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Effectiveness of Two Keyboarding Instructional Approaches

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Research paper
Roundtable presentation

Monday, November 30, 11:15 am–12:00 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)
Presentation 1 of 2
Other presentations:
"OK Google, Help Me Learn"-- Voice Assistant AI in the Classroom

Dr. Denise Donica  
Dr. Peter Giroux  
Young Kim  

This session will include outcomes of a research study on the effectiveness of two keyboarding instruction approaches (Keyboarding Without Tears and the district standard approach) on the development of keyboarding speed, accuracy and technique of elementary-aged students at each grade level (K-5).

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Curriculum planning & evaluation
Grade level: PK-5
Subject area: Career and technical education
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand
Disclosure: The submitter of this session has been supported by a company whose product is being included in the session
Influencer Disclosure: This session includes a presenter that indicated a “material connection” to a brand that includes a personal, family or employment relationship, or a financial relationship. See individual speaker menu for disclosure information.
Related exhibitors:
Learning Without Tears

Proposal summary


The Keyboarding Without Tears curriculum was developed based on motor learning theory which uses a three-step motor skill progression. When applied to keyboarding, step one uses cognition and vision while addressing letter identification and locating letters on the keyboard. Step two uses the home keys and includes the development of necessary muscle memory to press the correct keys. Step three focuses on increasing keyboarding speed as the motor process becomes more automatic. It is at this stage that the student no longer has to use vision to look at the keys while keyboarding (Stevenson & Just, 2014).


A quasi-experimental design with nonequivalent groups was used to examine the effectiveness of two different keyboarding instructional approaches on improving keyboarding speed, accuracy, and keyboarding technique assessed at pretest and posttest over the course of an academic year.

Students in two public lower elementary schools (K-2) and two public upper elementary schools (3-5) in the rural southern United States participated in this study. The inclusion criteria were: (a) students scheduled to attend weekly computer lab classes during the academic year, (b) students whose parents did not choose to opt out of the study, and (c) students who completed both pretest and posttest. Students with disabilities were not included in this analysis since they show different keyboarding performance compared to typically developing students (Berninger et al., 2009).

The researchers obtained institutional review board approval for this study (UMCIRB 16-00531). After approval, one researcher completed a brief in-service for the experimental school computer lab teachers on the purpose of the study and curriculum training consisting of the philosophy and design of KWT, how to implement the program, and information available for teacher use in the educator dashboard associated with the program. The teachers at the control schools were informed about the purpose of the study and the role of their students and were asked to conduct their computer lab classes as usual. According to the schools’ recommendations, we determined parental permission using an opt-out method where students automatically participated in the study unless a parent chose to opt out. A letter explaining the study and the opt-out option from the study was sent home with all students, and no parents chose to opt out, rendering all of the students potentially eligible for the study.

Pretests included a measure of keyboarding speed and accuracy using Typing Test Pro and a visual observation of keyboarding technique. These measures were taken during the computer lab times in August and September 2016 using desktop computers in respective schools. After pretests were completed in all schools, the students in the experimental schools started the KWT program, and students in the control schools started their usual computer lab activities during their weekly computer labs. A maximum of 27 weeks was possible for keyboarding instruction. Posttests were completed using the same outcomes measures for all schools during the second week of May 2017.

Data Analysis
We used IBM SPSS Statistics (Version 24; IBM Corp., Armonk, NY) for all data analyses. Descriptive statistics were used to document the gender of the students in all schools. To examine the research questions on keyboarding speed and accuracy, we used mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) with an alpha value of .05 after confirming the assumptions. When we found significant changes between pretest and posttest in net WPM and technique from the mixed ANOVA, we performed post-hoc tests using Wilcoxon signed-rank tests with Bonferroni correction alpha value of .025 to examine the changes in each intervention school per grade because of the assumption violation of normal data distribution. Pre and posttest net WPM data was not normally distributed except for the posttest of the net WPM for the fifth grade in the control group (p = .20). Because of the nature of the keyboarding technique ratings (ordinal scale) we used Wilcoxon signed-rank tests for within-group comparisons and Mann-Whitney tests for between-group comparisons with an alpha level of .05.

In addition to the main analyses, we compared the changes in net WPM and keyboarding technique between the lower (K-2) and the upper (3-5) schools using Mann-Whitney tests because of the assumption violation of normal data distribution or the nature of the ratings (ordinal scale). Non-parametric tests were used because keyboarding technique data were not normally distributed. In addition to testing the statistical significance, effect sizes (r) were calculated to document the degrees of changes or differences in net WPM and keyboarding technique.


