Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Karla Saari Kitalong

Committee Member 1

Beatrice Quarshie Smith

Committee Member 2

Ronald Strickland

Committee Member 3

Zhuang-Zhong Lehmberg


This dissertation explores English as a Foreign Language instruction within the context of the contemporary Chinese education system. Basic outlines chart the historical development of EFL studies in the United States and China framing the question of what each community values as important measures of success when assessing language learning. While traditional Chinese methods value strict memorization of vast word lists (背单词, BeiDanCi, BDC) the US educational community stresses essay writing—particularly on standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, and TOEFL, which are required for university admissions. Therefore, this study investigates the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and writing ability among Grade 10 Chinese high schoolers in a megalopolis in mainland China. Students’ vocabulary knowledge was measured with Nation’s Vocabulary Size Test, and students’ writing ability was assessed with an essay graded using the TOEFL iBT® Integrated Writing Rubrics. The results validate previous findings among different L2 populations by observing a moderate correlation between vocabulary knowledge and writing ability.