Developing digital literacy skills, including keyboard-based writing skills, is critical to academic, professional, and personal success in today's digital age. Traditionally, handwriting has been the primary mode of learning, instruction, and assessment in schools worldwide. Today, however, the digital revolution brought changes in teaching and learning writing, and in several educational contexts children are expected to start developing keyboard-based writing skills as soon as they start formal schooling. Hence, it becomes fundamental to understand student and classroom-level factors contributing to the development of students’ keyboard-based writing and to understand these factors in early primary education. This study adopted the theoretical underpinnings of the Writer(s)-within-Community (WWC) model as its underlying conceptual framework. Integrating sociocultural and cognitive models of writing, the model offers a multidimensional perspective of writing acquisition and development arguing that effective writing is both shaped and constrained by the context in which it takes place and by the writer’s individual cognitive resources and capabilities.
This study presents findings from a larger project examining Year 2 students’ writing achievement and instruction. The present study involved 544 students enrolled in 47 classrooms from 17 primary schools in Western Australia. To assess students’ keyboard-based writing performance (compositional quality and fluency), students were asked to write a short story using a laptop computer and were given 10 minutes to complete the writing task. Consistent with the WWC model, we assessed other student-level factors potentially predicting their keyboard-based writing performance, namely students’ keyboarding automaticity, spelling, reading skills, executive functioning, and writing attitudes. We also examine classroom-level factors potentially predicting keyboard-based writing, namely teachers’ preparation and instructional practices for writing. Multi-level modelling results revealed that keyboarding automaticity, spelling, word reading, general attitudes toward writing, and gender were uniquely related to keyboard-based compositional quality. Keyboarding automaticity, word reading, and gender were also uniquely related to keyboard-based compositional fluency. Results also showed that female students outperformed their male peers in keyboarding automaticity, compositional quality, and fluency, but also on attitudes toward writing and reading comprehension. For classroom-level factors, findings showed time teaching keyboarding positively related to compositional fluency and time teaching handwriting negatively related to compositional quality and fluency. Interactions were also found between gender and time teaching keyboarding, teaching revision, and planning strategies, and specific student-level factors. The novel findings from this study suggest that, to support Year 2 students’ keyboard-based writing, attention must be placed on multiple components predicting students’ writing performance.