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Dobbs to Receive Chall Doctoral Student Award

Christina Dobbs, Ed.M.'06, Ed.D.'13, has been selected to receive the Jeanne S. Chall Doctoral Student Award. Dobbs’ doctoral dissertation is titled The Use of Academic Language Markers in Middle Grade Persuasive Essays: Using Academic Vocabulary and Markers of Organization and Stance.

Dobbs’ doctoral thesis explores how middle graders learn and use different markers of academic language in their writing. Academic language is an important component of successful writing in the secondary grades, and strong writing skills have far-reaching implications for students’ endeavors beyond high school. But too often, the language expectations for tasks are hidden from students, a trend Dobbs hopes to change with her work by developing tools teachers can use to make these expectations more explicit for student writers. This thesis explores how students use the emerging academic language skills they have to convey their ideas, finding that students make many attempts to use academic language that could be built upon with instruction.

The Doctoral Student Award honors the late Jeanne S. Chall, who served as a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her seminal work on reading research and instruction influenced scholarship on the teaching of reading in schools and universities throughout the country. This award is given to a graduating HGSE student whose dissertation has been noted for particular excellence in the fields of beginning reading, readability and reading difficulty, with special emphasis given to projects supporting adult literacy; reading assessment; early reading; grapho-phonemic processes; and stages of reading, writing, and vocabulary development.

The award will be formally presented to Christina Dobbs during the ninth annual Jeanne S. Chall Endowment Lecture on Wednesday, October 9, 2013. Nell K. Duke, Professor of Language, Literacy, and Culture from the School of Education at the University of Michigan, will present the lecture. Additionally, the recipient of the Jeanne S. Chall Research Grant will be announced at this time. This event is free and open to the general public.