Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Nancy Heilbronner, PhD

Second Advisor

Robert Slavinsky, PhD

Third Advisor

Marcia A. B. Delcourt, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Thomas H. McMorran, EdD


Effective communication skills are a vital component of student academic achievement and success, yet students often struggle with them. This study utilized an organizational writing graphic organizer based on a critical thinking model to determine the impact of its use on the persuasive writing scores of 9th-grade students.

A sample of convenience, 119 ninth grade students across three academic levels (Academic, College Preparatory, and Honors) attending a suburban high school in the Northeast was utilized. Students in the treatment condition utilized a critical thinking graphic organizer to write persuasive essays over a 12-week period, and students in the comparison condition wrote persuasive essays during the same time period using a traditional graphic organizer, with less of a focus on critical thinking, provided by the state. A quasi-experimental pretest posttest design was utilized to analyze quantitative data collected through practice assessments. Focus groups were conducted using teachers and also students from the treatment group whose scores had improved.

Data were analyzed using a Mann-Whitney analysis to determine if there was a significant difference in the mean practice CAPT Writing Across the Disciplines persuasive essay scores between students who used the critical thinking graphic organizer (treatment group) and students who used the traditional state organizer (comparison group). Qualitative coding methods were used to analyze focus group responses for themes and patterns associated with student and teacher perceptions through their exposure and work with the critical thinking graphic organizer. The results revealed that there was no significant difference in persuasive writing scores between the treatment and comparison groups. However, a qualitative analysis of teacher and student perceptions revealed that participants were favorable towards the use of the critical thinking graphic organizer.