Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Alexandra Rowe

Second Advisor

Nina Moreno


Substantial changes to the undergraduate population at US universities have created a need for the development of a model of academic literacy and a corresponding means of measuring academic readiness that addresses contextualized, communicative English language competence.

This paper presents a unified model of academic literacy which treats language competence and academic writing skills within a single contextualized framework. This model was then used to develop a writing assessment which evaluates writing products written by both native and non-native speaking populations within an undergraduate required English course. Academic literacy refers to the attainment of the communicative competence required for the student to gain membership in the university discourse community. As a construct which requires membership within the academic discourse community, academic literacy entails communicative competence. Researchers have found that academic writing is primarily composed of tasks which engage students with existing information and ask them to respond critically in a way that demonstrates learning (Hinkel, 2009). The unified model takes into account the central nature of these kinds of writing tasks to university success.

A program completion task was developed with respect to the established criteria based on the unified model. Successful completion of the exit task confirms that the student is able to meet the academic writing demands typically encountered in US university coursework; the assessment addresses language competence and effective implementation of academic writing skills as defined by the common core state standards initiative for ELA and repeated in required university English course curricula. In other words, the exit task evaluated by the established assessment criteria determines whether the student exhibits academic readiness, a construct which addresses situated communicative competence.

The assessment was validated and determined to be a reliable tool for assessing academic readiness of native and non-native speakers of English, informing decisions to promote students to academic study. In addition to use as an exit test, the rating scale will be used in the ESL classroom to clearly articulate and motivate effective preparation for academic writing tasks by non-native speakers in IEPs.


© 2012, Sherry Louise Warren