Dialogue journal writing has also been used to examine the possible benefits it offers for improving on the writing skills of those students who are less proficient users of English. Both English as a second language (ESL) students and hearing impaired children have been chosen to participate in these studies because they often demonstrate delays in some of the basic aspects of the English language, including the production and comprehension of written English. Many hearing impaired children are not able to produce the basic sentence structures that are necessary for becoming a successful writer in English (Powers & Wilgus, 1983). In studies of the instructional uses of the dialogue journal with hearing impaired students, often a normally hearing student is paired with the hearing impaired student as a journal writing partner. These pairings are made based on the assumption that the hearing impaired student will begin to "model" the structures used by his/her hearing counterpart. Other research studies have paired two hearing impaired students s journal writing partners, but note that there may be the "lack of a standard English model for either student to emulate" (Braden, Booth, Shaw, Leach, & MacDonald, 1989, p. 144).
For example, Kluwin and Kelly (1991) studied 204 pairs of deaf and normally hearing students to "examine the claim that dialogue journal writing would improve the written English skills of a limited English proficiency population" (p. 285). Participants ranged in ages from 10to 18 years old, and in grade levels from 4th to 12th grade. Over a period of one year, 153 of the dialogue journals were collected and examined. The journal entries were evaluated based on the changes in content and complexity. The researchers decided against the usual procedure of pairing a teacher with a student as a journal writing partner because a non-evaluative and "realistic" writing situation was desired. The results of the study indicated that some of the deaf students made improvements in their writing skills, and there was a "demonstratable improvement" in the complexity of the sentences that the deaf students wrote. The research suggested that, in order to improve the duality of the writing, the dialogue journal writing partners must create a relationship in which a genuine interest in one another was developed.
An earlier study conducted by Kluwin and Kelly (1990) reported teacher
findings that the deaf students began to use more English "colloquial"
expressions after using the dialogue journals with a hearing partner. A
study conducted by Braden, Booth, Shaw, Leach, and MacDonald (1989) compared
the improvements made in student writing skills when dialogue journals
were used with three groups: a hearing impaired student paired with a normally
hearing student (HI-NH), a hearing impaired student paired with another
hearing impaired student (HI-HI), and a control group that did not maintain
the dialogue journal. The dialogue journals were maintained using microcomputers
to telecommunicate the journal entries. Participants included hearing impaired
students attending a large residential school for the hearing impaired
and normally hearing students from two private schools and one public school
program for gifted students. Students ranged in grade levels from 6th to
8th grade. Written samples were obtained at the beginning, middle, and
end of the school year. These language samples were ranked using the following
criteria developed by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf:
necessarily the cause for gains made in linguistic skill, but the frustration felt for conversations with similar language users may actually be the catalyst for linguistic improvement.
In order to test the findings of these researchers, the purpose of this
study was to examine whether the use of dialogue journal writing could
improve the writing skills of less proficient users of English. Specifically,
the study focused on the use of dialogue journals by hearing impaired students
via e-mail and whether these dialogue journals increased the expressive
output of the students.