Professor finds link to better grades

Image by Kim Werker courtesy of Creative Commons

Irech Colon / Staff Writer

Tia DeCerbo, sophomore special education major, does not worry about the taking sloppy notes, instead just rushes to assure she gets all the information a professor is spitting out.

“Einstein didn’t have the best handwriting, but he was still a genius,” she said.

One University professor focused on a study intended to show proof of a correlation between penmanship and grades.

Laura Dinehart, assistant professor in childhood education, composed a study consisting of about 3,000 students from low-income households in Miami-Dade County at a Pre-K level, whose assessments were compared to their test scores when they first entered public school.

One of the assessments done was a fine motor skills test, which included manipulating objects such as playing with Play-Doh or utilizing building blocks.

The other portion of the assessment involved writing numbers, letters, shapes and drawing pictures.

Of the students that better completed these fine motor assessments, they were also the group resulting to have better test scores in both reading and math in the second grade.

“If we don’t test it, we don’t teach it,” Dinehart said.

However, she believes now that fine motor skills should be taught as a foundation early on because it will have an impact on how a student develops academically in the future.

Dinehart also made a convenient yet important choice by selecting low-income household students as the sample group.

Because a large amount of students in Miami-Dade County are low-income, it is understood that these children are less likely to have access to resources that would promote strong educational outcomes.

Associate professor, Charles Bleiker, who focuses on school readiness, agreed with Dinehart’s idea that although it is important for all kids, it is especially important for lower income students.

“At risk children are the first ones that are affected by school practices because a lot of times their parents are not able to fill in the gaps at home,” he said.

Another factor of this study also shed light on the decline of handwriting which in turn has followed a strain on academic development.

Because of today’s digital era, fine motor and handwriting have been pushed to the back seat to make room for more technological guidelines in Common Core standards of elementary education.

DeCerbo, who has chosen to dedicate her future career in helping special needs children develop successfully, believes fine motor skills hold therapeutic values that can especially aim for progress in physical strength.

Although elementary education holds a great gap to college education, handwriting versus technology based guidelines affect post institutions today.

Most professors now lean on technology for submitting assignments.

Joseph Lichter, undergraduate instructor, assigns written work when asking students to solve problems, but when it comes to essays will always opt for the computer-based assignments.

“The reason I do so is not just because of legibility, but also because it is the way we think today,” he said.

According to Dinehart, we depend on technology for so much, that we lose sight of why it is essential to learn grammar, spelling and having well-controlled handwriting.

Nevertheless, she agrees technology can be utilized to promote better fine motor skills.

“We have to stop thinking about these things [technology and traditional handwriting] as being against each other,” said Dinehart.

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