Berger, C., & Lewandowski, L. (2013). The effect of a word processor as an accommodation for students with learning disabilities . Journal of Writing Research , 4 (3), 300–318. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2013.04.03.2
Berger, C., & Lewandowski, L. (2013). The effect of a word processor as an accommodation for students with learning disabilities. Journal of Writing Research, 4(3), 300–318. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2013.04.03.2
Use of the accommodation of a word processor was compared to typical handwritten course exam responses.
Postsecondary students (n=98), ranging in age from 17 through 24 years, attending a large private university in New York State participated. Participants included 30 students with learning disabilities and 64 students without disabilities. Other demographic data, including sex, undergraduate class level, age, and ethnic/racial categories, were also reported.
Student performance on typical examination items from one of their introductory psychology courses was measured for each participant in both word processing and handwritten formats. Additional data were collected on a survey including demographic data, documented experience using accommodations, having writing difficulties, computer use skills (if any), tutoring with writing, and relative preference for completing tests in handwriting and via word processor. Participants also completed a number-writing task to measure typing speed, Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement subtests on fluency and calculations, and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, second edition (WIAT-II) subtest on written expression.
No significant effects were found about the order of presenting the test conditions (handwritten and word-processing response formats). There were also no significant score differences by sex of participants, for both test formats; however, female participants tended to produce significantly longer essays in both test response formats. Although it was expected that the word-processing response format was expected to result in a significantly larger improvement over the handwritten format for students with learning disabilities, in comparison to students without learning disabilities, this result did not occur. Scores for essays produced using word-processing were higher than handwritten essays for both students with learning disabilities and students without disabilities. Further, it was expected that the word-processing response format would result in differentially longer essays, by total word count, for students with learning disabilities than for students without disabilities, in comparison to each group's handwritten essays. However, the result was that both students with learning disabilities and students without disabilities produced longer word-processed essays, and the increased length was similar between the participant groups. Finally, it was hypothesized that students with learning disabilities would spend more time working on essays (with the 10-minute limit) than students without disabilities, no matter which test response format was used. Instead, the result was that both groups took similar amounts of time on average for handwritten essays—with most students using the entire 10 minutes. In contrast, significantly fewer students with learning disabilities used the entire time than did students without disabilities when producing essays using word-processing. Survey results indicated that both students with and without disabilities preferred word-processing over handwriting to a similar degree (74% of both groups) and that 61% of students in both groups indicated that typing was easier than handwriting their essays. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.