The Erasmus+ partners in dialogue
European research project: HS Tutorials – Practical modules for promoting writing skills in schools
Together with five project partners from Germany, Austria and Italy, the Schreibmotorik Institut is conducting a European research project within the framework of ERASMUS+. Here, the project partners outline existing difficulties in writing that occur in their particular region, reasons for their participation and what they hope to achieve.
As part of the project, concrete didactic approaches and teaching aids for promoting writing skills in schools will be developed and tested over the next two years. By training multipliers, findings from research on handwriting – and on writing motor skills in particular – will be integrated into teacher training and applied in practice. And there’s a great need for it: despite comprehensive compulsory education, one in every five adolescents and approx. 75 million adults in Europe have insufficient reading and writing skills. This was reported by the European Commission in 2018, who called for immediate action by individual members. They suggest that specially trained teaching staff should help to prevent reading and writing problems from the outset.
In addition to the Schreibmotorik Institut, the participating project partners include: the Government of Middle Franconia [Regierung von Mittelfranken], the Government of Lower Bavaria [Regierung von Niederbayern], the German Department of Education of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano [Deutsche Bildungsdirektion der Autonomen Provinz Bozen ] (Italy), IDEUM (Austria) and the Styrian Educational Board [Landesschulrat Steiermark] (Austria).
Schreibmotorik Institut Director and Project Coordinator Dr. Marianela Diaz Meyer discusses the situation in Germany: “The national teachers’ survey conducted by the Schreibmotorik Institut and the German Union of Teachers [Deutscher Lehrerverband] in 2015 showed that 31 per cent of girls and 51 per cent of boys had difficulty in learning to handwrite. Almost two thirds of pupils in secondary schools cannot write for more than 30 minutes without complaint. They are at a disadvantage in their educational efforts. Proficient writing skills are a key competence and an important foundation for educational success, as verified by neuroscientific studies. It is vital to encourage children to enjoy learning to write and to maintain this enjoyment – to make them writing explorers. An intervention study carried out by the Schreibmotorik Institut and the University of Saarland concerning first-year pupils (2017) showed that just one hour’s weekly targeted writing motor support had a demonstrably positive influence on writing skills.”
Government of Lower Bavaria
Lower Bavaria team members Claudia Albrecht and Kerstin Detto report on their personal experiences in their capacity as a teacher and as head of school. In the school entry phase, they most notably observed an increase children’s fine and gross motor problems. In Years 3 and 4, premature hand fatigue can be observed. Texts that are quickly written are often scruffy or illegible. The use of pre-printed worksheets is partially responsible for lack of prolonged writing practice. In general, there seems to be insufficient focus on writing in lessons.
Kerstin Detto: “Pupils lack the language to verbalise their writing problems and the understanding of factors that influence writing. This project collaboration should raise teachers’ awareness of findings from science and research on writing motor skills, thus enabling them to jointly develop practical tasks. What is needed is language for reflecting on writing that can be used by everyone involved in school education.”
Claudia Albrecht: “I am the head of a primary school that has been taking part in Education Through Language and Writing [BiSS – Bildung in Sprache und Schrift] for three years. We have done an incredible amount to promote reading and have received the Reading School [Leseschule] quality seal. Through this project we also now aim to further develop writing skills within our school.”
Government of Middle Franconia
By training 20 multipliers in Middle Franconia within the framework of this Erasmus project, Wolfram Kriegelstein, Head of Department in the Government of Middle Franconia, hopes that further training courses will take place both in nurseries and in schools: “An increasing number of children are starting school with significant gross and fine motor skill deficiencies. The handouts developed as part of the project and online tutorials provide educators and teachers with targeted support for helping to teach children the necessary physical and motor skills for writing.”
German Department of Education for the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy
Teachers in the region of South Tyrol also regularly complain about their pupils’ lack of writing motor skills. Some children lack the age-appropriate fine motor skills. “The focus should be on educating and raising awareness among teachers. Only those with sufficient background knowledge and who have closely studied the topic of handwriting can recognise particular correlations and research and test new ideas,” says Dr. Petra Eisenstecken, didactics specialist in the Pedagogical Division of the German Department of Education of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and also responsible for German as a First Language in Primary Schools.
IDEUM e.U., Austria
The situation is similar in Austria. Dr. Margit Ergert, Linguist and Managing Director of IDEUM: “Children have problems with writing ergonomics excessively often. Incorrect posture and pen hold, as well as illegible and awkward writing, contribute to extremely delayed automated writing. This project contributes to raising awareness of the importance of writing motor skills and their impact on pupil performance in general. The materials we produce will demonstrate that many problems are solvable."
*This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.