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Daniel Starch.

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The surest way in which to measure the results obtained in dif-
ferent periods of j^ractice in writing would be to split up a given
group of pupils into several sections and to have each section devote
a different amount of time to the writing period, say 10, 15, 20, and
25 minutes respectively. All should preferably be taught by the



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Ji! 50-59

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io
22.6 2



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28



10 15



20



25
Rank



30 35



40



Fig. 65. — Relation between attainment in writing and time devoted to writ-
ing. After Freeman ('15).

same teacher. At any rate, all other elements should be kept as
constant as possible. Then a comparison by special tests in speed
and quality made at stated intervals would reveal the effect of
time upon improvement and would show what period of time
brought the optimum results.

The investigations by Thomdike and Freeman have been highly
valuable in calling attention to this problem and in showing that
some schools obtain as good results by devoting only half as much
time as other schools obtain in double the amount of time. The
general impression is that 15 minutes per day as a maximum is suf-
ficiently long for the writing period and, under proper methods of
instruction, can produce as high attainment in writing as the schools
need to produce for all practical purposes. That there is an opti-



310 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

mum length of the writing period beyond which the principle of
diminishing returns operates is quite certain, as indicated by general
learning experiments such as those cited in Chapter XI. What this
optimum period for practice in writing is cannot at present be
specified with certainty.

(3) How Great Proficiency Should Be Attained, Tests made
in a large number of schools show that the average attainment at
the end of the 8th grade is writing as good as quality 11, Thorndike
Scale, or quality 60, Ayres Scale, at a speed of about 83 letters per
minute. The same tests also show that many schools reach much
higher proficiency than this and that in every school a considerable
share of pupils far exceed the limits of 11 or 60 in quality and 83
in speed. Are these averages of attainment in quality and speed
sufficiently high for practical purposes? And is it worth while to
develop higher proficiency in writing than these averages rep-
resent?

In answer to the first question. Freeman ('15) made inquiries
among business firms and found that the majority considered writ-
ing equal to quality 60, Ayres Scale, as sufficiently good for or-
dinary business purposes. It would seem then that the frequent
criticism from business men who say that pupils coming to them
from the public schools cannot write, is ill-founded, and based
probably on the exceptions rather than on the majority of pupils,
since about three-fourths of the pupils finishing the elementary
schools can write better than quality 40 or 50, Ayres Scale, and
one-half can write better than quality 60. The attainment of 11
or 60 in quality and of S3 letters per minute in speed reached by the
average pupil upon completion of the elementary school is fully up
to the average requirement of business. The criticism coming from
business men is probably based upon the 20 or 25% of pupils
finishing the 8th grade who fall below quality 40, and many times
upon those who leave school before completing the 8th grade to
seek business employment.

The second question is practically answered by the discussion of
the first. It probably is not worth while to attempt to reach a
proficiency in writing much higher than quality 11 to 12, Thorndike
Scale, or 60 to 70, Ayres Scale. Such higher skill would be gotten
by too great an expense of time and by too great a sacrifice of
speed. Furthermore, the legibility of writing of qualities above
these limits increases very little. The gain is chiefly in beauty.
The time that would be required to reach these higher degrees of



i



HANDWRITING



311



skill could be devoted to better advantage to other subjects, or to
the learning of typewriting. Thorndike says:

"Considering the fact that above quality 11 there is very little differ-
ence in legibihty, one is tempted to advocate the heresy that children
are taught to write too well. I personally do advocate it. If school
boards would furnish, for the use of children electing 'writing' as a study
in the last two grammar grades, typewriting machines, I should certainly
advise the transfer to typewriting of a child in these grades whose writing
at 60 letters a minute consistently reaches quality 13. For, the amount
of practice required to advance such a pupU to quality 16 at a rate of
75 letters a minute would much more than suffice to advance him to
substantially errorless machine writing at that rate. The value now at-
tached to the high qualities of handwriting is of course largely fictitious.
Employers who can afi'ord such high qualities of writing, buy machines
to produce them. For writing cash checks, simple book entries, labels,
and the Uke, a good plain hand or our quality 12 is entirely adequate.
For attaining the higher qualities (15-18) the machine is a more eco-
nomical tool than the pen, and in my opinion should be provided by
those schools which require such qualities. Further, such qualities should,
in my opinion, be required of children in the elementary schools, only
when they have elected writing as a vocational subject. For the data
from the adult women-teachers make it practically certain that ability
to write above quality 14 will not be exercised in life except as a part
of a clerical trade. If very, very few teachers find it worth while to
maintain qualities above 14, it can hardly be supposed that it will be
worth while for mechanics, house-keepers, farmers and dressmakers to
do so." ('10, p. 37.)

