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E801: Action 3.15: Screening Tests

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Simpson, J. & Everatt, J. (2009) 'Reception class predictors of literacy skills'

Notes on importance and nature of screening tests for dyslexia. What issues are relevant to your own interpretation, use and critical evaluation of any screening tests for dyslexia that you may use?

DEST (Dyslexia Early Screening Test, Nicholson & Fawcett, 1996)
4:6 to 6:5 years
Based on three possible causes of dyslexia: phonological deficit; magnocellular auditory pathway (rapid processing); automatising skills (Cerebellum)
Sub-test scores combine to give ARQ (at risk quotient) - controversial

Need to show predictive validity across age ranges and contexts

Combined tests may reduce the ability of a test to predict variance in skills

Predictors of later literacy development change with age so test needs to change with age


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E801: Action 3.14: Implications of using tests

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Murphy, S. 'Literacy assessment and the politics of identities' [Course website]

Notes on implications and equity issues in individual assessment.

General problems

  • Low scoring students results based on smaller sample of responses than higher scoring students
  • No credit for partial knowledge
  • Summaries masks differences between test scores i.e. student scores uniformly low or one test is very low and rest above average
  • Knowledge of format of tests affects performance
  • Limited generalisability from test to context e.g. comprehension test can be answered without reading the passage
  • Limited relevance to non-school environment
  • One narrow path to success - perceived as unfair by those with strengths in other areas.

Systematic bias

Testing takes place in context. It has behavioural rules on inter-personal communication and participation

  • Interaction between examiner/examinee
  • Anxiety
  • Over-testing and speed of testing for African-American children
  • Low achievers more anxious
  • Negative about process that sorts them for race and class
  • Freq. of specific word use differs across languages so students may not recognise words even if translated to their own language
  • In translation the resultant tasks may not be equivalent

Teachers administering tests

  • Successful result of the system
  • Forced to participate in system even if do not agree
  • Psychologists do not know child; teacher/parent does so ideas of teacher/parent often confirmed even though results are ambiguous
  • Teachers focus on those pupils likely to show gains in test results
  • Teachers reportedly alter results, teach to the test, use test items in class. Resistance but pressure to get pupils to achieve.

Psychologists administering tests

  • Seem to be autonomous in selection and administration of tests
  • Milofsky found psychologists in suburbs worked in environment and identified barriers; those in urban environment were too busy and identified individual differences
  • Objectivity of test legitimises the work;
  • Working in marginal position so power important to personal identity
  • Legal requirements require audit trail


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E801: Action 3.13: Assessment

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Reid (2009) Chapter 5

1. What specific tests are mentioned and what do they assess?

Cognitive Measures: WISC -IV (Wechsler intelligence scale) assumes IQ tests are valid/reliable; IQ and reading share causal dependency; no information on how to intervene

Processing Skills: PAL-11 (Process Assessment of the Learner) explains why; suggests how to intervene;

WIAT-11 (Wechsler Individual Achievement Test) correlates with WISC; extent of difficulties but no guidance on which areas are involved

CTOPP (Comprehensive test of phonological processing); more specific; precise diagnostic information and evaluation of progress.

Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests- formal; structured

GORT-4 (Gray oral reading tests) - both top down and bottom up processes; uses Miscue analysis but diff. marking than Goodman

LPAD - Freuerstein's learning potential Assessment Device - dynamic test/assisted assessment - intervention AND assessment

What is meant by 'standardised and psychometric criteria'?

Standardised utilises a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated (norm-referenced). E.g. IQ tests, reading age. Need care to avoid bias in test construction.

Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of educational and psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits. The field is primarily concerned with the construction and validation of measurement instruments, such as questionnaires, tests, and personality assessments. (Wikipedia). Tries to establish a norm.

WISC - psychometric, standardised test.

What do you understand by the term 'screening'?

Screening is a strategy used in a population to detect a disease/difficulty in an individual without signs of the disease/difficulty.

At what age, which skills, how should results be used?
All children?


What are the key aspects of curriculum assessment?

In context; performance in natural environment; using meaningful activities

  • Cloze procedure
  • Silent reading
  • Reading aloud
  • Free writing
  • spelling

What is miscue analysis?

Miscue analysis is a tool for looking closely at the types of reading strategies a reader uses. The kinds of miscues (incorrect guesses) a reader makes when reading from a text will give the listener clues about how familiar or unfamiliar the reader finds the content matter, and how easy or difficult they find the text to read. Reading tests do not give this sort of information because reading is so much more than just looking closely at each letter and every word. Based on Goodman (1976)

What is meant by the 'components approach' to assessment?

