The right ways to write: Psychology research in handwriting and development

Assumption College Undergraduate

From school districts pulling cursive writing from their curricula to the study of the way famous world leaders crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s, the study of handwriting is often in the news.

Dr. Paula Fitzpatrick Psychology ProfessorAssumption College professor Dr. Paula Fitzpatrick performs research in the world of handwriting and child development. She looks at different methods of teaching handwriting, their impacts on young learners and the link between handwriting and social skills, motor intelligence and literacy.

“An emerging body of research suggests that there is an important link between handwriting skill and emerging literacy in young children,” Fitzpatrick says.

Fitzpatrick’s research is designed to analyze different ways that handwriting is taught and to find which methods increase a child’s ability to practice writing so that it comes naturally.

“Children who struggle with handwriting tend to have more difficulty recognizing letters and write shorter and less complex compositions.  Once handwriting becomes automatic, it frees up attention to be able to focus on other cognitive tasks.  As a result, effective handwriting instruction should be targeted at promoting handwriting efficiency and automaticity.”

Other psychology research has discovered positive correlations between writing by hand and continuous brain development, as well as a child’s ability to access more words and express more ideas when writing by hand versus using a keyboard.

Assumption psychology professors are involved with interesting research in a number of areas, such as behavioral psychology or neuroscience. Students interested in getting involved in this research or taking courses on related subject matters can talk to their advisers or professors for more information.

Dr. Fitzpatrick currently teaches Perception, General Psychology and a Research Seminar. She is also involved in research on other topics including patterns of social coordination in young children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and the development of movement control strategies in learning to use tools (such as spoons and hammers).

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