay as compared to his pre-treatment essay showed that he was able to finish it, that the length had augmented, that the chronological order of events was maintained thanks to having learned organization through panels, but that the creativity and ideas had declined. Finally, the analysis of The 6+1 Trait ® Writing Scoring Continuum, which examined ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation of ten writing samples per stage, showed that the participant had scored 30.2 in the pre-treatment stage, 29.2 in the treatment stage, and 32.8 in the post-treatment stage. Given that the participant had matured during the two and a half years of study, the gain was not important enough to justify a graphic novel intervention to improve the writing of this specific student. The astonishing low score in the easiest stage, the treatment stage itself (where he only had to fill in speech bubbles) was a result of the genre itself (which called for less descriptive written output) and of the fact that the participant thought this stage was “easy” (as per interview from 05/17/2011) and might have felt not sufficiently challenged. It can be concluded that the graphic novel treatment was effective in helping with the chronological organization within the participant's texts, but this goal could maybe also have been achieved by structuring through sub-headings or perhaps voice recordings of a list of steps. Due to the high off-task behavior and time consumption, this treatment would not be feasible in a classroom setting, but might work in a resource room. During the treatment, the participant revealed himself as auditory, not just visual learner, who was motivated by sound and music, especially in combination with his online Star Wars photo story; he was planning on an animated story with movie features. In the future, this highly articulate child would benefit from self-chosen writing tasks that include the creation of online stories with pictures, animation, and sound. His behavior needed more remediation than the quality of his written output. Future studies should investigate the effectiveness of writing workshops using graphic novels within the classroom setting, as proposed by Thompson (2008), and also assess the benefits of digital story-telling (Burke & Kafai, 2012) as an additional motivational factor, while putting special emphasis on students who display autistic and ADHD behavior.




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