A Comparison of Traditional and E-Mail Penpal Correspondence By Evaluating Composition Skills of Students With and Without Learning Disabilities

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

First Advisor

James A. Siders

Advisor Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education


The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of a social context of writing (penpals), in contrast to the effects of directed e-mail composition, on the writing productivity of students with and without learning disabilities. Measures of writing productivity observed in this study were average words per sentence, readability of composition, syllables per word, and total words generated per composition. Eighty students in grades six through eight participated in the study. Two treatment groups and a control group were established using matched sets of learners by race, gender and disability. All participants wrote friendly letters to an imaginary friend for a two week period to establish baseline data. Subjects then wrote twice weekly for six weeks according to the treatment group. E-mail subjects wrote to university undergraduates via e-mail, traditional penpal subjects wrote pen and paper letters to university undergraduates, and control participants wrote to imaginary penpals. All data were analyzed using SPSS procedures Analysis of Variance and Manova F . Results of data analysis revealed no difference among any of the measures between students with or without learning disabilities. A significant difference was observed between penpal and e-mail groups on the generation of average syllables per word. A significant difference was observed among the writing groups on the readability of compositions generated. Across time, no difference existed among writing or learner groups on readability of compositions generated. Significant differences in the generation of average syllables per word across time existed among the treatment groups.