18 September 2017
Five years of the Schreibmotorik Institut: we work to improve the promotion of handwriting
The non-profit research institute has already achieved a great deal in the past five years: numerous research projects have led to a better understanding of the process of learning to write, the 2015 nationwide teachers’ survey conducted in cooperation with the German Union of Teachers [Deutsche Lehrerverband] met with a great response in the media and the “Handwriting 2020” campaign launched in 2016 for the promotion of handwriting has received support in educational policy. In 2017, the Schreibmotorik Institut is tackling the issue of handwriting in the context of digitalisation.
“Handwriting and digitalisation are not mutually exclusive, as is often portrayed in the media. The important point here is combining modern technology and learning to write in a meaningful way and at the right time. Increasing digitalisation offers an opportunity that has to be seized.” Institute Director Dr. Marianela Diaz Meyer is convinced that the use of innovative technology in school teaching can be shaped jointly in dialogue with relevant figures from research and practice, without neglecting the immense importance of handwriting on the learning effect, memory capacity and cognitive development of children.
Discussing the consequences and potential of digitalisation for writing
This year’s International Symposium on Handwriting Skills on 10 November addresses the issue of digitalisation. Every two years, it brings together experts from the fields of writing motor skills, neuroscience, sport and exercise science, (ergo)therapy, medicine, developmental psychology, ergonomics, (primary) education and representatives from the field of teacher training, ministries of education and schools, to discuss the latest research findings in the field of handwriting and tried-and-tested real-life pilot projects in an international context.
The Handwriting 2020 campaign receives support in educational policy
In order to raise awareness for the relevance of writing in education and social participation, the Schreibmotorik Institut initiates and carries out other high-profile campaigns such as the “Handwriting 2020” campaign, initiated together with the Didacta Association of the German Education Industry. As part of this alliance, which has gained further cooperation partners since it was launched, the aim is to establish an extensive programme for promoting handwriting in childcare centres and schools. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung] is also confident about the “Handwriting 2020” campaign. “We want to do everything we can to support this important initiative”, said Parliamentary State Secretary Stefan Müller during his visit to the Schreibmotorik Institut.
Intensive research into the process of learning to write
The interdisciplinary team at the Schreibmotorik Institut researches mainly from the perspective of writing motor skills, ergonomics and education in order to gain new and relevant insights. Sebastian Schwanhäußer, 1st executive director of the Schreibmotorik Institut: “In five years, an idea has resulted in a real institution, which is one of a kind in Germany, supported by a wonderful group of people who invest all their expertise and passion in it. I am looking forward to the next five years and I am sure that we will continue to research, collect and share even more exciting knowledge.”
The institute uses scientific methods of empirical social research, as well as measurement methods such as capturing writing movements. Important research topics include early intervention to prepare for learning to write in the future, the acquisition of legible and fluent handwriting in children who are learning to write, learning to switch from different writing styles to left-to-right Latin script in migrants and refugees, as well as the prevention of functional illiteracy.
Rapid transfer into practice
Another important focus besides the research work is putting scientific knowledge about writing (and learning to write) into practice. Research results are made available to figures from the fields of science, society, media and politics by means of intensive communication measures (including (federal) press conferences, interviews, specialist publications, practical reports, newsletters, participation in trade fairs, etc.). For example, the 2015 media reports about the results of the nationwide teachers’ survey on problems with handwriting, carried out by the Schreibmotorik Institut and the German Union of Teachers [Deutscher Lehrerverband], reached more than 20 million people.