Biographies and Abstracts
Steve Graham, Ed.D.
Vanderbilt University, Currey Ingram Professor of Literacy
Tanya Santangelo, Ph.D.
Arcadia University, Special Education
A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Teaching Handwriting
Drs. Graham and Santangelo conducted a meta-analysis of true- and quasi-experiments examining the effectiveness of handwriting interventions. The findings support the value of teaching handwriting, as explicitly teaching handwriting improves handwriting legibility and fluency as well as the quality of students’ writing. The effectiveness of individualized handwriting instruction was also supported, but instructional programs designed to improve students’ motor skills were not.
Steve Graham, Ed.D.
Steve Graham, Ed.D., is the Currey Ingram Professor of Literacy at Vanderbilt University. His research interests include learning disabilities, writing instruction and writing development, and the development of self-regulation. Dr. Graham is the former editor of Exceptional Children and coauthor of the Handbook of Writing Research, Handbook of Learning Disabilities, Writing Better, and Making the Writing Process Work. Dr. Graham has received numerous awards including the Career Research Award from the International Council for Exceptional Children, and the Samuel A. Kirk Award from the Division of Learning Disabilities, among others.
Tanya Santangelo, Ph.D.
Dr. Santangelo’s research interests include the development and validation of effective practices for assessing and teaching writing, increasing teachers’ knowledge and use of evidence-based practices, and the use of differentiation to promote equity and excellence for all students.
Jane Case-Smith, Ed.D.
The Ohio State University, Division of Ocscupational Therapy
Benefits of an OT/Teacher Model for First Grade Handwriting Instruction
With the declining emphasis on teaching handwriting in the elementary-grade curriculum, the 25–30% of students who struggle to learn handwriting often become poor or illegible handwriters. Best-practice handwriting instruction needs to return to the classroom, and specific models are needed to provide supports and interventions to students at risk for poor handwriting. Dr. Case-Smith’s co-teaching model uses occupational therapists and teachers to provide a collaborative handwriting/writing program in which they use evidence-based instruction principles, assess students’ handwriting and writing weekly, and base instruction on student progress/individual needs. Co-teaching models with occupational therapists support the first grade teacher’s handwriting and writing instruction while embedding specific interventions for students who show need for additional supports. Dr. Case-Smith’s co-teaching model resulted in first grade students improving an average of 27% in handwriting legibility and writing the alphabet in less than half their original time. Students who completed the twelve-week program improved significantly more in writing fluency than students who participated in standard handwriting/writing curricula. Although students of all ability levels improved significantly, students with the lowest scores in legibility at the beginning of the study improved the most.
Jane Case-Smith, Ed.D., professor at The Ohio State University, Division of Occupational Therapy, has researched fine motor skill development and interventions for young children with disabilities. As an occupational therapist, she is interested in handwriting in children with motor planning disorders, such as development coordination disorders, visual motor problems, including cerebral palsy, and attentional or cognitive impairments, including autism spectrum disorder. She is highly invested in research of collaborative school-based models for handwriting instruction, such as co-teaching and consultation. She is editor of the primary text used in occupational therapy education for pediatrics, Occupational Therapy for Children, and has published over 50 articles and 25 chapters.
Stephen Peverly, Ph.D.
Teachers College, Columbia University, Department of Health and Behavior Studies
The Relationship of Transcription Speed and Other Cognitive Variables to Note-Taking and Test Performance
Dr. Peverly’s presentation reviews his recent research on the cognitive processes that underlie note-taking (primarily in lectures) and the relationship of notes to test performance. The findings address the importance of transcription speed as well as verbal ability and sustained attention to note-taking. The presentation also highlights the relationship of notes to test performance by addressing whether notes are more strongly related to tests that emphasize memory or to tests that emphasize inferences.
Stephen T. Peverly, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and education, chair of the Department of Health and Behavior Studies, and member of the Program in School Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. His current research focuses on the cognitive processes that underlie reading comprehension and studying, especially lecture note-taking. His research articles include Implementing Evidence-Based Academic Interventions in School Settings and The Importance of Handwriting Speed in Adult Writing, among others. Dr. Peverly is a licensed psychologist in New York State and a permanently certified School Psychologist in the states of New York and Massachusetts.
