Date of Award

Spring 2013

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas Newkirk


In this project, I examine the legacy of behaviorism's dismissal of experience on contemporary writing assessment theory and practice within the field of composition studies. I use an archival study of John B. Watson's letters to Robert Mearns Yerkes to establish behaviorism's systematic denial of experience and its related constructs: mind, consciousness, thought, emotions, purpose, and meaning. I trace this denial through the efficiency movement's effects on education and educational measurement in the early 20th century and the establishment of the behaviorist infrastructure of assessment---an infrastructure that contributed; paradoxically, to the early focus in composition studies on experience. I analyze contemporary writing assessment's principles and practices for remnants of behaviorism's dismissal of experience. I conclude by proposing a new principle of principles for writing assessment based on the concept of experience.