Their article is titled “Spelling Counts: The Educational Gatekeeping Role of Grading Rubrics and Spell Check Programs.” The research team investigated how adherence to traditional English spelling has an impact on mastery of academic writing. They examined grading rubrics across colleges and departments, finding that both the quality and quantity of spelling errors were prone to subjective judgment, despite the percentage of the final grade dependent upon spelling.
Given statistics that show many college students utilize spell check programs, the team then tested the top five programs using commonly misspelled words and confusable homonyms. Results found the technology to be very inconsistent in what words were flagged, and whether or not suggested changes were accurate. Gomez and Krimgold had presented this data at the New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association annual conference in May. Read more about their presentation here.
This work on spelling was a companion project to a 2016 study in which Dr. Behrens and three CSD majors tested common grammar checkers. That technology also proved to be unreliable and fostered a prescriptive sense of right vs. wrong grammatical constructions, with no room for discussion of grammatical variation.
These projects are aimed at college teachers and learners, both invested in mastery of academic discourse. Educators and students should be aware of the downside of reliance on language-related technology.