Preferred Name

Caroline Prendergast

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Keston Fulcher

Kurt Schick

Christine DeMars

John Hathcoat


Despite decades of increasing assessment activity in higher education, the literature provides few examples of assessment leading to improved student learning (Banta & Blaich, 2011). The simple model for learning improvement provides an avenue for linking assessment efforts with faculty development and pedagogical changes in order to increase students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities (Fulcher et al., 2014). Although this model has been applied successfully in prior improvement efforts, previous initiatives have focused on relatively small programs (reaching 200 or fewer students). This dissertation reflects a large-scale application of the learning improvement model to improve rhetorical awareness in general education writing program. This dissertation outlines the development of a measure of rhetorical awareness as well as the collection of relevant reliability and validity evidence. Interventions to enhance rhetorical awareness were developed, piloted, and deployed. The measure was then administered to students at the beginning and end of two adjacent semesters, during which time the interventions were delivered to students. Students enrolled in course sections where targeted rhetorical awareness interventions occurred had significantly higher rhetorical awareness skills at the end of the semester than students in non-intervention sections (after accounting for differences in beginning-of-semester rhetorical awareness ability). This finding reflects an important step forward in deploying learning improvement efforts in large-scale settings.



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