Why Cursive Handwriting Should Remain in the K-12 Curriculum

As the use of technology in K-12 schools has become more common, there has been a long-running debate about the role of cursive handwriting in the core curriculum.

A new white paper from the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation

The Truth About Cursive Handwriting: Why it Matters in a Digital Age –  marshals opinions from dozens of scientists, educators, and professional practitioners to make the case that the benefits to teaching children cursive handwriting far outweigh the reasons to discontinue it.

Their premise is summed up near the end of the report: Considering the growing body of knowledge about the unique contributions of handwriting to human development, literacy, the life of the mind, and social engagement, should we risk our children’s education by ignoring it? (13)

The critics of cursive essentially make a time-based argument that there is not enough time in the instructional day for cursive any longer. “Teaching handwriting instead of keyboarding takes away from literacy, math, critical thinking, technology skills and citizenship instruction and does not prepare individuals for the workplace.” (2)

Proponents argue that there is an increasing body of evidence that 21st century skills such as higher-level critical thinking and problem-solving are more fully developed with handwriting instruction than with keyboarding alone. They cite research from education, psychology, and neuroscience that supports their hypothesis that learning cursive has a profound impact on children’s ability to learn.

Benefits include:

  • Learning is faster and more efficient in reading, writing, math, and music supported by letter and word recognition, comprehension, abstract thought, and memory.

  • For early learners, the development of fine motor skills through handwriting prepares students for learning and predicts later achievements in reading, writing, and math.

  • Students who write in longhand “produce more complex higher nuanced thought and recall and identify concepts in greater depth than those who rely solely on keyboarding.” (2)

  • Studies have found that older students have a much higher retention of information when hand writing their notes instead of typing them.

  • MRI studies have shown that keyboarding alone activates fewer brain areas used for language and spatial, visual, and temporal perception than does writing cursive..

    Importance to K-12 Product Developers and Marketers

    Whether you specifically focus on the 4Cs (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication) or use a broader definition of 21st century skills, these are key components of today’s curriculum products and digital tools. The research shared above supports keeping cursive instruction in the curriculum as we help students develop the skills they will need for global citizenship.

    As the education community creates and markets new products for student achievement, it is important to include research-based strategies and tactics that have an impact on positive student outcomes. This research from educators, neuroscientists, and psychologists can be helpful to product developers as we transition to the new ESSA law with its requirements for a higher standard of efficacy research.

    How will this research impact your product development and marketing programs?
    Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.