English Ph.D. Dissertations


Dynamic Criteria Mapping: A Study of the Rhetorical Values of Placement Evaluators

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Richard Gebhardt (Advisor)


Adapting Bob Broad’s Dynamic Criteria Mapping (DCM) research model, the most current qualitative and quantitative model for researching exit assessment practices, this dissertation study identified, analyzed, and mapped the rhetorical values or criteria that guided placement program evaluators at an Ohio university in placing students into one of the first-year writing courses in 2006. Because DCM had not been applied in a placement assessment institutional context, the purpose of this dissertation was to bring the benefits of DCM to bear on the programmatic assessment of placement practices. This dissertation validated the assumption that DCM can be used to study and understand placement assessment practices, and it employed DCM to provide a focused constructivist content validation argument to improve the placement program’s communal writing assessment practices – rhetorical, deliberative, collaborative assessments – as well as to reflect more accurately the writing program’s curricular criteria. Regarding the primary focus of the dissertation, the study of the rhetorical criteria of the 2006 placement program evaluators, this study used grounded theory methodology, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, QSR International NVivo 7 qualitative coding software, quantitative analyses, and Broad’s Dynamic Criteria Mapping procedures to classify, analyze, and map the evaluators’ rhetorical criteria, to define the correlation between evaluators’ criteria and the writing program’s principal and secondary curricular criteria, and to present a focused validation argument – four validation-argument questions for the placement program to consider – intended to strengthen the relationship between the placement program’s communal writing assessment practices and the writing program’s curriculum. Derived from the research study’s results, these four validation-argument questions highlighted conclusions for discussion – evaluative issues which the placement program’s administrators should consider to strengthen the placement program’s constructivist content validity. These questions asked administrators to encourage placement readers to use evaluative criteria clearly connected to the curriculum, consistently applied over time, appropriately used with respect to context, and properly utilized to assess the use of narrative. Finally, this dissertation adapted Broad’s streamlined DCM techniques, a more focused and efficient form of DCM, to provide a general heuristic for writing program administrators to investigate the evaluative criteria of their placement programs’ rhetorical assessment practices.