Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Slow Handwriting: How Dysgraphia Affects Testing and Leads to Underachievement

Which is more important? Thinking ability or handwriting? Most people wouldn't have trouble answer this, but handwriting fluency, or the speed of writing by hand, may be one of the most common causes of underachievement in middle school, high school, and college.

Now researchers have found that slow handwriting of undergraduate students constrains overall performance in exam essays. When UK researchers looked at undergraduates who had the slowest handwriting speeds, they found that they differed dramatically from their age peers, and that in terms of speed they closely matched to 11 year-olds.

"The relationships between handwriting fluency and writing quality were also very similar to those of published data on 11 year-old children, with handwriting fluency accounting for large amounts of the variance in writing quality and tutor marks for exam answers. The results of the current study indicate that lower level processes constrain the higher level performance of undergraduate students to a significant extent. The limitation needs to be considered when undergraudate exams are designed and inferences drawn from exam performance."

Connelly has now published a new report on the writing characteristics of college-attending dyslexics here (pdf). Main conclusion:

"...there were no major differences in "higher order" skills such as ideas and organization with chronological age controls, only in "lower order" transcription skills such as spelling and handwriting fluency."

From the text:

Extended time should be one of the most common accommodations a school or classroom can provide, but as students are not routine evaluated for writing speed, it's too often neglected. If you know a student with dysgraphia, it might be worthwhile for you to print up the article at the second link above. The article is current free for download, but many journals change this to purchase only after a month or so.

Why is writing hard? Look at the cognitive effort required for writing compared to other tasks like reading or ordinary "learning".

Cognitive Training of Writing Skills pdf
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Stealth Dyslexia - When Writing is the Problem

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  1. Anonymous8:46 AM

    I'm an adult with this problem. I've had extremely slow handwriting for my entire life. I can type quickly, but not use a pen or pencil quickly. Is there any way to improve this skill? Additional test time seems to be the only suggestion to help young students, but time is what I can't have in my position.

  2. Hi 8b,

    You can train you way toward improvement, but as an adult, it's often pro / con in terms of time...or is it worth it. Many people get by with typing / speech-to-text, or dictation.

    Automaticity practice aims at automatic handwriting - without looking (visual feedback) or thinking. Multisensory strategies can help for adults as well as kids. It can be done on one's own or with the help of a hand therapist (usually an OT).

  3. I'm also facing same problem in my university. My cgpa is going to 3.2.
    how can i help myself?? :((

  4. Hi nipu, Go to disability support office at your university and tell them you think you have a writing disability. Here it's called dysgraphia. Best wishes. Usually they can help you get tested and get extra time as well as an option to type.