Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Linguistics, Applied

First Advisor

Kimberly Urbanski

Second Advisor

Panayota Gounari

Third Advisor

Rebekha Abbuhi


A well-documented gap exists in pedagogical approaches for teaching L2 coherence and cohesion writing skills, particularly in high-stakes testing contexts. Prior research on coherence and cohesion has been non-developmental as it has not tracked learners’ progress over time. Moreover, there has not been adequate pedagogy focused on teaching these critical writing skills. In order to fill this gap, this study employed a robust instructional approach to promote the development of learners’ coherence and cohesion writing skills, thereby making a substantial contribution to the aforementioned limitations in pedagogical research. Underpinned by Sociocultural Theory (SCT), this study bridges the gap between test preparation and actual language development through implementing a Dynamic Assessment (DA) approach into the context of IELTS. This dissertation investigated how four Saudi L2 English learners developed their coherence and cohesion writing skills, specifically for the IELTS Academic Writing Task 2, through seven online DA sessions over Google Docs. The DA procedure incorporated a genre process approach to writing. The genre-focused element concentrated on helping learners identify the genres of the IELTS Academic Writing Task 2, recognize their rhetorical purposes and incorporate the textual organizational stages required by each genre type in their text to develop their coherence writing skills. Additionally, it emphasized accurately integrating cohesion concepts such as reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion into learners’ texts to develop their cohesion writing skills. The process-oriented facet structured the DA sessions around the three critical stages of writing: planning, drafting, and reviewing. Development was promoted through the use of specific mediational moves that were attuned to each participant’s needs through the different stages of the DA procedure. The written interactions between the researcher-mediator and participants were saved on Google Docs and analyzed using microgenetic analysis to track learners’ developmental trajectories. The findings suggest that the DA sessions with mediation attuned to each learner’s specific needs not only promoted the participants’ coherence and cohesion development but also their independent application of the developed writing skills in the delayed and more challenging transfer tasks that were held at the end of the study. In addition, the participants also improved in other assessment areas which were not the focus of this study. This research underscores the need for a pedagogical shift towards dynamic and context-sensitive approaches that delve deeper into the nuanced processes of constructing coherent and cohesive texts within the IELTS framework to prepare learners for this high-stakes test and equip them with the essential linguistic skills to succeed. The study’s implications extend to educators, assessors, curriculum developers, policymakers, and researchers, advocating for a paradigm shift in language education that aligns with Vygotsky’s principles, promoting cognitive development and anticipating future learning needs. Overall, this dissertation contributes to the dialogue on standardized testing and language education, reinforcing the importance of targeted mediation in achieving language proficiency for educational success.


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