Gerry Conti, Ph.D.
Wayne State University, Director of the Human Movement Laboratory
Kinematic and Clinical Correlates of Handwriting in Elementary School Children
Kinematic analysis of handwriting may add considerable neuromotor knowledge to our understanding of the substrates of cursive handwriting development. At the Summit, Dr. Conti discussed kinematic and clinical findings of legible and illegible handwriting in healthy third and fifth grade children. Kinematic analyses reflect movement domains of speed, force inefficiency, and direction, while clinical features include measures of strength, hand steadiness, and coordination. Findings indicate that with maturation, children show less force inefficiency in the up-and-down direction of writing, complemented by improved hand steadiness and coordination in clinical assessment. These findings suggest that precursor tasks requiring hand dexterity are important in the development of legible handwriting skills.
Gerry E. Conti, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Wayne State University. Her doctoral degree is in kinesiology, expressly the field of motor control. Her research examines kinematic, clinical, and biomechanical factors impacting effective reach, grasp, and hand manipulative skills across the lifespan. Her interests also include neurological conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury.
Karin Harman James, Ph.D.
Indiana University, Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences
The Neural Correlates of Handwriting and Its Affect on Reading Acquisition
Although there is a great deal of research that investigates the neural correlates of reading, very little is known about how handwriting experience—an important component of reading acquisition—affects neural processing. Through a series of studies using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to probe how the brain processes stimuli in real time, James has demonstrated that a) there is a distinct system in the human brain that is recruited during reading that is also recruited during writing; b) that the reading network develops as a function of handwriting (printing) experience; and c) that handwriting (printing), and not keyboarding, leads to adult-like neural processing in the visual system of the preschool child. These findings suggest that self-generated action, in the form of printing letters by hand, is a crucial component in setting up brain systems for reading acquisition.
Karin Harman James, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, as well as a faculty member in the neuroscience and cognitive science programs. She has instigated the Developmental Neuroimaging Project at Indiana University that investigates how self-generated actions in children have a significant affect on cognitive development. Dr. James’ laboratory is one of a handful worldwide that probes the brain function of five-year-old children using fMRI. Recently, her work on handwriting and the development of brain systems in preschool children has resulted in media attention from The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and National Public Radio.
Virginia W. Berninger, Ph.D.
University of Washington, Department of Educational Psychology
Evidence-Based, Developmentally Appropriate Writing Skills K to 5: Teaching the Orthographic Loop of Working Memory to Write Letters, Spell Words, and Express Ideas
In an era emphasizing evidence-based instructional practices, it is puzzling why neither handwriting nor spelling is included in the Common Core State Standards for Writing K to 5. Considerable research shows that both handwriting and spelling support the written expression of ideas. Results of assessment, instructional, brain, and genetics research explain a) the developmental milestones in grapho-motor skills for finger movements and in orthographic coding skills in the mind’s eye; b) the role of the orthographic loop between the mind’s eye and the serial finger movements of the hand, which receive both somatosensory and visual sensory feedback, in engaging the mind in written expression of ideas; c) the importance of automatic access to and retrieval and production of legible letter forms; d) the contribution of handwriting to establishing serial organization, which is fundamental to other writing skills—spelling and composing; and e) the benefits of teaching for transfer across levels of language close in time to facilitate efficient, temporal coordination of working memory components. This approach to writing instruction and standards, which is designed to avoid the wars over skills and meaning that have plagued reading and math, takes into account individual differences and developmental stepping stones in teaching and learning handwriting for spelling English, a morphophonemic orthography, and composing for a variety of goals and genre in and outside school.
Virginia Berninger (Ph.D., psychology, Johns Hopkins University; educational psychology professor, University Brain Education Technology UBET Center director, and learning disabilities research coordinator, University of Washington; licensed clinical psychologist, WA; and former general and special education teacher) has been principal investigator on NICHD-funded research grants on writing for over two decades. She has conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of writing development, randomized controlled studies of effective handwriting, spelling, and composing instruction, and research on the brain and genetic basis of writing. She has authored, co-authored, or edited 12 books and over 250 research articles, chapters, and other publications.