The Effects of Automaticity in Paper and Keyboard-Based Text Composing

Malpique Anabela, Deborah Pino-Pasternak, Susan Ledger, Debora Valcan, Mustafa Asil

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The predictive association between handwriting automaticity and children’s writing performance is well documented. However, less is known about the relationship between keyboarding automaticity and children’s keyboard-based writing performance. In this exploratory study, we examined the unique contributions of automaticity in both writing modalities in predicting Australian Grade 2 students paper-based and keyboard-based writing performance after controlling for students’ literacy skills, attitudes toward writing, gender, and nesting due to classroom. Forty-nine students (Mean age: 7.19; 25 female) enrolled in one government and one independent school in Western Australia participated in the study. Written informed consent was sought from students, their guardians and classroom teachers.

Data was collected in the final term of Year 2. Students participated in one individual session and one group session at school. Sessions were arranged at mutually agreed times with class teachers. During the individual sessions, students completed assessments of handwriting and keyboarding automaticity (number of letters of the alphabet accurately handwritten or typed in 15 seconds), literacy skills (word reading, text comprehension, and spelling) and attitudes towards writing (child-friendly likert scale survey). During the group sessions (carried out on a separate day) three students were assessed on their paper-based and keyboard-based text composing skills (i.e., compositional quality and fluency). Children were presented with two extended writing prompts (E.g.:"On my way home from school I found a robot") and where asked to handwrite and type a story. A maximum of 10 minutes was given per modality. To complete the paper-based writing task, students were given a sheet of A4 lined paper each and a pencil; to complete the keyboard-based writing task, students were given a laptop running a Microsoft Windows operating system with spelling and grammar checks turned off. The order of the handwritten and typed tasks was counterbalanced to control for order effects.

Multilevel modelling results showed that automaticity predicted students’ paper-based compositional quality and keyboard-based compositional quality and fluency. Findings further suggested that the relationship between automaticity and writing performance was stronger in keyboard-based text composing than in paper-based text composing. These results reinforce the role of automaticity of transcription skills in predicting the writing performance of beginning writers across modalities and stress the significance of explicit pedagogy and frequent instances of practice to promote the mastery of transcription skills across modalities in the early years of schooling. We argue for the need to expand knowledge on the developmental traits of both paper and keyboard-based writing. Understanding specific modality developmental paths is of core importance since such knowledge will drive evidence-based educational policies informing when, why, and how to teach handwriting and keyboarding in primary education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023
EventAARE 2023 Conference: Voice, Truth, Place: Critical Junctures for Educational Research - THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 26 Nov 202330 Nov 2023


ConferenceAARE 2023 Conference
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