Theses Doctoral

Opinion Writing of Native Spanish and Native English Speakers in College Developmental Education Courses

Portillo, Natalie

The aim of this study is to examine argumentative writing produced by students of differing language backgrounds and skill level to inform future instructional approaches and program design. An archival corpus of opinion essays written by native Spanish speaking students and native English speaking students enrolled in community college developmental education courses was utilized.

The essays consisted of one to two paragraphs expressing an opinion on a controversial topic. In the study, the essays were assessed for the overall persuasiveness of the text, the use of academic words, the incorporation of connectives as a measure of lexical cohesion, the use of argumentative structural elements, and the inclusion of functional elements within the text produced. The relationship between native language and six structural and lexical features were examined utilizing a one-way Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA).

After controlling for paragraph length and reading ability, results indicated that native Spanish speaking students produced more standpoint structural elements than English speaking students. None of the other dependent variables were significant. A Multiple Linear Regression (MLR) was employed to explore the variability in the persuasiveness of the opinion writing. Utilizing this mode of analysis, it was revealed that overall persuasiveness in the students’ opinion writing was mainly a function of higher word counts, a higher percentage of academic words, more standpoint structural elements, and being a native English speaking student. Finally, pedagogical implications are discussed.


  • thumnail for Portillo_columbia_0054D_16546.pdf Portillo_columbia_0054D_16546.pdf application/pdf 923 KB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Peverly, Stephen T.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2021