Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Todd Lilly


While the Common Core State Standards initiated the instructional shift that promoted technology to achieve a student-centered, process-oriented blended reading and writing classroom, the COVID 19 pandemic demanded innovative technology applications in K-12 public schools. This qualitative, phenomenological action research study explored the motivational effects of a digital student response system tool used to facilitate reading and writing instruction in a seventh-grade ELA concurrent classroom. Overall, using a student response tool to facilitate the text-dependent writing process positively impacted students’ self-determination.

Incorporating a digital student response tool as a facet of a formative assessment system promoted the efficient use of best practices in reading and writing instruction, such as student mentor texts, constructive feedback, and close reading strategies delivered through the gradual release of responsibility method. The intervention allowed the teacher to quickly diagnose student deficits, monitor and adjust instruction, and provide instant and individualized feedback. Furthermore, the digital tool’s features enabled instant use of student responses as instructional resources.

As a result, this digital intervention sustained the necessary engagement levels required for critical thinking and increased writing achievement by serving as an external stimulus of accountability that fulfilled the students’ intrinsic needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. First, there was increased peer interaction to activate the social construction of knowledge and move students into their zone of proximal development. Next, these pedagogies provided students with the skills they need to be in control of their performance. The students also appreciated the organized and systematic approach to reading and writing and found value in seeing their peers’ responses.

Additionally, these learners grasped the power and necessity of revising and editing, two elusive steps to the writing process that have been difficult to achieve with middle school students. The opportunity to revisit their responses after seeing additional examples and feedback promoted a growth-mindset necessary for these learners to experience improved writing abilities. Most importantly, the intervention empowered the students to feel confident when released to independent reading and writing tasks.

On the other hand, connectivity issues, system failure, and the lack of digital literacy contributed to increased frustration and loss of motivation during some instructional intervention lessons. More specifically to distance learners, the study’s findings suggested that the use of a student response tool during reading and writing instruction contributed to the autonomy, competence, and relatedness required to motivate these students intrinsically; however, additional supports are needed to initiate and sustain the desired levels of engagement and motivation in Virtual Learning Academy students.