  • Distinguish dyslexia from slow learner
  • Distinguish dyslexia from comprehension deficits
  • Adapted for teacher and psychologist
  • Complete diagnosis: qualitative and quantitative

The advantages of observational assessment?

  • Gives info which can lead to personalised development programme
  • Less stress for learner
  • Flexible
  • Adaptive
  • Contextual

Give some examples of 'assessing in context'

Specific difficulties relating to subject e.g. relative importance of information and ordering information in history.

History example was assessment designed to bolster self-esteem

2. Look at the assessment materials in Reid (2009) Appendix 1 and the assessment materials on the course website.

Which tests are suitable for large numbers of students and which are individualised?



TOPA-2+ (5-8yrs)

TOPA-2+ (5-8yrs)

CTOPP (5-25)


Launch into reading success (young)


GORT-4 (6-19)


TOWRE (6-25)






DST (3 levels - up to adult)




SNAP (facilitates communication)







In which ways would you differentiate between these assessments and decide which to use?

Although it seems one of the least important factors, I would have to mention that the availability of the tests would have to play a part as I would like to use a selection of tests and they are expensive so it would have to depend on which tests the university would be willing to pay for or already possessed.

Age is an important factor - I work with a population of adults over a wide range from 18years in a University context.

I would like to use a screening approach initially with in depth discussion on family history, past and present educational experiences and other life experiences.

I do not feel that an IQ test is appropriate with these adult learners who have achieved university entry. However it may be necessary to include if required by the Student Loans Company to justify their payment of Disabled Students Allowance.

I think that I would like to use the Process Assessment of the Learner Diagnostic Assessment for Reading and Writing (PAL-11) and then progress to dynamic assessment models but this would all depend on the demands of the Student Loans Company. I intend to do some more research in this area in order to find out what exactly is required.


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E801: Action 3.12: Family Literacy Programmes

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Tett, L. (2009) 'Excluded voices: class, culture and family literacy in Scotland' [Reader 2]
DVD - 'Early intervention in East Renfrewshire'
Read (2009) Chapter 19

One primary school in the local area was having problems with developing home school links. There had been security issues in the past and the area around the school was locked and no parents came further than the school gates when they picked their children up. The lady appointed as home-school coordinator was tearing her hair out as she was refused entry from home after home. Reading books that were sent home never returned to school as they were sold. The parents' evening she organised was attended by two parents and the event with free food and alcohol was attended by five parents!

Eventually she had a brainwave and persuaded the local authority to offer the school building as a very cheap venue for the local playgroup, brownies and cubs. In this way the parents stared entering the school and saw their children's work on walls and found that it was not quite so daunting. Eventually she managed to persuade some parents to help with craft activities by liaising with the leaders of the voluntary groups and from there they began to help with literacy as well.

It was not all a smooth pathway as the police raided the toddler group in order to arrest a parent drug dealing to the other parents but now there are thriving home-school links with family literacy and numeracy classes and they have more problems with keeping parents out than attracting them in!

The link with dyslexia is that the school now has the opportunity to discuss any concerns with parents; and parents have the ability and confidence to approach the school, either directly or through one of the parents who go into the classroom to assist.

The communication has improved to such a point that parents now feel involved in their children's school lives. In the past the teachers reported that many parents saw dyslexia as a problem that did not concern them. It was something the child 'did at school'. It was just nice to have a label to explain to their friends why their child sat at the 'green table' for work. Now parents are asking if they can do anything to help and complaining that the school are not doing enough!


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E801: Action 3.11: Inclusion, Policy and Practice

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Reid (2009) Chapters 11, 12, 15

What are the factors that Reid considers contribute to the potential tensions in including children with dyslexia in the mainstream school? Refer to your own situation

  • Whole class/group teaching
  • Standardised assessment
  • Competition between schools (league tables)

In a higher education setting, I would list the tensions as:

  • Premium placed on academic literacies including publication so that spelling and grammar are identified as a top priority
  • Emphasis on written exams as assessment method
  • Government emphasis on preparation for employment and graduate level employees must be able to critically analyse literature and write reports

What are the issues identified in the chapter that need to be addressed to ensure children with dyslexia can have full curriculum access in the mainstream school?

