Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

First Advisor

Margaret Gebhard

Second Advisor

Jerri Willett

Third Advisor

Anne Herrington

Subject Categories

Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development


The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the potential of Systemic Functional Linguistic (SFL) pedagogy to support English language learners (ELLs) in enhancing their meaning making potential as they engage in persuasive writing practices within academic contexts. The dissertation results from a teacher action research project in which the teacher researcher (the author) constructed qualitative case studies focusing on the teaching practice of a veteran ESL teacher (the researcher) and the persuasive writing practices of three middle school beginning level ELLs. Through data analysis methods drawing on SFL and intertextuality, the study illuminates connections between the SFL based teaching practice and the expanding linguistic repertoire of ELLs as they enact the genre of persuasive argument in the context of producing persuasive music reviews.

Research methods are qualitative in nature and designed to attend to both the sociocultural context of teaching and learning as well as a linguistic analysis of written texts. Through a qualitative case study approach focusing on the literacy practices of three emergent bilingual middle school students and the reflective teaching practices of their veteran ESL teacher, the teacher researcher highlights how SFL pedagogy created space for urban middle school ELLs to participate in high interest language learning activities designed to increase their control over the semiotic resources needed to construct persuasive texts. The subsequent SFL and genre analysis of students' texts analyzes changes in the schematic structure and register variables of student texts aims to explore the intertextual connections between these changes and the SFL pedagogical practices described in the study.

Data derive from multiple sources including student texts, videotaped interactions among classroom community members, field notes, lesson plans and instructional materials. The study offers important new directions in language teaching and learning as it demonstrates how SFL-based pedagogy can draw on the cultural and linguistic resources of ELLs to create a culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 1995) and permeable curriculum (Dyson, 2003) that both challenges the conceptualization of ELLs as students with a "deficit" and repositions them as skillful language users and text analysts.