Handwriting success for school: a professional development program for early childhood educators by occupational therapists
Siok Kwan, Gloria Ng
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Early childhood is a time to build the foundational skills that are needed to be a successful learner in primary school. Preschool students in Singapore are expected to be able to write their name and the letters of the alphabet with appropriate speed by the end of kindergarten. However, there is a gap in common standards and handwriting instruction practices among early childhood educators. Teaching handwriting explicitly improves handwriting legibility and fluency, and direct handwriting instruction is especially important for children who are at-risk of challenges in writing and reading. A student’s handwriting fluency and legibility is predicted by teacher competence in providing handwriting instruction. Evidence shows that teachers feel they are insufficiently prepared in teaching handwriting to their students, are not equipped to identify fine-motor delay in children and lack the knowledge to help the children in their class who are struggling to learn to write. The proposed professional development program entitled Handwriting Success for School is a professional development program by occupational therapists for early childhood educators. The program aims to increase the knowledge, confidence and competence of early childhood educators in Singapore to teach handwriting and support children who show difficulties mastering handwriting skills. The content and design of the program is developed following a thorough literature review on effective professional development for teachers. Principles of Adult Learning Theory and Collaborative Consultation model guide the development of the design of the program. When teachers collaborate with occupational therapists in addressing handwriting acquisition and intervention for their preschool students, teachers feel supported to help struggling students. Occupational therapists, with their knowledge and expertise in neurodevelopment and sensory-motor development makes them key professionals in training teachers to teach handwriting. By increasing early childhood educators' understanding of the importance to practice the evidence-based principles of handwriting instruction, it will lead to better student outcomes in their handwriting development at the preschool level.
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