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New Studies in Education: The Comparative Study of Different Methods Used in Teaching Beginners to Write


by Oscar E. Hertzberg - 1927

THIS is an experimental study of two principles underlying methods of teaching beginners to write, direct learning versus mechanical aid.1 Four methods are studied: (I) groove tracing, supplemented by sandpaper outline tracing and finger tracing; (II) transparent paper tracing; (III) direct learning (child attempts to copy freehand from a model); and (IV) combination of mechanical aids and direct learning.

THIS is an experimental study of two principles underlying methods of teaching beginners to write, direct learning versus mechanical aid.1 Four methods are studied: (I) groove tracing, supplemented by sandpaper outline tracing and finger tracing; (II) transparent paper tracing; (III) direct learning (child attempts to copy freehand from a model); and (IV) combination of mechanical aids and direct learning.


Data for this study came from 245 kindergarten children of three representative public schools in New York City, who had had no previous training in writing. The training by means of the differentiated methods extended over a period of fifteen days, for five minutes each day, during which time each group was trained in only one of the four methods. This was followed by a training period of seven days, two and one-half minutes each day, for copy work, followed by two and one-half minutes of memory work, during which period the direct learning method only was employed. Records of actual writing were obtained from all children every fifth day for the first fifteen days. Records for both copying and memory work were obtained daily for the last seven days of the experiment. The writing was scored on a quality scale constructed by the author for the purposes of this experiment. The variables obtained previous to the experiment for the purpose of finally equating the groups were mental age, chronological age, and scores on three different motor tests constructed for the purposes of this experiment. Correlations found between each of the five variables and final writing scores showed that motor test III (.772 ± .04) and mental age (.518 ± .078) gave the best measures on which the groups could be equated.


For the experiment as a whole Group III, which employed the direct learning method, showed the greatest amount of improvement, increasing from an average quality score of 3.10 at the end of the first week to a final average score of 6.02. Group IV, which employed the combination method, ranked second, increasing from an average quality score of 3.00 at the end of the first week's training period to a final average score of 5.05. Group II, which employed the transparent paper tracing method, ranked about the same as Group I, increasing from an average quality score of 2.97 at the end of the first week's training period to a final average score of 4.28. Group I, which employed the groove tracing method, supplemented by sandpaper outline tracing and finger tracing, increased from an average quality score of 3.13 at the end of the first week's training period to a final average score of 4.30.


The purpose of the last seven days of the experiment was to determine what would be the effect upon the groups which had been using artificial devices up to this time of presenting them with training in actual writing. The points gained during this period by the different groups are as follows: Group III, 1.17; Group IV, .83; Group II, .70; Group I, .50. It is interesting to note in this connection that Groups I, II, and IV, respectively, made a greater gain in points during these seven days than they had made during the previous fifteen days of the experiment. During this period, the children in all groups were able to do nearly as well in the memory work as they were able to do in copying from the model.


A further study was made of the scores of Group III as related to the five variables obtained prior to the experiment, and a formula was worked out by which one may determine within the limits of legibility and non-legibility in writing whether a child has reached that period in his development when it would be profitable to give him systematic training in writing.


The results of this experiment indicate that children introduced to writing by means of the direct learning method acquire skill in writing more rapidly, build up fewer irrelevant habits, and develop a more enduring interest in the writing process than do children introduced to writing through the use of mechanical aids.







1By Oscar Edward Hertzberg, Ph.D. Teachers College, Columbia University, Contributions to Education, No. 214.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 28 Number 6, 1927, p. 625-626
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 5877, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 8:12:34 AM

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