Effect sizes of writing modality on K-6 students’ writing and reading performance: A meta-analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

The Australian Educational Researcher




School of Education




Ian Potter Foundation


Malpique, A. A., Valcan, D., Pino-Pasternak, D., Ledger, S., & Merga, M. (2023). Effect sizes of writing modality on K-6 students’ writing and reading performance: A meta-analysis. The Australian Educational Researcher. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-023-00676-y


In many classrooms across the globe, students are expected to comprehend and produce handwritten and computer-generated texts as soon as they start school. As we progress towards digitalisation in education, it has become necessary to understand the effects of writing modality on students’ literacy performance and development. The current meta-analysis integrates findings from 22 international studies involving 6168 participants, comparing the effects of handwriting and keyboarding on the writing and reading performance of primary-aged students. Moderator analyses were executed to determine if grade level, keyboarding experience, timed measurement of letter writing, types of tasks measuring letter writing fluency, and study design moderated modality effects on writing outcomes. Results revealed a significant effect size when comparing writing quality between handwriting and keyboarding, with students producing better quality passages via handwriting than keyboarding (ES = 0.53). Results also revealed that only grade level significantly moderated the effect size for letter writing fluency and written word production. Findings indicated that handwriting and keyboarding practices are associated with improvements on specific reading skills in primary education, with no clear superiority of modality. We discuss implications for literacy research and teaching both locally and globally.



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