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Keystroke logging to investigate writing processes: Opportunities and challenges

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building

In L2 writing research and pedagogy, it has long been established that attention should be paid to the process of learners' writing as much as the product. However, language tests to date typically assess writing proficiency through the test takers' written product only. Recently, there has been a marked increase in language research involving keystroke logging. It appears to offer a useful methodology for examining features of test takers' writing processes. For example, accuracy in the writing process can be assessed by proportion of error-free T-units produced during writing. Fluency of writing can be assessed by writing speed, breakdown fluency (frequency of pauses), repair fluency (frequency of revisions) and automaticity (burst length).

In this presentation, Dr Sathena Chan will share insights from two research projects that used keystroke logging to investigate test takers’ processes (Chan, 2018; Chan & Lam, forthcoming). The first study investigated whether there are any differences in temporal aspects of writing behaviour among pre-sessional, undergraduate and postgraduate students on a university reading-into-writing test. The study also examined these students’ summarisation processes under test conditions. The second study compared the revision processes of  ESL and L1 test takers' on a general proficiency writing test (Aptis). Dr Chan will report key findings regarding different aspects of writers’ processes on the two tests, and discuss the opportunities and challenges in using keystroke logging data -- in addition to the writing product -- as evidence of writing proficiency in language research and pedagogy.


Dr Sathena Chan is a Senior Lecturer in Language Assessment at the Centre for Research in English Language Learning and Assessment (CRELLA), University of Bedfordshire. She specialises in assessment design and validation, cognitive processing of language use, and rating scale development.  She conducts research for major language assessment providers and educational organisations in the UK and worldwide. She also supervises research students and provides professional courses to teachers and practitioners.

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