Cursive writing is a skill that contributes to learning, yet in the digital age it is no longer considered a necessary part of the curriculum in America’s schools. Research demonstrates the importance of handwriting, particularly cursive, in the development of fluency, compositional complexity, and literacy skills. Because of the ever-expanding use of technology, it is necessary to understand the value that cursive brings to the thinking and writing process.
This study compared the differences in fluency and compositional quality between two modes of transcription (cursive and keyboard) among fifth- and eighth-grade students. It also examined the attitudes and beliefs of today’s educators and students regarding cursive’s value and benefits as compared with the value and benefits of keyboarding. Students from three private schools in the midwestern United States wrote two stories each, one in cursive and one by keyboard using the Test of Written Language-4. The researcher tabulated the total word count (fluency) for each story and compared the results by grade level and mode of transcription. The researcher also compared the standard scores for each story measuring compositional quality by mode of transcription, grade levels, and schools. The students and their teachers completed a survey expressing their views on cursive writing and the use of a keyboard. The teachers also participated in follow-up phone interviews.
The researcher conducted a series of parametric and non-parametric tests, and the results indicated that the keyboard-generated stories in both the fifth and eighth grade generally scored higher in fluency and compositional quality over the cursive stories. In contrast, the teachers and students placed a substantial value on learning and using cursive as indicated by the qualitative data. Future studies should focus on understanding this dichotomy and how cursive writing may enhance best practices in educating the next generation of digital natives.