(4) Relation between Speed and Quality. To what extent
is speed of writing accompanied by good quality? Is there possibly
an inverse relationship between the two? From general impressions
we know that if we try to write unusually well we sacrifice speed
and if we try to write unusually rapidly, we sacrifice quality. Is
there any balance between these two elements?

Quite frequently teachers overemphasize either quality or speed,
usually the former, at the expense of the latter. In Figure 66
the teachers in the 6th and 7th grades greatly over-emphasized
quality so that the speed of writing was equal only to that of the
average 3rd grade pupil. Definite tests and comparisons with
standards will reveal to the teachers many such aberrations in
emphasis.

Sackett had 36 university students write in their normal manner
and immediately afterwards he had them write the same material



312



EDUCATIONAL rSYCIIOLOGY



with the knowledge that it was to be used as a writing test. He
found that on the average the writing was about .5 letters per-
second slower (original rate about 1.8 letters per second) while
the quality gained 4 points on the Ayres scale.



90



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?50



20



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I 12
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3 4 5

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Fig. 66. — Average speed and quality of handwriting of the various grades
in a given school. The broken lines represent the school. The continuous lines
are the standard attainments.

Freeman ('14) made tests to determine what the efficiency would
be when children were told to write (i) both rapidly and well,
(2) as well as possible, and (3) as rapidly as possible. The results
showed that trying to write well improved quality at the expense
of speed. QuaHty improved 6.2% while speed dropped 3.7%.
Trying to write rapidly increased speed by 27.2% but decreased
quality 9.1%. Improvement in both speed and quality, however,



HANDWRITING



313



can be obtained when instructions are given to stress both aspects.
Apparently this is the preferable thing to do.

The author ('15) found in the case of 144 pupils the following
correlations between various characteristics of handwriting:

Speed and quality 10

Speed and legibility li

Quality and legibility 34

Freeman also computed the correlation between speed and
quality on the basis of the writing samples of pupils in Grades 4 to
8. These he found to be as follows:



Grade


IV


V


VI


VTI


VIII


Correlation. .


. .08 (02)


- . ro (04)


- . 14 (04)


-•37


-.15(5)



These correlations are either zero or slightly positive or negative
and mean that only to a very slight extent is the good writer ex-
tremely slow or the fast writer extremely poor.

Judd ('16), in the Cleveland Survey, has presented extensive
data pertaining to this question:

"After determining the speed and quality of each specimen, it becomes
possible to work out with great exactness the relation between these two
characteristics. It is evident from ordinary experience that quality
conunonly deteriorates when speed is emphasized, and that speed is slow




80



30



80



90



40 50 60 70

Quality— Ayers Scale

Fig. 67. — Average speed of handwriting at each quality of writing from 20
to 90, 10,528 cases from 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades. After Judd ( '16, p. 72).

when one tries to write especially well. The school is constantly in the
position of seeking some reasonable balance between speed and quality.
"Diagram 67 gives the facts for the 10,528 specimens carefully studied.



314 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

In the vertical axis of this diagram are represented the different speeds;
in the horizontal axis are the various grades of quality. The results from
each grade are represented separately. Thus, beginning at the extreme
right end of the bottom line, we see from the diagram that for those
writers in the fifth grade who show the highest quality (90) the rate is
on the average 51 letters per minute. Advancing along the line toward
the left, we find that those in the fifth grade who show a quality 80 have
an average speed of 54 letters.

"The diagram shows that there is a general area between qualities
60 and 80, and between speeds 60 and 80, where all the grades above the
fifth may be said to reach a level. Greater speed seems to be purchased
at an undue sacrifice of quality, and higher quality seems to result in
much slower speeds. We thus have in our results some indications as
to the probable area within which teachers will find a desirable balance
between speed and quality." (Pp. 70-71.)

(5) Methods of Teaching Penmanship. Experimental eflforts
have thus far not been directed very vigorously toward ascertain-
ing the specific effect of different methods of learning to write
upon rate of improvement in it. It seems, however, very certain
that different procedures do produce enormously different results.
This is amply shown by the wide differences in attainment of the
various grades and schools, even in the same school system. Judd
found, for example, in the Cleveland Survey, that the average of
the best class was twice as proficient, either in speed or in quality,
as the poorest class. The facts are shown in Figures 68 and 69:

"Diagram 68 shows the average results for the four upper grades in
36 schools. The figure is to be interpreted as follows: In the upper
diagram, which gives the results for the fifth grades, there are numerous
small squares, each representing a single fifth grade. In each square is a
number showing the average number of letters written per minute in a
grade. Thus in the square at the extreme left of the diagram is the num-
ber '39.' This means that the average number of letters written per
minute by that fifth grade was 39. In the next vertical column of squares
are numbers ranging from 42 to 49. These indicate that there were fifth
grades showing each of the averages given.

