Using tracking software for writing instruction


tracking software

How to Cite

Yagi, S. M., & Al-Salman, S. (2011). Using tracking software for writing instruction. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 1(2), 209–225.


Writing is a complex skill that is hard to teach. Although the written product is what is often evaluated in the context of language teaching, the process of giving thought to linguistic form is fascinating. For almost forty years, language teachers have found it more effective to help learners in the writing process than in the written product; it is there that they could find sources of writing problems. Despite all controversy evoked by post-process approaches with respect to process writing, information technology has lately offered tools that can shed new light on how writing takes place. Software that can record keyboard, mouse, and screen activities is capable of unraveling mysteries of the writing process. Technology has given teachers and learners the option of examining the writing process as it unfolds, enabling them to diagnose strategy as well as wording problems, thus empowering teachers to guide learners individually in how to think about each of their trouble spots in the context of a specific product of writing. With these advances in information technology, metacognitive awareness and strategy training begin to acquire new dimensions of meaning. Technology lays open aspects of the writing process, offering unprecedented insight into creative text production as well. This paper attempts to explain how tracking software can influence writing instruction. It briefly examines the process and post-process approaches to assess their viability, explains the concept of tracking software, proposes methodology needed for the adoption of this technology, and then discusses the pedagogical implications of these issues.


Abraham, R. G., & Vann, R. J. (1987). Strategies of two language learners: A case study. In A. Wenden & J. Rubin (Eds.), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 85-102). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Andersson, B., Dahl, J., Holmqvist, K., Holsanova, J., Johansson, V., Karlsson, H., … Wengelin, A. (2006). Combining keystroke logging with eye-tracking. In L. Waes, M. Leijten, & C. M. Neuwirth (Eds.), Writing and digital media (pp. 166-172). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Asker-Árnason, L., Ibertsson, T., Wass, M., Wengelin, Å., & Sahlén, B. (2010). Picture-elicited written narratives, process and product, in 18 children with cochlear implants. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 31(4), 195-212.

Atkinson, D. (2003). L2 writing in the post-process era: Introduction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12, 3-15.

Behrns, I., Ahlsén, E., & Wengelin, Å. (2010). Aphasia and text writing. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 45(2), 230-243.

Berzsenyi, C. A. (2001). Comments to comments: Teachers and students in writ-ten dialogue about critical revision. Composition Studies, 29(2), 71-92.

Carl, M. (2010, November). A Computational framework for a cognitive model of human translation. Paper presented at the ASLIB Translating and the Computer Conference, London.

Carmien, S. P., & Fischer, G. (2008). Design, adoption, and assessment of a socio-technical environment supporting independence for persons with cognitive disabilities. In M. Burnett, M. F. Costabile, T. Catarci, B. de Ruyter, D. Tan, M. Czerwinski, & A. Lund (Eds.), The twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems: Conference proceedings (Vol. 1, pp. 597-606). Florence: ACM Press.

Chang, C. Y., & Shen, M. C. (2010). The effects of beliefs about language learning and learning strategy use of junior high school EFL learners in remote districts. Research in Higher Education Journal, 8, 1-8.

Chung, Y. H., & Walsh, D. J. (2006). Constructing a joint story-writing space: The dynamics of young children’s collaboration at computers. Early Education & Development, 17(3), 373-420.

Dickinson, L. (1995). Autonomy and motivation: A literature review. System, 23(2), 165-174.

Emig, J. (1971). The composing process of twelfth graders. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Gladhart, M. (2007). Bridging the gap between students’s skills and the eportfolio. In T. Bastiaens & S. Carliner (Eds.), Proceedings of world conference on e-learning in corporate, government, healthcare, and higher education (pp. 871-874). Quebec City: AACE.

Goh, C. (1997). Metacognitive awareness and second language listeners. ELT Journal, 51(4), 361-369.

Hacker, D. J., Keener, M. C., & Kircher, J. C. (2009). Writing is applied metacognition. In D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), Handbook of metacognition in education (pp. 154-172). New York: Routledge.

Hairston, M. (1982). The winds of change: Thomas Kuhn and the revolution in the teaching of writing. College Composition and Communication, 33(1), 76-88.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L. W. Gregg & E. R. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive processes in writing (pp. 3-30). New York: Routledge.

Holmquist, K., Johansson, V., Strömqvist, S., & Wengelin, A. (2002). Analysing reading and writing online. In S. Strömqvist (Ed.), The diversity of languages and language learning (pp. 103-123). Lund: Lund University, Center for Languages and Literature.

Horwitz, E. K. (1988). The beliefs about language learning of beginning university foreign language students. Modern Language Journal, 72(3), 283-294.

Jakobsen, A. L. (2006). Research methods in translation: Translog. In K. P. H. Sullivan & E. Lindgren (Eds.), Computer keystroke logging and writing: Vol. 18. Methods and applications (pp. 95-106). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Leijten, M., & Waes, L. V. (2005). Writing with speech recognition: The adaptation process of professional writers with and without dictating experience. Interacting with Computers, 17(6), 736-772.

Leijten, M., & Waes, L. V. (2006). Inputlog: New perspectives on the logging of on-line writing processes in a Windows environment. In K. P. H. Sullivan & E. Lindgren (Eds.), Computer key-stroke logging and writing: Vol. 18. Methods and applications (pp. 73-94). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Macaro, E., & Erler, L. (2008). Raising the achievement of young-beginner readers of French through strategy instruction. Applied Linguistics, 29(1), 90-119.

McComiskey, B. (2000). Teaching composition as a social process. Old Main Hill Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Nakatani, Y. (2005). The effects of awareness-raising training on oral communication strategy use. The Modern Language Journal, 89, 76-91.

Olson, G. (1999). Toward a post-process composition: Abandoning the rhetoric of assertion. In Kent, T. (Ed.), Post-process theory: Beyond the writing process paradigm (pp. 7-15). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Orwell, G. (1946). A collection of essays. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Perl, S. (1979). The composing processes of unskilled college writers. Research in the Teaching of English, 13(4), 317-336.

Rayner, K. (1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 124(3), 372-422.

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 498-504.

Schoonen, R., Hulstijn, J., & Bossers, B. (1998). Metacognitive and language-specific knowledge in native and foreign language reading. Language Learning, 48(1), 71-106.

Sommers, N. (1980). Revision strategies of student writers and experienced adult writers. College Composition and Communication, 31(4), 378-388.

Sullivan, K. P. H., & Lindgren, E. (2006). Computer keystroke logging and writing: Methods and applications. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

TechSmith. (2011). Camtasia studio version history [Brochure]. Okemos, MI: TechSmith.

Truscott, J. (2007). The effect of error correction on learners’ ability to write accurately. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16(4), 255-272.

Van Hout, T. (2007). Analyzing journalistic discourse practices (and winking at CDA). In K. Pelsmaekers & C. Rollo (Eds.), Economically speaking: Essays in honour of Chris Braecke (pp. 325-337). Antwerp: Garant Publishers.

Vandergrift, L. (2005). Relationships among motivation orientations, metacognitive awareness and proficiency in L2 listening. Applied Linguistics, 26(1), 70-89.

Wenden, A. L. (1998). Metacognitive knowledge and language learning. Applied Linguistics, 19(4), 515-537.