Menu

Education Today Logo


newsletter

Education Today Cover Browse Issue

Education has 'dropped the ball' in teaching writing skills

Many Australian children are leaving primary school without the handwriting and keyboarding skills to enable them to perform at their best in writing tasks across the curriculum, according to an Australian literacy academic. 

Dr Noella Mackenzie of Charles Sturt University’s School of Education said some children are unable to perform efficiently on tasks that require them to write – by hand or on keyboards – because they have not learned the skills or practised them enough.

In Dr Mackenzie’s 2016 survey of 434 parents, 336 teachers, 79 retired teachers and 17 parents whose children were home-schooled, more than 90 per cent of each group believed handwriting was still important, and most thought it should be taught throughout primary school.

Most of the teachers surveyed (87.5 per cent) and retired teachers (90.5 per cent) agreed that efficient handwriting frees up working memory so children can concentrate on their composition rather than on the task of writing itself.

Yet in the past five years, only 10 per cent of the teachers had participated in professional development related to teaching handwriting and less than 3 per cent in professional development related to teaching keyboarding.

“If our handwriting or keyboarding is automatic and fast, we can concentrate on other elements of writing, such as composing the message,” Dr Mackenzie said. “But handwriting and keyboarding skills both require complex sensory, motor, perceptual and cognitive skills and we are not giving students the instruction or the time to develop and practise these skills so they become efficient and automatic practitioners.

“Students continue to be required to write in all disciplines, with much of their school day involving writing of some kind,” she said. “In addition, mounting evidence shows that taking notes with a laptop can be less effective in supporting learning and recall than taking notes by hand.

“The Australian curriculum has specific targets for children in using digital devices from the first year of schooling, but doesn’t outline how they are supposed to develop the skills to reach those levels of performance,” she said.

“As educators deal with an increasingly crowded curriculum and place more emphasis on NAPLAN and other testing, something has to give – and in some classrooms it seems to be teaching children the handwriting and keyboard skills they need.

“We have NAPLAN testing that requires year 3 students to produce an extended writing piece on the computer – but those children haven’t been taught how to type.” 


19 Jul 2019 | National
Why are Australian teachers under so much strain? News Image

An Aussie study has found that teachers are living with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. Is there a conflict between our changing expectations of education and the current classroom format? Read More

18 Jul 2019 | National
Education a bright spot in slowing jobs market News Image

It’s mid-year and it’s always a quiet time before the madness leading up to Christmas, job market activity is usually slower than usual and most states are recording declines in job ad numbers, that is unless you’re in education. Read More

18 Jul 2019 | Qld
Books in Homes supporting literacy in eight regional Queensland schools News Image

The Books in Homes Program will continue in north west Queensland for another five years with Glencore extending its support by funding eight primary schools in the region. Read More

18 Jul 2019 | National
How Australian graduates can succeed in today’s job market News Image

Making the transition from education to work is a tough one, but it’s easier with a plan and skills that employers are demanding, tech skills are important but so are soft skills and an ability to keep learning. Read More

18 Jul 2019 | National
50,000 kids coding to celebrate 50th moon landing anniversary News Image

Moonhack 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing and will see students take part in a space-themed coding exercise to build a space-themed game. Read More