Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



Young adolescents should be able to write organized multi-paragraph compositions that develop a central idea and unfold in logical and sequential order, unified through the use of transitional words and phrases. In other words, the compositions should not just consist of a string of related sentences, but represent a dynamic text that has coherence. It is important that speech-language pathologists develop quick and reliable methods for assessing coherence to aid in making data driven decisions and progress monitoring consistent with principles of Responsiveness to Intervention. Yet, the holistic quality of coherence makes it difficult to assess, both within a composition and developmentally. The purpose of this study was to determine a) the ability of students to produce sentences that maintain coherence across the continuum of grade levels, and b) whether or not adolescents would produce fewer errors of coherence on sentence combining exercises following six weeks of Embedded Language Lessons (ELL) instruction as compared to Discrete Language Lessons (DLL) instruction. First, 115 students in grades 4-7 completed the Sentence Combining subtest of the Test of Written Language, Third Edition (Hammill & Larsen, 1996). Four of the test items required adherence to three different coherence relations using Kehler’s (2002) classifications. Those subtest items were examined to assess the students’ ability to create sentences that maintain coherence across the continuum of grade levels. Second, the two grade levels for which posttest data was returned were then examined for changes in coherence following a six-week classroom-based intervention designed to increase meta-awareness of coherence in text structure. Results of this study revealed evidence of a developmental progression in the ability to represent these coherence relations in written language, with the youngest students indicating the correct coherence relation in 25 to 45% of their responses and the oldest students in 41 to 79% of their responses. Only one significant group difference was found at posttest when the individual relations were considered. A significant improvement in contiguity was observed for the fifth-graders in the ELL group. No group differences were observed with respect to the cause-effect relation or with parallel structure.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Norris, Jan