  • The Context: age of student / nature of learning / class size / environment / opportunities for withdrawal. Communication important when children receiving support outside classroom.
  • Identification of Needs: how it informs teaching / are they adequate to identify strengths and difficulties? Informal assessment can be good to inform needs.
  • Curriculum: how can teaching approaches be related to curriculum? Can gains be transferred? Which approaches have been successful or unsuccessful in the past?
  • The Learner: individual factors such as learning style and cognitive factors / are there opportunities for extended learning?

Reid suggests that student self-advocacy is an important factor. Do you agree with this and how can this be accommodated and developed for students with dyslexia? Refer to your own situation.

I believe self advocacy is very important. Probably one of the most important factors I considered when I chose to home educate my children. As an adult I am less stressed when I feel in control of the situation and it is no different for children. Stress has been found to be unproductive in the learning environment and it has been reported to impair both short and long term memory when associated with learning processes (Bisaz, 2009). In a higher education institution the student with dyslexia can be assisted to feel in control of the situation by ensuring that they are fully aware of the assessment procedure for DSA and of their choices. In the past students were offered dyslexia tuition and this was then structured around the current requirements of their course. The current situation seems to be changing and Derby University is insisting that students take up dyslexia tuition before they can access other forms of assistance. Some universities are also dictating the format of support sessions and not allowing students to structure their own individual plans. This seems to be a response to funding constrictions. However, students are becoming more vocal about their needs now that they are personally paying so much more in fees so this situation may change.

In Chapter 11 Reid refers to over twenty key components of a teaching approach for students with dyslexia: study these factors, how do they fit with the views of Norwich and Lewis? Can they be embedded into teaching approaches for all or are they representative of the unique differences position highlighted by Norwich and Lewis? Refer to literature and your own practice (see also pp183-4)

All the general points (p.158-159) are vital requirements for the general population of students and so should be embedded into teaching approaches. Coming from a background of working with students with various impairments, I also think it is very important to point out that WCAG2.0 really must be complied with. For example, use of colour to highlight key words can help some people but the use of colour alone to transmit information is discouraged under the guidelines as it impairs reception of the information for people who are colour blind.

Universal design is important but flexibility is also important. For example, I know people with dyslexia who find font size 14 impossible to read as it changes the letter spacing and others who much prefer this size.

In the list of key components, I would also suggest that these are Key components for all learners. I was surprised that transfer of skills was not mentioned. In my opinion, one of the most important considerations for the choice of in class support rather than withdrawal is the ability to reinforce current learning in all subjects throughout the curriculum. It is part of situated learning (Lave & Wenger) and helps the learner to understand the importance of the skills by placing them in a social context. In higher education, the most successful dyslexia tutoring is that which works on the necessary skills in the context of the current course requirements - as a part of gaining knowledge of the academic culture.

Other notes

Reid reports that Nicolson and Fawcett (2001) proposed that dyslexic children have difficulties making skills automatic (Reid, 2009, p.157). Not sure about this one. Is it a problem with automaticity or is it a multi-tasking problem? Is multi-tasking an automaticity problem? Working with young people with Asperger Syndrome, I find that many have no problems with gaining automaticity but cannot multi-task easily due to focus. Perhaps they are interlinked but I would be careful about saying that people with dyslexic have automaticity difficulties.


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E801: Action 3.10: Considering special interventions

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Norwich, B. & Lewis, A. (2009) 'Mapping a pedagogy for special educational needs' [Reader 2]

What are the authors' doubts on the value of specialist interventions?

  • Effective teaching is the same for all pupils - common pedagogy position (see p173)
  • SEN-specific pedagogies do not account for the individual approach. Learners have complex needs e.g. a learner may be deaf and from a literacy-rich background OR deaf and from a literacy-poor background OR at any point in between and with many other variations such as the student I worked with who was deaf, EFL learner, literacy rich background with dyslexia.
    i.e. more within-group differences than out-group differences
  • Most studies do not examine how carefully the programme is implemented by teachers

What evidence do they cite for their criticisms of process interventions?

Process interventions = interventions focusing on presumed underlying processing difficulties p.177

  • Brooks et al. (1998) - features of effective schemes were that of normal pedagogy [p.174]
  • Wang (1999) - core features of adaptive learning [p. 174]
  • Reading Recovery results
  • Various studies suggest short interventions lose their effect and work is needed throughout learning(pp. 175, 176)
  • Stevens & Slavin (1995) Jenkins et al (1994) special ed. teachers team teaching with class teachers - better results than withdrawing children
  • Various sources such as Vellutino (1987), suggest range of approaches is important.

