This report details the findings from a two-stage multi-method study which focused on the editing skills, processes, and tools used by 96 students, at three year levels, from two schools, and how these impacted on their writing. The student data were analysed by writing mode (computer or pencil), gender, literacy level (high or low), and year level (Year 3/4, 5, or 7).
The main findings from this study were that:
- Students reported using home computers for writing more frequently than school computers. Students in the low literacy group reported a lower frequency of school computer use than their counterparts in the high literacy group.
- Some students, such as those in the low literacy group, reported more positive attitudes towards writing with a computer than writing in general, but their positive attitudes towards writing with computers were not being used to advantage.
- The writing samples of students at all year levels were of comparable quality regardless of writing mode, with one exception; the word-processed writing samples had fewer spelling mistakes than those completed by hand. The presence of spellcheck assisted students to correct their spelling errors and motivated them to persevere to correct misspelt words.
- Year 7 students wrote more in a shorter period of time and used more sophisticated editing strategies than their younger counterparts. Compared with the older students the Year 3/4 students tended to focus on editing for surface features.
- The girls in this study wrote more, edited for deep features more, and were more positive about writing than the boys.
- Most teachers reported that word processors were used by students mainly for publishing work that had been written and edited by hand and they did not formally teach students editing skills specifically for using on a word processor. Many teachers considered students had developed these skills at home but this perception was not borne out by observations of students' writing.
- This report provides a summary of teacher expectations of students' editing skills at the three year levels and concludes that if students are to use software such as word processors at school, they need to be formally taught editing skills that are specific to the use of this software.