Many academic institutions still require their students to undertake handwritten exams. Is that fair? Some say that an answer is required urgently – as nowadays, most students spend a good deal of their term time working with typewritten computer-based text. There are suggestions too that the use of pen and paper prejudices those who happen to have bad handwriting – though others point out that many people find it hard to type quickly and accurately.
To asses any possible differences, a team of investigators from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland devised a cunning experiment. They asked a group of 70 first-year divinity students to sit a mock exam. Half wrote their answers longhand, the other half typed them out on a computer. The researchers could have analysed the results at this stage – but they added an ingenious twist. They had the 35 handwritten examples transcribed onto a computer and printed out. The other 35, which had been typed, were painstakingly re-written in longhand with pen and paper. Then the exams were scored. The finding were clear. “No significant differences could be identified due to the format in which the students had written their answer.”
The paper was published in ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, Volume 18, Issue 1 March 2010.
BONUS: Investigator Henry from Easton remarks: “That was a most fantastic play on words………You made my day! ‘Assess’ is not type(written) ‘asses’”.