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Scaffolding English language learners' academic writing with the “STEPS+G” planning and curricular approaches and speech recognition technology

, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States

Teachers College, Columbia University . Awarded


This study, based on neo-Vygotskian sociocultural theory, explores and assesses the potential of certain curricular tools and speech-recognition software to aid in the scaffolding of English Language Learners' (ELLs) or more appropriately "emergent bilinguals" (Garcia, Kleifgen, & Falchi, 2008) academic writing. In this study, five ELL eighth-graders from a New York City public, middle-school, whose oral and written skills in English were generally close in ability, were selected for case study research. The question: How can oral language and other "mediating tools" (Vygotsky, 1981) such as the STEPS+G mnemonics and speech recognition technology (SR) be harnessed to enhance ELLs' academic writing?

These students received whole group and one-on-one instruction for writing that was scaffolded with three tools: a novel approach for analysis of curricular materials called STEPS+G, a planning mnemonic for writing (STEPS+G+P), and the support of speech-recognition software. STEPS+G shows students how to examine and critically understand curricula material at hand and evaluate events through multiple perspectives (Social, Technological, Economic, Political, Scientific and Geographic). STEPS+G+P helps students plan and organize these perspectives and generate essays that richly support a thesis. And both STEPS+G mnemonics, for analysis and evaluation and planning, ultimately were designed to support student achievement as measured by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) document based-questions DBQ scoring rubric. Finally, speech recognition software was included in order to help students transcribe their oral language to written text.

The findings demonstrate that students used the STEPS+G, STEPS+G+P and SR software in combination with other semiotic resources (language, the DBQs and other curricular material) to produce longer and more complex essays and their writing became more aligned with the NYSED examination expectation, which scores students' essays for how they utilize higher level thinking skills in their composition and the extent to which they support their ideas with facts, examples, and details. The speech recognition software focused the students on word pronunciation, at times caused them to paraphrase words. Its potential as a scaffold for writing increased over the instructional sessions, with students' use and familiarity, and could further expand with students' mastery of spoken language and literacy.


Kaun, K.P. Scaffolding English language learners' academic writing with the “STEPS+G” planning and curricular approaches and speech recognition technology. Ph.D. thesis, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved March 19, 2019 from .

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