Seven hundred and eighty-six students (386 males and 399 females) in the experimental schools and 953 students (482 males and 471 females) in the control schools participated in the study. The students in all four schools, except for those in kindergarten, had attended computer lab sessions with the district standard approach in previous academic year(s), if they attended one of these schools.

Keyboarding Speed and Accuracy
We found significant improvements in net WPM in all grades at posttest compared to pretest (p <.001). Specifically, we found significant improvements (p < .001) in net WPM in the experimental group for all grades with large to very large effect sizes (r = 0.60 – 0.75) and significant improvements (p <.001) in net WPM in the control group for all grades with large effect sizes (r = 0.39 – 0.61) according to the post hoc tests. All effect sizes for the experimental group were higher than the highest effect size of the control group except for one. There were significant differences in net WPM changes between the
experimental and control groups, favoring the experimental, in all grades, except for kindergarten, with small to medium effect sizes (r = 0.11 – 0.28). We found significant interaction effects in net WPM between time and schools in all grades, except for the second grade. Lastly, in both approaches, the students in the upper schools showed significantly greater improvements in net WPM than those in the lower schools (p < .001; r = 0.47 and 0.29, respectively).

Keyboarding Technique
We found significant improvements in the keyboarding technique in all grades in posttest compared to pretest, except for the kindergarten control students. Specifically, we found significant improvements in the keyboarding technique for all grades in the experimental group with medium, large, or very large effect sizes (r = 0.25 – 0.81). In addition, we found significant improvements in the control group keyboarding technique of all grades, except for kindergarten, with negligible, medium, large, or very large effect sizes (r = 0.05 – 0.80). There were significant differences in changes in the keyboarding technique between the approaches in all grades (p < .001 for all grades, except for fourth grade p = .003) with large effect sizes favoring the experimental group for kindergarten to the second grade and small effect sizes favoring the control group for the third to fifth grades. Lastly, the students in the experimental lower school showed significantly greater improvements in keyboarding technique than those in the experimental upper school (p < .001, r = 0.29), whereas the students in the control upper school showed significantly greater improvements in keyboarding technique than those in the control lower school (p <.001, r = 0.53).


Limited research on keyboarding has been conducted, especially in recent years. This study is the first of its kind to explore how keyboarding instructional methods impact the development of keyboarding speed and accuracy and keyboarding technique in elementary grade students. The effectiveness of KWT in improving keyboarding speed, accuracy, and technique compared to the district standard approach is supported for typically developing kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Based on the findings of this study, professionals involved in assisting with keyboarding skill development in children are recommended to begin training in these skills in early elementary grades, especially to assist in proper keyboarding technique development. While using the district standard approach is are beneficial for improving keyboarding speed and accuracy, as well as keyboarding technique, using a developmentally-based curriculum, such as KWT, may further enhance improvements in the keyboarding skills of elementary students.

Further studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of different keyboarding instruction approaches for students with special needs, the effects of different durations of keyboarding instruction approaches, appropriate keyboarding skill expectations for different grade levels, the relationship between keyboarding speed and keyboarding technique, and the cumulative effects of having keyboarding instruction training in successive years.


Many references are included in the paper. We have limited the references here to the ones indicated in the proposal.

Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Augsburger, A., &
Garcia, N. (2009). Comparison of pen and keyboard transcription modes in children with and without learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 32(3), 123-141.

Stevenson, N. C., & Just, C. (2014). In early education, why teach handwriting before keyboarding? Early Childhood Education Journal, 42(1), 49-56.

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Dr. Denise Donica, East Carolina U./Learning Without Tears

Dr. Donica is an associate professor and chair in the East Carolina University Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program. She is board certified in pediatrics and has worked clinically in outpatient, school system, and home care settings. She has given over 20 national and 10 international presentations, published 16 peer-reviewed articles, and published one book chapter on handwriting and keyboarding-related skills. She continues to address these skills through research and telehealth. In addition, Dr. Donica has been employed by Learning Without Tears for more than 10 years as a national workshop presenter.

Dr. Peter Giroux, Learning Without Tears/University of Mississippi Medical Center

Dr. Peter Giroux, PhD, MHS, OTR/L, FAOTA, is a Professor of Occupational Therapy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. He has a BS in Occupational Therapy, a MHS in Health Sciences and a (PhD) in Clinical Health Sciences. He has numerous presentations, publications and research projects in the areas of: occupational therapy; handwriting evaluation, intervention and instruction; keyboarding evaluation, intervention and instruction; play based instruction, assessment and intervention; universal design and environmental adaptations; vision, visual perception and visual motor skills in the classroom and clinic; executive functioning and universal design for learning; and assistive technology.

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