You are here:

Universalizing universal design: Applying text-to-speech technology to English language learners' process writing

, University of Massachusetts Boston, United States

University of Massachusetts Boston . Awarded


This paper presents findings from six case studies of English language learners (ELLs) applying text to speech (TTS) technology to the process of drafting and revising essays. The participants were all seniors at an urban public high school in Massachusetts where they were required to write quarterly expository essays in all major subjects. ELLs' numbers in public schools are burgeoning, and even those who were skilled writers in their native countries face many barriers to writing. TTS is a technology designed to assist individuals with a need for audible input of computer text. It is built on the philosophy of Universal Design for Learning, which aims to make the technology usable by the broadest possible range of learners. The purpose of this study was to learn how TTS could support ELLs' performing process writing on computers. Data was collected on the participants' writing processes without and with TTS using questionnaires, documents, interviews, and observations. The findings suggested that when they used TTS, the participants wrote more drafts, spent more time on each draft, detected more errors, and increased revision of meaning-level features. At the same time, they struggled to express themselves in expository essays, having learned other ways of writing in their native countries. Students' language learning goals also affected how they used the technology, because they also looked for ways to use TTS to improve their fluency and perfect their speech. Results suggest that ELLs must have sufficient time to acquire English proficiency as they meet academic requirements, and during this acquisition period must have latitude to write in culturally familiar ways. The audible input from TTS did help them conceptualize and revise their writing. Given direct instruction in how to apply it to process writing, ELLs could benefit even more from TTS input. However, to make the most of the universal design of TTS, teachers and others should explore letting ELLs use it to meet their individual goals. Exploring English language learners' use of TTS software helps illustrate how individual learning processes must be considered when applying technology to diverse populations.


Kirstein, M. Universalizing universal design: Applying text-to-speech technology to English language learners' process writing. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts Boston. Retrieved March 25, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or