31 SES 11 B, Parents, Teachers and Students in Multilingual Settings
Handwriting and computer keyboarding, together with spelling, are the everyday transcription processes used by students in contemporary classrooms. The link between transcription skills and learning has been well established in the literature (Kiefer, Schuler, Mayer, Trumpp, Hille & Sachse 2015). Poor transcription skills constrain thinking, planning and translating processes. If students are concerned with how to produce letter forms, locate the letters on a keyboard, or how to spell a word, they may either forget already developed ideas or disregard basic language structures, such as subject-verb agreement (Limpo, Alves, & Connelly, 2017, p. 27). It is also important to note that the physical requirements of handwriting and keyboarding may have different effects on writing quality and fluency (Feng, Lindner, Ji & Joshi, 2017).
The landscape of the contemporary classroom has transformed over the past decade as society and schools embrace the digital era. Educational leaders and governments worldwide recognise that it is important to teach students to navigate the ever changing complex digital landscape in and beyond the classroom (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, (OECD) 2015). As schools embrace the use of technology within the classroom there has been a change to the way students are expected to complete written work. Traditionally, the transcription process in classrooms involved only handwriting. However, the adoption of ICT into schools means that students are now expected to write by hand as well as on computer keyboards and sometimes dictation devices or digital ink (Woodside & Amiri, 2014). While it can be tempting to assume that students in schools are digital natives and therefore confident and competent writing on a computer keyboard this is not always the case. Much of the recreational time students spend using ICT (e.g. for gaming or social media) require different skills. Students need to develop sufficient keyboarding skills so that they can focus their attention on the content of the writing task, rather than the physical skills of keyboarding (Medwell, 2012).
Likewise the development of handwriting automaticity enables a student to focus on the content of a writing task rather than the physical act of writing (Medwell & Wray, 2014). Unless handwriting is automatic the effort required to write by hand can distract a student from the composition process. In addition, writing that is illegible can distract a reader from the message of the writing. But handwriting requires explicit instruction and time for practice.
There are two Australian studies informing this presentation that inform our understandings of the importance of transcription skills and alert us to problems that mean some students are being excluded from learning and writing that require efficient transcription skills. Both studies fit within the interpretivist/phenomenological research paradigm as both investigated the learning and teaching of transcription skills (handwriting and computer keyboarding) in the current era. Study 1 was conducted in 2015 and involved classroom teachers, recently retired teachers and parents of school age students. The project aimed to capture: 1) current practices in regard to the teaching of handwriting and keyboarding in Australian primary classrooms; 2) both current and retired primary school teachers' perspectives of how children should learn to write; 3) parents' perspectives of how their children have learned/ are learning /should learn to write; Study 2 (conducted in 2017) aimed to explore Year 7 students’ attitudes towards and experiences of handwriting and keyboarding in the first year of high school. Study 2 also investigated the expectations and experiences of Year 7 teachers in terms of students’ handwriting and keyboarding skills.
Findings will inform any education system that requires their students to write by hand and/or on a keyboard.
Both studies were approved by the Charles Sturt University Research Ethics Committee. For study 1 an online survey was created, trialed and then circulated via social media and an online blog. Classroom teachers, recently retired teachers and parents of school age students were invited to respond to the survey. Survey questions explored teacher/parent beliefs about how, what, when and why handwriting and computer keyboarding should be taught. Some questions were specific to teachers or parents, while others were common to both groups. Study 2 was conducted (with approval) in a comprehensive (K-12), co-educational, independent school in a regional area in Australia. Students were required by the school to provide their own laptops for use in classes. Assignment information was provided to students via the school’s internal server and students were expected to upload their work to this same server. Students were also expected to be able to take handwritten notes in some class. All Year 7 students were briefed about the study and invited to participate. If they showed interest they were provided with an information sheet to discuss with their parents. Students needed parental permission to participate. Data were gathered using open ended surveys, completed online or on paper, focus group discussions with students), interviews with teachers (n-3) and observations of Year 7 classes (n=12). Surveys responses informed the interviews and focus group questions. Interviews and focus groups were transcribed and thematically analysed. Classroom observations involved recording the writing tool use (pens/pencils or computer) of students every five minutes across each of the 12 lessons, which represented a range of subject disciplines (e.g. Science, Maths, English). . Observations provided descriptive statistics of writing tool use.
Study 1: The survey was completed by 434 teachers, 79 recently retired teachers and 353 parents of school age children. Responses were varied although most respondents (teachers (92%), retired teachers (95%) and parents (94%) agreed that handwriting was still an important skill for students to learn. Most respondents (teachers (86%), retired teachers (87%) and parents (80%)) agreed that handwriting difficulties could impact a student’s self-esteem. While 94.2% of teachers and 93.8% of retired teachers had children in their classes who experienced problems with handwriting, 56.5% of parents suggested they had children with handwriting difficulties (e.g. poor pencil grasp, legibility). There was little agreement about when and how to teach keyboarding although most teachers (66%), retired teachers (62%) and parents (57%) think that keyboarding should only be taught in upper primary. Only 56.7% of teachers believed they had the skills to teach keyboarding. Teachers identified problems with access to computers (particularly in primary schools) with only 35.6% claiming to have a computer for each child in their classroom. Study 2: Twenty three students and 18 teachers volunteered to participate. Surveys (students: n=23 and teachers n=18), focus group discussions (5 groups of students), interviews with teachers (n-3) and observations of Year 7 classes (n=12). Both students and teachers expressed concerns that some students were not proficient at handwriting or keyboarding. This lack of proficiency and automaticity impacted students’ ability to engage with writing specifically and learning generally. Teacher expectations of students as having automatic, fluent, legible handwriting are not being met. Nor are their expectations of students’ keyboarding skills. Poor transcription skills seem to be getting in the way of students’ learning. It appears that the expectations of students writing tool use have moved beyond the current curriculum, current teaching programs and possibly even existing learning spaces and furniture.
Feng L, Lindner A, Ji XR & Joshi RM (2017) ‘The roles of handwriting and keyboarding in writing: a meta-analytic review’, Read Writ, doi: 10.1007/s11145-017-9749-x Kiefer M, Schuler S, Mayer C, Trumpp NM, Hille K & Sachse S (2015) ‘Handwriting or typewriting? The influence of pen-or keyboard-based writing training on reading and writing performance in preschool children’, Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 11(4), 136–146, doi: 10.5709/acp-0178-7 Limpo, T., Alves, R. A., & Connelly, V. (2017). Examining the transcription-writing link: Effects of handwriting fluency and spelling accuracy on writing performance via planning and translating in middle grades. Learning and Individual Differences, 53, 26-36. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2016.11.004 Medwell, J., & Wray, D. (2014). Handwriting automaticity: The search for performance thresholds. Language and Education, 28(1), 34-51. doi:10.1080/09500782.2013.763819 Medwell, J. (2012). Handwriting and typing. In R. Cox (Ed.), Primary English teaching : an introduction to language, literacy and learning (Revised Australian edition. ed.). Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.
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