Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Steven H. Schwartz

Second Advisor

Allan Collins

Third Advisor

Delores Gallo


Two largely independent bodies of literature exist on both teaching to promote students' critical and creative thinking abilities and teaching to promote the shift between novice and more expert writing. The author looks closely at both bodies of literature and merges common principles to create an extended curriculum unit designed to teach simultaneously toward expert thinking and expert writing. The unit contains such diverse activities as: 1) an acrostic puzzle; 2) reading articles on themes related to Hamlet; 3) the use of dialectical notebooks; 3) an explicit investigation into the nature of problem solving; 4) using emphatic role-playing to bring the play to life on video; and 5) use of writing "think sheets" to help concretize the expert writing process and give students practice in using it. With the active collaboration of an experiences instructor, the curriculum unit was implemented in a 12th grade advanced placement English Literature class and evaluated in terms of its effect on: 1) students' problem-solving orientation; 2) student attitude toward both learning and writing; 3) the quality of student writing; 4) students' metacognitive understanding of both problem solving and writing; and 5) the quality of student-teacher interaction. Analysis took the form of case-studies of five students chosen to represent five basic types of change in writing ability that occurred in the class as a whole. Interviews with the instructors contributed significantly to the analysis as well. Findings were that with the exception of one of the case study students, all students made significant, and often dramatic improvement in their writing, above and beyond what the teacher would have expected from the same caliber of student in years past. While some unit activities were more effective than others, it did appear that students worked better when they understood the principles involved and were given more freedom to be in charge of their own thinking and writing. Likewise, the process of informing, instituting, and closely examining an intervention had a very beneficial effect on the teacher and his interactions with students. Such a process of implementation holds considerable potential for changing the nature of traditional teacher/researcher partnership.