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Research shows that keyboard ability boosts NAPLAN Results

New research has shown that Year 5 students who have learned to type with the leading touch-typing tutor, Typing Tournament Online have a clear advantage and a pathway to improved NAPLAN scores for the whole class. On average, the result for children in the class will be boosted by 7 marks. That is 37% of a year’s progress in the Writing Task.

A summary of our research and findings

99 Year 5 classes where students had developed fluency in typing through the use of Typing Tournament Online were identified. The 2019 NAPLAN Online results for the Year 5 Writing Task were obtained together with the results for “Similar Schools”.

We then compared each school’s result to their own “Similar School” average for the Year 5 Writing Task. 69 of the 99 schools were at or above the relevant “Similar School” benchmark.  The average margin across all 99 classes was +7.1 marks (Figure 1).

This increase in mark of approximately 7 points equates to a statistically significant advantage of between 1.1 and 1.6 school terms of academic progress as measured by the NAPLAN Writing Task for classes using Typing Tournament over those classes that are not using it when completing the NAPLAN Online Year 5 Writing Task. This benefit was demonstrated across a substantial sample of schools and students, and was remarkably consistent across the socio-economic range and for each of the key indicators of school sector, population zone, school size and state/territory.

The full research

Full details of our research, findings and discussion are available in our Research Report:  Keyboard Ability Clearly Shows in NAPLAN Results

Keyboard fluency is not expected to substitute for other aspects of literacy, but can add another dimension to student achievement that is largely independent of the other components.  That is to say, just as keyboard fluency does not substitute for other aspects of literacy, the converse is also true – strengthening other aspects of literacy will not substitute for the contribution available from touch typing.

The ACARA position regarding NAPLAN Online and typing

A recent review of NAPLAN (NAPLAN Review Final Report 2020 – p84) has reaffirmed the transition to the online format for the Writing task at Year 5 and above.  From the beginning of this transition the administrator of NAPLAN testing, ACARA, has stated its intention that the NAPLAN Writing Task would assess students’ ability in composition independently of their keyboard and/or handwriting ability.

As at November 2020 ACARA states on the in the FAQ section of the NAPLAN Online site (nap.edu.au/online-assessment/FAQs) that “The writing test is not about handwriting skills and NAPLAN Online is not about keyboarding skills. There are variations in how fast and well a student can type, just as there are variations in how fast and well a student can write by hand. ACARA research shows that online writing is similar to handwriting in terms of the quality of writing produced by students at each year level. It also shows that students generally appreciate the use of online features such as editing tools. … Students do not have to be able to touch type to successfully complete the test.”

While the logical limits of this intent have been acknowledged, it is also clear that in the real world of student testing, these distinctions are difficult to maintain, resulting in the 7-point (1.1 to 1.6 school terms of progress) advantage documented.  However, it is also true that student keyboard skills would likely have far greater impact on results without this neutralisation strategy implemented by ACARA.  In most other circumstances throughout schooling and beyond, improvements in typing speed do have clear benefits.

The imperative for good typing skills

Indeed, keyboard skills are an attribute for life extending far beyond the demonstrated benefits for NAPLAN. Touch typing ability can make a very substantial contribution to a successful career in upper primary and secondary school. While the suggestion of conducting senior school exams online varies widely in conviction from state to state, and may seem to be a long time in the future, it is highly likely that many of today’s primary students will confront that reality. Touch typing also leads to greater productivity in higher education, and across a large and increasing proportion of vocations. In all of these spheres, superior speed and accuracy will yield even greater rewards. The growing imperative for good typing skills is inescapable.

Despite its NAPLAN marking policy to limit the impact of typing ability, ACARA has nonetheless recognised the importance of keyboard skills in the syllabus and has increased the emphasis in its curriculum documents (ACARA Literacy Progressions HwK1 – HwK8) since 2018 when automaticity became a stated objective.  That is to say, students should reach a level of fluency that facilitates composition.  From our observation in our day-to-day dealing with schools it would be fair to say that in a sizable number of schools, this push has had limited penetration into classroom practice, and it appears many schools and teachers continue with a view that instruction in keyboard skills is optional.  One possible reason for teachers’ reluctance in this area is evident in the findings of the Australian Writing Survey (Australian Writing Survey p7) which found that a majority of teachers feel poorly equipped to teach typing.

Typing Tournament Online is getting results

Typing Tournament has been proven to be the perfect tool to fill the gap between the requirement for the teaching of touch-typing skills and the lack of preparedness for the task in the teaching profession. Earlier research has shown that weekly use of Typing Tournament Online increases average typing speeds by 6 words per minute (wpm) over a school term with many classes regularly achieving typing speeds of over 45 WPM.

Typing Tournament Online teaches full-keyboard touch typing and has a wide range of exercises, activities and games to build speed and accuracy. Typing Tournament Online is one of the online learning websites in the suite published by EdAlive. The pricing structure brings sophisticated instruction in touch typing within the financial reach of every school in Australia, and also to home users.

Dr Lindsay Brash – EdAlive.

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