Anson & Schwegler: "Tracking the Mind’s Eye: A New Technology for Researching Twenty-First-Century Writing and Reading Processes"

Anson, C. M., & Schwegler, R. A. (2012). Tracking the Mind’s Eye: A New Technology for Researching Twenty-First-Century Writing and Reading Processes. College Composition and Communication, 64(1), 151–171.

Eye tracking: in written comm, used for reading (Rayner) but not on relationship between reading and writing. A&S see potential "for the study of writing, especially in the context of screen-based learning and digital interaction" (151).

Structure of article:

  • nature of eye-tracking/ research into reading
  • review of N. Am. & European research (comp studies/psych of writing)
  • suggest "previously unexplored questions and areas of inquiry in composition studies that can benefit from the use of eye-tracking methodology, including studies of peer review and instructor response; the relationship of visual and textual information in both composing and reading onscreen; the effects of grammatical error or lexical and stylistic choice on teachers or students as readers; and further dimensions of composing processes under a variety of task-, context-, and knowledge-based conditions. (152)

Eye Tracking: Some Background

"what we look at while working with text" (153). Discussion of how e-t works; gaze plots, etc. Saccades, etc. Shows ASL's Mobile Eye-XG (captures as moving through space-- no need for limited head movement). Notes how costs have lowered (mentions Grinbath/ EyeGuide)

Use of eye tracking xdisciplines. Notes data vis-- bee swarm, heat map, etc.

past uses in discourse process-- prior to e-t, observation, perception, reports of experience, miscue analysis, cloze tests etc. (156)

Saccade: "intermittent flick of the eyes between two points on a page or screen"

fixations: periods between saccades where eyes focus (156)

between fixations: saccadic suppression. Notes fixations account for 85-90% reading time; saccades take up 10-15%. What does this mean? Readers don't see every word; brains are providing the info.

saccades provide some info within 2-5º of vision (fovea and parafovea), but little else seen. Fixations last typically 200-250 milliseconds. Some percentage of saccades are regressions (reader moves eyes back to earlier point). Fast readers make longer saccades, shorter fixations, fewer regressions than slow readers (157). What is skipped? Repeated phrases, common phrases or patterns, "periphera" (e.g., citations).

"But there is little question that reading is a constructivist process and that fluent readers jump over surprising amounts of  text as they read (Just and Carpenter)" (157).

Broadening the Focus: Studies of Writing and Learning to Write

Not used extensively in rhet/comp til recently. References 2 studies: Paulson, Alexander, and Armstrong (student reading peer papers). Used same paper. 17 students. Guiding questions for peer review. Anson, Schwegler, Horn explored f/x of certain errors on readers (for principles of writing instruction) 2x2 design. Noted how reading process affected by grammar/usage errors.

Ed Psy: Hacker, Keener, and Hirscher. "Traktext"-- records everything on screen in writing process. Notes pupil dilation (greater cognitive demands=greater dilation)

European studies: e-t + keystroke logging. Cites Alamargot, Chesnet, Dansac, and Ros-- sync record eye and hand movements to "map the relationship between writer's text production and what her or she reads or rescans while writing" (161). Torrance and Wengelin-- during composing, writers' eyes behave differently than when they read. Two types of eye activitty: those of typing and those of pauses in composing.

1990s-- theorizes that social turn in comp studies/ aversion to behaviorism and empiricism may have lead to not following this type of research. Anson and Haswell both call for an increase in data-driven research. Bring together qual and quant methods. Understand cognitive aspects as well as social/cultural/contextual.

Currently, eye tracking is being used to study the ways in which learners process some of that visual and textual information in textbooks and in e-learning environments involving multimedia presentations. Wiebe and Annetta, for example, argue that eye tracking “can be particularly useful for two broad areas of application: 1) general research understanding of how different types of students in different learning situations make use of text and graphics, and 2) applied usability research of instructional materials that will be going into publication for large numbers of students. . . . As in most applied research, eye tracking should be one of many tools the instructional researcher uses to help better understand how a learner  cquires and processes visual information” (Wiebe and Annetta). Wiebe and colleagues’ ongoing research includes studying the effects of narration on students’ learning from printed text and graphics on PowerPoint presentations, and comparisons of simple two-dimensional and complex three-dimensional graphic representations of DNA in biology instruction (Patrick, Carter, and Wiebe; Slykhuis, Annetta, and Wiebe). (163-4)

The Future of Eye-Tracking Research

Few published studies of e-t in comp. Much comp scholarship focused on "sources, nature, and evaluation of error in students' writing" (164). Little investigation of what happens when teachers encounter error. Also unexlored: student recognition of error, what do students do when read texts in progress and published texts (if behave differently), how students read/examine sources, how students consult handbooks/use writing guides, how writing/reading/experience with genres transfer