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Gay, Victoria Marie
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Middle Tennessee State University
ABSTRACT Tennessee’s public community college system implemented corequisite remediation for underprepared students during the Fall 2015 semester. As a result of the Tennessee Board of Regents corequisite remediation initiative, students with academic placement scores determined to be below college level on an instrument such as the ACT often work in the same college classroom as students who are better prepared to complete college-level work (Tennessee Board of Regents, 2016). Thus, underprepared students need effective academic assistance in order to perform well in not only the corequisite classes but also in other classes later in their college careers. English teachers, writing texts, and past research point to sentence combining as a writing strategy beneficial to students across all ages for the production of sentence variety and the development of syntactic complexity. This study sought to determine the effects of a semester-length sentence-combining intervention on the production of sentence variety, syntactic complexity, and teacher-evaluation of writing quality with students enrolled in corequisite Learning Support Writing and English Composition I classes. Following the intervention, student essays were analyzed based on sentence variety, syntactic complexity, and writing quality. Additionally, student self-efficacy was captured to determine whether students perceived the intervention as beneficial when compared to their peers who did not receive the intervention. No significant differences were found between intervention and comparison groups for sentence variety on two separate measures. There was no statistically significant main effect between the intervention and comparison groups for the syntactic complexity measure. There was a significant group main effect for quality for final essays with the comparison group scoring higher than the intervention group. There was also a significant difference in the self-efficacy measure between groups with overall higher totals for the intervention group than the control group. Moderator analyses indicated there was a significant interaction effect on syntactic complexity between group and reading placement as was established by the ACT/SAT/ACCUPLACER Reading score. Simple main effects indicated that the comparison group outperformed the intervention group at a statistically significant level in struggling readers. Simple main effects for adequate readers indicated no statistically significant differences between intervention or comparison groups; however, adequate readers in the intervention group did outperform struggling readers. There were no other statistically significant interaction effects. Overall, the sentence combining intervention did not significantly improve student writing as measured by sentence variety, complexity, or quality. Indeed, the comparison condition tended to outperform the treatment. Results do not support the use of exclusive, explicit sentence-combining instruction as a means of fast-tracking the writing progress of a corequisite English population; however, future research is needed regarding the possible unique attributes of the intervention that could improve writing performance. Also, the improvement of self-efficacy may lead to further improvements in later coursework as students’ motivation to succeed may be buttressed by their perceived ability to do so.