"One of the most impressive facts which is brought out by this com-
parison is that the slowest fifth grade is only half as fast as its fastest
fifth grade. Like statements can be made regarding the other grades.
These wide differences cannot be attributed to any native characteristics
which the children bring to the school. Such disparities might appear in
individuals, but the figures report whole grades. All the fifth grades are
going through the schools parallel with one another and are officially
ranked as alike. The same statement can be made regarding the other



HANDWRITING



315



Speed Records of
36 Fifth Grades



Speed Records of
36 Sixth Grades




Speed Records of
36 Seventh Grades





78

77
77
77








76


89






76


89






75


86








75
73
73


86
85
85






68


73


81


97


58


64


72


83


96


57


62


71


82


91


[45 50


61


70


81


90|



Speed Records of
36 Eighth Grades



Fig. 68.-Distribution of grade averages in speed of writing.
('16, p. 64).




After Judd



^i6



EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY



grades also. Perhaps the most obvious case is that of the eighth grade.
Children will go out of the various eighth grades into high schools with
the official assumption that they are equally well fatted for advanced



Quality Records of
36 Fifth Grades







44












44
44
44
44

44








43


48






43


48








43


47






39


42


46






38


41


46








36


41


46


54


57






36


40


46


57


57


62


1^


35


40


45


50


55


60



Quality Records of
36 Sixth Grades





49,
49
49

49








48


54






48


54








47


54








44


47


53






39


43


46


53






38


43


46


51


58


61




38


43


46


51


56


61


[30


35


Jl


46


50


56


60



QuaHty Records of
36 Seventh Grades



30



46



46



50



50



56



60



60



67



Quality Records of
36 Eighth Grades



Fig. 69. — Distribution of grade averages in quality of writing as measured
by the Ayres Scale, After Judd ('16, p. 64),





49




59

58






49


54


57






49


53


56






49


53


56






48


53


56






47


52


56


64


69




47


52


56


62


69




45


51


55


61


67


|39|


45


50


55


61


65



HANDWRITING 317

work, and yet one eighth grade averages only 46 letters a minute, and
another averages loi. Is it not evident that there must be a difference
in emphasis on speed in writing in different schools?" (Pp. 63-64.)

"Diagram 69 shows in a manner similar to that explained in the
earlier paragraph on speed the results obtained from 36 schools. From
the figure it will be seen that in quality, as in speed, the most striking
variation exists between grades which are officially recognized as parallel.
Furthermore, there is the same overlapping of grades, several of the
fifth grades ranking higher than the average eighth grade." (P. 68.)

Here, as in so many other problems, specific experiments with
conditions rigorously controlled should be carried out in order
to determine the actual effect of each given element or method in
teaching handwriting. Such experiments could be carried out
by teaching parallel sections of a class according to different
methods, after the general plan outlined under heading (2) of
this section.

(6) Factors Affecting the Execution of the Writing Movements.
The numerous conditions affecting favorably or unfavorably the
execution of the many complex writing movements such as the
position of the body, the position of the desk, the position of the
arm, the position of the paper on the desk, the manner of holding
the pen or pencil, and the like, are important problems concern-
ing which likewise we have little scientific information. The pro-
cedures followed by teachers are based chiefly upon general ob-
servation and personal judgment. With regard to position of
body, arm, paper, and desk. Freeman has suggested the relations
shown in Figure 70. This relationship makes possible a natural
straight front position before the desk with both arms on the desk,
and with the paper tilted at an angle of about 30 degrees to the
left. This position of the paper makes it possible for the hand to
follow easily along the horizontal line of writing by simply turning
the forearm on the point on which, it rests on the edge of the desk
as a pivot. Furthermore, the most natural direction of the up and
down movement of the pen point is directly toward or away from
the body, and with the paper in the position suggested, the writ-
ing will have a medium slant of about 25 to 30 degrees from the
vertical.

(7) Types of Writing Movements. What sort of writing move-
ments may be executed most economically in learning to write
and ultimately in the perfected writing process? Considerable
controversy has occurred over this question. Theoretically there



3l8 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

are at least three types of movements possible in the production of
letters. One would be to do the writing entirely with finger and
hand movements and to hold the arm absolutely quiet except
for the turning of the arm from left to right to follow along the
line of writing. The second would be to do the writing entirely
with the arm movement and to hold the hand and fingers absolutely
still. The third would be a combination of these two sets of move-
ments in varying proportions. Advocates of various methods of
teaching writing favor one or another type of movement. Probably




Fig. 70. — Position of pupil in relation to desk and paper. After Freeman
('14).

the best method is an appropriate combination as suggested in
the third type of movement. Freeman states:

"The arm movement with rest — the so-called muscular movement —
is an American discovery and has been vigorously exploited in commer-
cial schools since the last quarter of the last century and more recently
in certain systems of teaching in the public schools. It seems likely
that within twenty-five years this form of writing will be practically
universal in American schools. The chief advantages of the movement
are two. In the first place, it is made with the fingers relatively rela.xed,
thus avoiding cramping. In the second place, the rolling movement of
the arm upon the muscle pad of the forearm produces a firmness and
evenness of fine, and the fact that the movement is produced from a center
at a considerable distance from the pen point results in regularity of slant.

