UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A comparison of a reading approach with a reading-writing approach to the learning of shorthand Abercrombie, William Thomas


In recent years, many investigations and experiments have been conducted for the purpose of developing a method of teaching shorthand, which would reduce its learning time. New systems of shorthand such as Thomas, Speedwriting, and Stenotype have been invented; manuals have been revised to speed up learning by limiting their word content to words of high frequency; and outstanding teachers of shorthand have been experimenting with various methods of teaching, with a view to developing in their students habits of accurate, fluent reading and habits of accurate, fluent writing. In their experiments, researchers have endeavored to appraise the relative advantages of a reading approach with a reading-writing approach to the learning of this skill subject. In the reading approach, writing is delayed until the students have developed desirable reading habits. In the reading-writing approach, writing begins with the first lesson. Each method has been tried out by outstanding teachers and research students, and the results of their experiments have been recorded. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, their findings were not backed up by sound experimental data. Therefore, it was felt that, if an experimental situation were set up in which two classes were equated and one taught the reading approach and the other the reading-writing approach, the comparison of the results of the two methods of teaching might reveal one to be superior to the other. Two experimental groups of Grade 10 girls in the Fairview High School of Commerce were matched for intelligence, English ability, sex, age, and socio-economical background. The experiment started with 36 matched pairs, and each group was taught by the same teacher. The reading group did not do any writing until the shorthand manual had been covered once, while the reading-writing group proceeded through the manual at half the speed of the other group, because it was writing as well as reading each exercise. The two groups were tested frequently for word recognition and reading, and transcription ability, and on two occasions, they were tested for writing ability. As was expected, the reading group was much inferior to the reading-writing group because of its lack of practice in writing. In the transcription tests, neither group proved superior to the other, as first one and then the other scored higher means. When the two groups were reading and writing and doing parallel work, they were given dictation tests on unprepared matter at varying rates, but here again, the test results were inconclusive as the critical ratios were too low to be considered at all significant. Several factors mitigated against a successful experiment. First, a start was made with too few matched pairs, because when the groups were given their final test only 14 matched pairs could be used. Secondly, disturbing factors such as truancy, illness, and laziness interfered with some of the students' application to their studies. In a large group, these influences probably would have balanced out, but in a small group, they tended to invalidate the test results. Although the study did not prove one method of approach to the learning of shorthand to be superior to another, still it is to be hoped that further experimentation will be carried on with a view to reducing the learning time of Pitman Shorthand, so that the student will learn to use this vocational tool in the shortest possible time.

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