The influence of self-directed learning readiness level on the acquisition of the technique of touch-typing

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The QWERTY keyboard is used worldwide to key in data on computers. People who possess the technique of touch-typing with regard to keyboard skills are able to key in data much faster. It is evident from the literature that keyboard skills using the technique of touch-typing contribute to higher productivity with regard to keying in of data on computers, and for this reason it is essential that computer users acquire this skill.

Mastery of the technique of touch-typing is related to skill mastery, and this technique is regarded as a task-specific skill, which must be mastered through training and practice (Baker and Rogers 2010:243). Skill mastery is defined as the change that occurs in internal processes associated with exercise or experience, and which determines whether a person is able to master or execute a skill (Seidler, Bo, Joaquin and Anguera 2012:445).

From the literature it is evident that in certain respects there is a link between handwriting and keyboard skills (Weintraub, Gilmour-Grill and Weiss 2012). Just as automation of handwriting contributes to a learner’s being able to focus more on the planning and organising of thoughts during the writing process, the fact that a QWERTY keyboard-skilled user does not need to think about where the keys are on the keyboard likewise makes it possible for the computer user, in respect of conceptual typing, to devote more attention to sentence construction and structuring of paragraphs (Saperstein Associates 2012; Trubek 2011). Individuals are considered to be keyboard-skilled/-competent if they are able to master the skill in a minimum amount of time, with little energy expenditure and a high degree of accuracy, consistency, and adaptability (Russon and Wanous 1973:69).

Keyboard skill is regarded as a complex psychomotor skill, and although mastery of keyboard skills using touch-typing should preferably be acquired through structured teaching (Gillmon 1991) and should be practised by purposeful practice (Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Römer 1993:368), computer users with a certain level of self-directed learning readiness may also master the ability on their own.

Self-instruction is a way of learning, and involves, among other things, a person’s independent planning, organising, directing, strengthening and evaluating of his or her own learning without a teacher’s encouragement/support (Foreman and Turner 2000). In order to apply self-instruction successfully, it is also essential that the learner should know how to make decisions about all aspects of learning, including formulating objectives, monitoring progress, and choosing and using techniques to evaluate whether learning has taken place (Holec 1980). Regarding self-instruction in acquiring the technique of touch-typing, self-teaching learners may, among other things, choose to use certain software (Andruske 2000), for example Mavis Beacon (HMH Consumer Company 2011), or courses like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) (Gutiérrez-Rojas, Alario-Hoyos, Pérez-Sanagustín, Leony and Delgado-Kloos 2014:43). This way of learning requires the learner to have self-discipline and reflective capability (Tamilarasan and Hema 2016), which relate to the concept of self-directed learning (Tamilarasan and Hema 2016; Touati 2016; Ichimura 2015). Other characteristics of self-directed learners are the ability to take ownership of own learning and the ability to manage and monitor own learning (Chee, Divaharan, Tan and Mun 2011).

The term self-directed learning indicates a process during which the learner takes the initiative, with or without the help of somebody else, to identify own learning needs and formulate learning objectives related to satisfying the identified learning needs. Self-directed learners are able to identify resources (both human and study material-related) to help them during the learning process. Furthermore, they themselves choose and implement the appropriate learning strategies, and they themselves evaluate whether they have achieved the set learning outcomes (Knowles 1975:18). The extent to which learners manage their own learning depends on their attitude, ability, and personal characteristics (Fisher, King and Tague 2001:516). The readiness of a learner to apply self-directedness to learning lies on a continuum, and is present to some extent in all individuals (Fisher et al. 2001:517). In the literature, this readiness is referred to as self-directed learning readiness (Fisher et al. 2001), and it can be determined by using, among other things, the Self-Rating Scale of Self-Directed Learning (SRSSDL) (Williamson 2007).

In order to master keyboard skills using touch-typing (regardless of whether it will be mastered through direct teaching or indirect teaching), the computer user should focus on a specific purpose and commit to deliberate practice. Deliberate practice relates to the deliberate practice theory (Ericsson et al. 1993:400). Key aspects of deliberate practice include focused attention on a particular task, repeated drills over a long period, interpretation of continuous feedback on progress, formulation of specific goals related to the skill that must be practised and mastered, self-perception and self-reflection of performance and progress, as well as reflection on progress after practising has taken place (Baron et al. 2010:51–2). The deliberate practice theory applies to acquisition of a skill, and it is supported by the researcher when it comes to mastery of touch-typing, since successful mastery of this technique requires that the correct posture, location of the letters of the alphabet on the keyboard, and assessment of which letters of the alphabet need to be learnt over a period of time must be deliberately and repeatedly practised. This practice requires timely feedback. The activities of practising (repeated drills) require effort, and they are often not pleasant tasks (Gobet 2012).

The connection between keyboard skills using touch-typing, the deliberate practice theory, self-directed learning, and self-directed learning readiness level may be in computer users’ aptitude and self-perception of their own ability to formulate goals, to identify self-resources that they can use to acquire the skill, to practise with focus, and to monitor their progress in order to ensure that the stated goal has been achieved.

Students of the training institution with which the author is affiliated who intended to teach Computer Applications Technology (CAT) at school had to compile a keyboard skills manual in order to improve their own keyboard skills level to enable them to teach keyboard skills using touch-typing to CAT learners. Several speed tests were typed to determine their keyboard skills level. The students also completed a self-directed learning readiness level questionnaire, with the aim of determining their self-directed learning readiness level. The purpose of the research was, on the one hand, to determine whether compilation of a keyboard skills manual that meets certain criteria can contribute to the acquisition or improvement of keyboard skills and, on the other hand, to determine whether self-directed learning readiness level has an influence on increasing keystrokes. From the results of the research it appeared that the keystrokes of those students with an average self-directed learning readiness level and those students with a high self-directed learning readiness level had increased to a reasonable extent in the post-test. Contrasting with these findings, the keystrokes of those students with a high self-directed learning readiness level and those students who scored fewer than 1 500 keystrokes in the pre-test increased significantly in the post-test.

Keywords: hunt-and-peck; keyboard skills; motor skills; self-directed learning readiness level; self-directed learning; self-learning; self-teaching; touch-typing

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Die invloed van selfgerigteleergereedheid op die aanleer van die blindtiktegniek

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