"The contention that every detail of the letters shall be made by the



HANDWRITING 319

movement of the arm while the fingers remain immobile is calculated
to antagonize reasonable critics. The oscillation of the arm may well
form the main basis for the upward and downward strokes of letters, but
to require that every loop and turn and joining be produced by the
movement of the arm as a whole, instead of the much more flexible hand
and fingers, is to set up an artificial requirement and one which is not
made in regard to other types of skilled movement.

"The form of movement, then, which best meets the requirements
which may be laid down as the result of experiment and of practical
experience is somewhat as follows: The hand and arm must be so ad-
justed that the hand progresses freely along the line during the formation
of the letters and in the spaces between the words. The hand must rest
upon some freely sliding point or points of contact such as the finger nails
or the side of the little finger. When, on the contrary, the pen point is
carried along from one letter to another by means of adjustments of the
parts of the fingers and the hand, the hand continually gets into a cramped
position.

"The movements of the arm and fingers should form a smooth and
easy co-ordination in which there is a condition of flexibihty in the whole
member. The rotation of the arm upon the muscle pad of the forearm
as a center carries the hand along, the upward and downward oscillatory
movement forms the groundwork of the letter formation, and shght ad-
justments of the fingers complete the details of the letters. In addition
to these chief elements of the movement, the wrist may rotate to the side
to supplement the sideward movement of the arm, and the forearm may
revolve upon its axis in the movement of pronation as a corrective to the
increase in slant at the end of the line. There is no good reason for seek-
ing to eliminate any of these component movements. Each has some
part to play. Moreover, room must be left for individual differences in
their relative prominence and manner of combination." ('14, pp. 93-96.)

(8) Movement Drills. Special drills in movements such as
ovals, vertical movements progressing to the right, horizontal
movements from left to right and from right to left, have been
advocated by various systems of penmanship with the belief that a
substantial amount of time given to such drills will establish good
form and speed in writing. To what extent such formal drill or
how much of it may actually be profitable, is open to question.
It would be an experiment worth undertaking to teach three
sections of a class of pupils for a year or more by giving to one
section a considerable amount of such drill, to the second section
none, but to devote instead the entire time to drill and practice in
writing the letters themselves, and to the third section a com-
bination of the two types of drill.



320 EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY

(9) Correct Form in All Writing Done by the Pupils. It is an

elementary principle of habit formation that an act to be developed
into a skillful habit, whenever carried out, should be performed
correctly or at least as correctly as possible at that stage of learning.
Otherwise the inaccurate and careless performance of the act
tends to counteract the skill already achieved. It would seem,
therefore, to be a highly desirable plan as an incentive to pupils
to write at their best at all times, to base their marks in penman-
ship to the extent of one-half upon their work in the writing-period
proper and to the extent of the other half upon the quality of
writing in all other work submitted. One important reason why
instruction in penmanship, spelling, oral and written composition
does not carry over into the penmanship, spelling and composition
generally is that pupils are not as careful in their ordinary writing,
spelling and speaking by observing correct form as they are in
the respective class periods devoted to these subjects. Telling
the pupils that their final grades will be made up, half and half,
as here suggested, will act as a remarkable incentive toward general
improvement as shown by specific tests in the case of spelling,
which will be discussed in the next chapter.

(10) Analysis of Imperfections. One of the important by-
products of the experimental investigation of conditions and fac-
tors in the learning process is the fact that definite practice in a
specific function consciously known to the learner greatly improves
the function. Improvement in any type of skill takes place in
many instances only when practice is squarely directed towards
certain specific elements in the process. This is one reason why
persons in laboratory experiments on learning make such enormous
progress and why pupils in school make so little progress. The
function to be trained in the one case is definitely and specifically
known to the learner, whereas in the latter case, it is indefinite and
largely unknown to the learner. It is not enough to say to a pupil,
"You must write better," "write more like the copy," or "watch
me; write as I do." The specific defects must be pointed out,
recognized by the learner and then overcome by definite practice.

Freeman has pointed out five main types of defects or character-
istics of handwriting: uniformity of slant, uniformity of alinement,
quality of line, letter formation, and spacing. The scales that he
has devised for rating handwriting from these five points of view
may be used with advantage in discovering the specific defects in a
given individual's writing and in centering definite attention and



HANDWRITING 321

practice upon them. The score card for evaluating handwriting



Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 27 of 41)