How convinced are you by the arguments put forward by Norwich & Lewis?

Unique differences position - refers to the need to provide something different for students with SEN i.e. differentiated teaching.

Not totally convinced either way. They suggest common teaching principles and pedagogies but with a realisation that some pupils may require more explicit and/or more extensive teaching in some areas. They also suggest that some pupils with SEN may need common teaching at some times and differentiated teaching at others.

They mention that account needs to be taken of learning styles such as a no-error approach for those with Downs Syndrome. I also find this with those students with Asperger Syndrome and in some cases with those with low self-esteem. Is this just a learning style? I would regard it as a difference of teaching approach.

They discuss a common teaching programme with plenty of examples and more practice so that the pupils can achieve mastery before they move on. Silbert et al. (1990) report that teachers have been shown to move on before low attainers have reached mastery. What about the high attainers/fast learners? When they get bored they find other ways to distract themselves from causing chaos in the classroom and distracting everyone else to doing things wrong on purpose (both examples from a small private school with 5 learners in reception class!). Should you aim this common teaching programme at the lowest end of the class? The private school where I was teaching, decided to let the children go on at their own pace so that they could concentrate on those having difficulties but struggled to cope 12 months later when there was 4 years difference between the English and Maths books that the pupils were working on. At this point there were only 12 pupils in the class and two qualified teachers. How would this work with 30 in the class? My favourite story concerns the three year old who had moved to the reception class early - just before she was 4 years old. The teacher introduced the history topic that they were about to study and set them some work to do. She realised that this pupil was missing and turned around to find she was reading on the other side of the room. She went over to her and the girl explained that she was interested in the topic but thought the teacher had got some things wrong so she was looking them up in the encyclopaedia. How do you cope with this level of differentiation?

Reid (2009) Chapter 15

The Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic students in the UK


Distinct provision for pupils with dyslexia - no category for schools with in-class provision

Centre for studies in inclusive Education:


I was offered a special school for my daughter who is severely deaf. I was also offered a school with a unit and I visited both. My conclusions were that she would do better academically in a special school and better socially in a school with a unit. Eventually we chose home education as she had the advantages at working at her own pace whilst hearing everything and the wide social circle of the many families in the area who home educated.

I am a little cynical about inclusive education as I have seen too many young people who have struggled through inclusive education, whose schools have proudly advertised their inclusiveness but the learners have ended up in basic education classes at college, often with an oral ability far above their written ability. Many report that they have been placed in the lowest streams at school because of their literacy difficulties when their oral academic skills are more suited to top streams.

I must get that Wearmouth (2001) article as I seem to be agreeing with much of what Reid reports! - found book at Keele Uni library so in luck for once as it is £23 at cheapest second hand!


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E801: Action 3.9: Early Screening for Dyslexia

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DVD - 'Early intervention in East Renfrewshire'

Read (2009) Chapter 4

What are the advantages and disadvantages for having a screening programme in the early years?

The advantages are that children with any sort of difficulty are picked up and can receive extra support. Those who are slightly delayed developmentally will benefit as well as those with SpLDs. Parents can be assured that extra help is available for their children.

Disadvantages come from labelling a child when they are so young and setting up expectations/excuses for failure.

What would be the difficulties in implementing such a strategy?

It must be a screening strategy for all difficulties rather than a diagnosis and communication with the students and parents must be carefully handled.

Power struggles and communication between various agencies i.e. overlap between nurseries, pre-school and school.

What differences might it make for young children?

Catch the children before they fail thus preventing loss of self-esteem. Children can be assisted to stay on the same track as their classmates and parents can be reassured that children are being helped with a genuine difficulty rather than being lazy thus avoiding them putting pressure on the child.

How does this fit with a policy of inclusion?

It allows the child to stay with the class and there will be less likelihood of their withdrawal for special help at a later stage.


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E801: Action 3.8: HMIE Report

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HMIE (2008) 'Education for Learners with Dyslexia' Inspectorate Report. Scottish Executive, October 2008. Available from: http://www.hmie.gov.uk/documents/publication/eflwd.html [Accessed 5th February 2011]

See also Reid, G. (2009) Dyslexia: a Practitioners Handbook. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, pp.10-12.

