Why We Prefer Handwriting at MagiKats

Good handwriting might not seem to be a necessary skill in today’s world where typing documents on a computer at breakneck speed, or sending rapid-fire email messages is the way most companies work. Why teach handwriting at all? Let alone, make it a key part of our MagiKats Maths and English tuition programmes?

Leading Researchers Show Handwriting Benefits

A 2015 study by the Department of Occupational Therapy at the Dominican University of California found that 33% of children benefited by using handwriting to set goals. Concluding handwriting is a major factor in a child’s ability to self-reflect, the paper is revealing in that it tells us what we intuitively knew: that handwriting does boost learning.

At Indiana University, a 2013 study paper investigating ways to learn, found students did the best in tests when they wrote the most important points on paper, in their own words. The act of summarising and note-taking by hand meant students who learned through these methods performed better when tested. The study described ‘summarisation’ as a ‘family of strategies’ including ‘single words, sentences or longer paragraphs’ used to remember important skills. It seems that when we take notes on computers, we make them quickly without as much thinking as when handwriting.

Compelling Evidence for Handwriting Benefits

By far the most convincing argument for ditching the keyboard when learning, is made by a study from the University of Washington, who found children’s ability to handwrite translated into a better understanding of the different levels of language. These included words, sentences, paragraphs, spelling, syntax, organisation and sentence construction. They wrote much better essays and selected more correct answers to multiple choice questions (in all subjects), leading to the conclusion that keyboard-based learning doesn’t engage the hand in the same way.  Handwriting with a pen stimulates memory. Brain-imaging studies showed children relate to manual formation and selection of letters – giving learners who study with handwritten notes a huge advantage.

Teachers Call for Handwriting to Improve

With the majority of examinations produced through handwriting it is no wonder UK teachers are crying out for handwriting to improve. In a 2016 Times Education Service article ’Teachers call for greater focus on tidying up poor handwriting’, three reasons are given for diminished handwriting quality: smartphones, laptops and tablets.

The quality of student’s work remains, in many cases, marked lower due to poor presentation. Inability to practise their letters equals a generation of students coming through with poor technique. Prodding keyboards - instead of stimulating their brains using the classic tripod grip of the pen, reduces what you could call ‘muscle memory’. The speed of keyboard typing and online learning means they lose valuable ‘thinking time’ or, the ability to process information they are learning. It is this last factor that is said to be the main one affecting test outcomes in favour of those who study using handwriting.

At MagiKats, we don’t use computers with our students. Handwriting is core to our learning style and at each workshop we act to improve the quality of handwriting, alongside the presentation of answers. We have long championed the benefits of learning through handwritten responses and it seems, in 2016, the jury is finally in: handwriting is essential to your child’s education.