Using Head-Mounted Eye-Tracking to Study Handwriting Development

in Journal of Motor Learning and Development
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Even with the increasing use of technology in the classroom, handwriting remains a developmental foundation of education. When children fail to learn to write efficiently, they encounter cascading difficulties in using writing to communicate and learn content. Traditionally, the development of handwriting has been studied via neuropsychological testing or the moment-to-moment kinematics of pen movements. By measuring children’s handwriting with neuropsychological testing, investigators have determined that children’s visual-motor integration abilities predict children’s handwriting. Further, by measuring children’s pen movements while writing, investigators have determined that children’s handwriting becomes more fluent as they become skilled writers. Both of these literatures have advanced our understanding of handwriting substantially, but fall short of providing a full account of handwriting development. Here, we offer a perception–action account of handwriting development by describing how eye and hand movements become integrated during early writing. We describe how head-mounted eye-tracking technology can be used to measure children’s eye movements as they write in real-time. We illustrate this approach with findings from research on letter, form, and word copying in school-entry age children. We conclude by discussing how a perception–action approach can be extended for use with atypical populations.

Fears and Lockman are with the Department of Psychology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.

Fears (nfears@tulane.edu) is corresponding author.
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