Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Penmanship for in-class essays... and Common Core tests!

A colleague has just reminded me that there's still a purely practical reason for teaching students to write fast, legible cursive: in-class essay exams. Ironically (given the Common Core's de-emphasis on penmanship), handwritten exam questions aren't just a staple of many college courses, but also of Common Core-inspired testing--even in math tests. And, yes, as Anne Trubek points out, poor penmanship can negatively affect scores.

True, some students--and some entire classes--are allowed--or required--to word-process their essays instead of hand-writing them. But computers facilitate not just writing, but also cheating. And unless and until we find a way to ensure no computer based cheating (by, e.g., completely blocking Internet access at certain designated times and places), handwritten essay exams must remain an option, and penmanship instruction must stop disappearing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I went to college in the 60s, in the era of freshman weed-out classes and before the era of grade inflation and profs catering to the laziest and least prepared - no recording lectures, no lecture outlines given etc. If you couldn't keep up with the lectures - which you wouldn't if you hadn't done the reading - you found someone to share notes (not easy, especially with regular requests) or you drowned, soonest. My note-taking ability (first taught in 5th grade and honed in 6-12) was a true lifesaver. As a first-semester freshman, I had two sciences with labs, English lit/comp, French lit/comp (at least a play and essay a week in each and the French plays hadn't been translated into English), psych and soc. Starting in sophomore year, I always had 18-23 semester hours, including 15-22 hours a week in practicums, and journal articles had to be read and notes made, in the library, with no copiers. My class notes were copious and I went over them to clarify and make further notes, as soon as possible after class. To study, I added text/journal content to class notes, then serially reduced a semester's worth to 2-5 index cards. The same method worked equally well for both grad degrees, done an hour away, with 2-4 kids. Copiers were available by then, and I had a computer for doc program, but no internet. Taking notes good enough that I knew I hadn't missed anything significant was the lifesaver. I typed well enough to do everything except thesis and dissertation final copies, but can't imagine being able to do on the computer what I did by hand. Teach the kids handwriting and how to take notes/outline/summarize - and give them practice enough to make the process automatic!!!