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Computer-Based Cognitive and Literacy Skills Training Improves
Students' Writing Skills


Outcome: 
A study conducted at Rutgers University finds that cognitive and literacy skills training improves college students’ basic writing skills. 

Impact/Benefit: 
Basic writing skills are among the most important skills in today’s information-driven society.  According to Our Nation’s Report Card, 76% of 12th graders are writing at the basic or below basic level (Saluhu-Din, Persky, & Miller, 2008). Using computer-based instruction, standardizes the content, its presentation, and can be scaled with efficiency for an unlimited number of learners.

Explanation:
In order to write a sentence, a writer must be able to switch back and forth between working memory and long-term memory as ideas are being formed and rules of grammar are being recalled with a level of automaticity.  Writing requires the writer’s full attention as the writer sorts the relevant from the irrelevant.  Words must be sequenced with proper subject-verb agreement and rules of grammar—from capitulation to punctuation and usage—must be processed quickly so the writer can keep up with her thoughts or the person to whom s/he is attending.  The computer-based cognitive and literacy skills training that students received was based on neuroplasticity research which finds the brain to be capable of new learning at any age.   

Saluhu-Din, D., Persky, H., & Miller, J. (2008).  The nation’s report card: Writing 2007. (NCES 2008-468). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2007/2008468.pdf


A screenshot from a sample exercise used in the training.  In this exercise, the student hears the sentence:  “Rubin is helping Maria put on her coat.”  The student is to click on the picture that represents the correct verb tense used.  In the example, the correct answer is the middle picture.  The picture to the left, “Rubin will help…”, and the picture on the right, “Rubin helped…” are incorrect responses.  This series of exercises was designed to explicitly train students in every rule of English grammar.  In addition, the student must attend to the sentences, hold them in working memory and understand the conventions being tested.  Picture used with permission from Scientific Learning Corp.