SOLSTICE & CLT Conference 2013 Are there delays in the initial reporting of dyslexia in Higher Education learners? An exploratory study’ ‘ Paul Henderson – Lecturer, Faculty of Health and Social Care, Edge Hill University 5th & 6th June 2013 Introduction and overview of research study • For the next 20-30 minutes, the following themes will be addressed: I. Background II. Aims and Methods used III. Analysis and discussion IV. Future directions What is dyslexia? • No universal definition of dyslexia (Olitsky, 1999) • Commonly described as a collection of reading, spelling, naming and memory difficulties • Signs of dyslexia in Adulthood include: Poor spelling, slow reading, poor time-management, sequencing and concentration difficulties What some dyslexic students may see when they read What is already known about dyslexia in higher education learning and teaching practice? • The number of dyslexic students entering higher education has increased over the last few years due to widening access policies (Brunswick, 2012) • However, actual numbers of dyslexic students entering higher education remains fairly low at 3.2% of all higher education students (Higher Education Statistics Agency, 2010) • The above number may vastly under-estimate the true figure as around 43% of dyslexic students are identified only after they have started at University ( National Working Party on Dyslexia in Higher Education, 1999) • Although dyslexia is the most commonly declared learning difference, there is no obligation for students to report this (Fuller et al, 2004; Madriaga, 2007) Aims and objectives • To answer the research question, the following aims and objectives were established: 1. Establish if learners routinely report dyslexia at their entry point into Higher Education (HE) 2. Identify if there may be any potential implications or barriers to learners reporting dyslexia at their entry point into HE 3. Interpret, explain and understand the reasons for later or delayed reporting of dyslexia in HE 4. Disseminate the findings and discuss future developments to enhance inclusive learning and teaching practices Methodology (1) • A small-scale exploratory study using qualitative methods • A time-frame of 24 weeks from start to completion • An intended sample size of 3-4 participants • Participants were exclusively drawn from a learning services department in one UK University • The initial participant was recommended by an experienced fellow researcher Methodology (2) • No payments or incentives for participants • Digitally recorded one-to-one interview including a range of open-ended and probing questions • Allowed for an exploration of participants experiences, knowledge and awareness of working alongside dyslexic students Data analysis • Data was transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis • A list of broad themes was compiled and applied with coding categories and written notes • • • • • • Some coding categories included: Earlier educational experiences Stigma and discrimination Peer influences Strategic learning tactics Financial considerations Main findings • Three main themes emerged: 1. ‘Some people don’t realise they have dyslexia until we identify that in their academic work’ 2. ‘Could be finances, could be kids, could be anything couldn’t it?’ 3. ‘I really need to boost my mark so that’s why I’m seeking support now’ Theme 1:‘Some people don’t realise they have dyslexia until we identify that in their academic work’ • All participants reported: • ‘They had coping strategies which were fine up to second or third year and then the coping strategies started to wobble a bit’ • ‘Usually in third year coz they’ve been failing ……continuously’ • Tutors erm y’know have watched them develop over the last couple of years but actually the academic writing hasn’t progressed and so there’s often a referral’ Theme 2: ‘Could be finances, could be kids, could be anything couldn’t it?’ • All participants commented: • ‘I’d say if one of their mates had been for support so it’s like word of mouth….probably makes it more acceptable now that they’re not alone with it I guess…they’re more likely to come forward as well’ • ‘I know a student but she couldn’t afford the educational psychologist….students are put off from the Ed psych report because they have to pay a hundred quid’ • ‘The case with mature students…they’ve got relationships, they’ve got families, kids, as you usually say another job…..maybe they’ve been too busy in their studies’ • ‘I’m so absorbed in placement so absorbed in lectures, I haven’t got time to be doing that’ Theme 3:‘I really need to boost my mark so that’s why I’m seeking support now’ All participants commented: ‘ I think maybe in year two and year three, the pressures on to get a classification or a decent degree….and they’ve gotta use every resource they can to get it’ ‘In the first year, the marks are important but don’t matter towards their final degree…they come in year 2 and year 3 because the pressure’s on to get a classification or a decent degree’ ‘I’ve left it to lie but now I’ve got to get these marks in order to get this in order to achieve this mark or classification’ ‘They’re getting towards level 6 and level 7 and it really will become problematic then’ New insights? • Some students may not report dyslexia in their first year of HE as they may regard their marks as less important as these do not count towards their final degree - more likely to report in 3rd year • The possibility of dyslexia was being suggested to more students by tutors in the second and third year of their studies after it had been noted that written academic work was always not improving • Further explanations for delays include: the stress of making the system work e.g. incurring extra financial costs for learning assessments and making up extra time to book and attend specialist appointments • The effect of peer influences- some students are less likely to delay reporting if a friend/colleague has come forward with similar learning issues . • Other key findings indicated that dyslexic learners share a number of similar issues with non-dyslexic learners. For example: • Factors that are beyond the control of the university such as the effect of peer influences (hidden curriculum) • Modern learners are no longer a homogenous population and bring a variety of challenges and issues to HE • Strategic learning styles- making tactical education decisions that best suit the outcome(s) Now what? Further considerations for future learning and teaching practice • Promote more awareness raising and training of learning differences such as dyslexia- to encourage timelier and earlier referrals • Involvement of visible students with dyslexia at preadmission and open days- to provide supportive advice and act as positive role models for prospective students • Further larger-scale research – explore more in-depth understandings of late declaring students with dyslexia and aim to more fully establish their support needs during the early stages of their HE journey References • Brunswick, N. (2012) Supporting Dyslexic Adults in Higher Education and the Workplace. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. • Fuller, M., Healey, M., Bradley, A. & Hall, T. (2004) ‘Barriers to learning: a systematic study of the experiences of disabled students in one university’ Studies in Higher Education. 29 (3) pp.303-318. • Higher Education Statistics Agency (2010) Students in Higher Education Institutions 2008/2009, Author, Cheltenham. • Madriaga, M. (2007) ‘Enduring disablism: students with dyslexia and their pathways into UK higher education and beyond’ Disability and Society. 22(4) pp.399-412. • National Working Party on Dyslexia in Higher Education (1999) Dyslexia in Higher Education: Policy, provision and practice. Hull: University of Hull. • Olitsky, S.E. (1999) ‘Dyslexia’ The American Orthoptic Journal. 49, pp.17-22. . •Any further questions?