Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Efthimia Christie


Nationally and locally, a paucity of students are effective writers. The purpose of this exploratory, sequential mixed methods study was to explore effective research-based writing strategies and influences on writing skills of 5th grade students. Guided by Vygotsky's zone of proximal development theory, the research questions investigated teachers' perceptions of the best instructional writing practices, the effect of writing practices on students' state writing scores, the relationship between student attendance and performance on the state writing test, and the amount of instructional planning dedicated to best writing practices. Data were collected from interviews with 5th grade teachers (N = 5), student scores on the state writing assessment (N = 247), student attendance records, and teacher lesson plans. Interview data were open coded and thematically analyzed, quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and t tests, and lessons plans were content analyzed for time spent on best writing practices, as identified in the review of literature. The overarching themes from the teacher interviews included (a) importance of teacher guided instruction, (b) confusion about the best practice in writing instruction, and (c) additional supports for students to be effective writers. Current writing instructional practices did not improve state writing assessment scores. There were significant differences in the state writing scores between students who passed and those who did not pass the state writing test. Attendance data were not related to student writing scores. Teacher planning did not reflect the use of best practices in the classroom. These findings informed a 21-hour professional development program to increase awareness of best practices in writing instruction. This study contributes to social change by potentially affecting students' proficiency in writing for 21st century college and career expectations.