A survey of teachers who instruct American middle and high school students finds that digital technologies are impacting student writing in myriad ways and there are significant advantages from tech-based learning.
Some 78% of the 2,462 advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project say digital tools such as the internet, social media, and cell phones “encourage student creativity and personal expression.” In addition:
- 96% agree digital technologies “allow students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience”
- 79% agree that these tools “encourage greater collaboration among students”
According to teachers, students’ exposure to a broader audience for their work and more feedback from peers encourages greater student investment in what they write and in the writing process as a whole.
At the same time, these teachers give their students modest marks when it comes to writing and highlight some areas needing attention. Asked to assess their students’ performance on nine specific writing skills, teachers tended to rate their students “good” or “fair” as opposed to “excellent” or “very good.” Students received the best ratings on their ability to “effectively organize and structure writing assignments” and their ability to “understand and consider multiple viewpoints on a particular topic or issue.” Teachers gave students the lowest ratings when it comes to “navigating issues of fair use and copyright in composition” and “reading and digesting long or complicated texts.”
About the Survey
These are among the main findings of an online survey of a non-probability sample of 2,462 middle and high school teachers currently teaching in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, conducted between March 7 and April 23, 2012. Some 1,750 of the teachers are drawn from a sample of advanced placement (AP) high school teachers, while the remaining 712 are from a sample of National Writing Project teachers. Survey findings are complemented by insights from a series of online and in-person focus groups with middle and high school teachers and students in grades 9-12, conducted between November, 2011 and February, 2012.
This particular sample is quite diverse geographically, by subject matter taught, and by school size and community characteristics. But it skews towards educators who teach some of the most academically successful students in the country. Thus, the findings reported here reflect the realities of their special place in American education, and are not necessarily representative of all teachers in all schools. At the same time, these findings are especially powerful given that these teachers’ observations and judgments emerge from some of the nation’s most advanced classrooms.
In addition to the survey, Pew Internet conducted a series of online and offline focus groups with middle and high school teachers and some of their students and their voices are included in this report.