Two key areas:

Meeting Learning Needs


  • No records of external training
  • Few records of number of students with Dyslexia
  • Dual language (Gaelic/English)


  • Early assessment
  • Variety of age-appropriate materials
  • Early intervention teacher supporting groups and identifying needs
  • Individual programmes
  • Schools with specialists - children use self-help strategies/confident
  • Information transfer between schools
  • Parents in involved in setting SMART targets
  • Peer tutors in 20 school
  • Identification of practices across school
  • Sharing of good practice
  • Examination differentiation good in independent schools

Areas of development:

  • Communication between staff
  • Inconsistent provision of support/alt. Assessment
  • Few Gaelic speaking psychologists
  • Classwork/homework needs differentiation
  • Awareness of accessibility legislation/responsibilities
  • Varied response in special/secure schools

Specific to Scotland? Own practice?

The first 5 areas for development also apply in my university setting although the language concerns tend to be Chinese rather than Gaelic. Students report that they find it difficult to keep informing staff of their needs every time a new member of staff takes over to give a few lectures on their specialist area. Many academic staff still consider that accessibility is the concern of disability services although they do their best to help students once they are aware of a concern.

Issues arising from discussions with teacher education universities


  • Limited time to address issues
  • Need to be aware of general responsibilities
  • No agreed view on dyslexia
  • Tension between identification for support and labelling
  • No research on PGDE course and impact in schools


  • Use of support for learning specialists
  • Teaching on how to access support for all students
  • Effective collaboration
  • Meeting needs are responsibility of all teachers

Areas of development:

  • Lack of consensus on what dyslexia is
  • Prioritisation of time
  • Evaluation of impact of uni courses on practice

Specific to Scotland? Own practice?

I am not involved with the PGCE courses at the universities where I work and so I am unsure of how they operate. I do know that there is a lack of consensus on whether dyslexia actually exists rather than what it is! I have heard complaints from teachers about their lack of training in how to deal with students with dyslexia but I am not sure about the current situation.

The Way Ahead

'Scottish education has much good and innovative practice in meeting the learning needs of children and young people with dyslexia'

I am not sure that this can be said from this report as some of the areas of development identified are very important to address. For example, the area of teacher training and how there is no research to relate training to practice in schools and whether it is effective. The other areas of development identified such as lack of legislative knowledge, inconsistent provision, lack of differentiation in work and the lack of consensus on what dyslexia is, may all come from this lack of training and so this makes it a major issue. I can see SOME areas of good and innovative practice but I would not agree with the word MUCH.




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E801: Action 3.7

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E801: Action 3.7: Further reflections on 'Specific reading disability (dyslexia): what have we learned in the past four decades?'

House of Lords Debate, 5th March 1980; cited in Ott, 1997)

  • No agreed criteria for distinguishing dyslexic children from other children
  • Children whose difficulties are marked but whose general ability is at least average
  • Distinctive arrangements are necessary for those children
  • The term 'dyslexia' is used too loosely
  • The term is not descriptive enough to be helpful to the teacher

I believe that the comments are still relevant today. Looking back to the comments I recorded from lecturers in action 3.1, there is agreement that distinctive arrangements are required but that the term 'dyslexia' is used too loosely and so there are far too many students falling into the category and insisting on specialist help. The comments from students suggest that the lecturers understand the reading and spelling aspect but do not understand organisational and working memory problems.

Ministerial Statement on Dyslexia, 6th May 2008

More emphasis on specialist training for teachers as well as students and checking on the impact of this training.

Joint response from dyslexia organisations on DCSF Announcement, 6th May 2008

Do we really know how to support these children effectively?

1 SpLD qualified teacher per school

Rose Report (2009)


Page 10 (12 of pdf)

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.

Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.

It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.

Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.


Screening tests are unreliable Page 11 (13 of pdf)

Personalised approach is necessary Page 13 (15 of pdf)

Short courses for teachers/ some teachers to have specialist training (p.15)

Specialist skills in some schools / Advanced skills for some teachers in all schools / Core skills for all teachers (p.16)

Not a dyslexia specialist for every school but for groups of schools(p.18)



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E801: Action 3.6

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E801: Action 3.6: 'Specific reading disability (dyslexia): what have we learned in the past four decades?'

Vellutino, F., Fletcher, J., Snowling, M. & Scanlon, D. (2004) 'Specific reading disability (dyslexia): what have we learned in the past four decades?', Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 45 no. 1, pp. 2-40.

Stage 1: Read the synopsis on p.2, and make no more than two bullet point notes.

  • Alphabetic coding deficits
  • Phonological coding deficits

Stage 2: Read the summary and conclusions, pp.30-31, and make a maximum of 5 bullet point notes, but preferably fewer.

  • Reading primarily a linguistic skill not visual
  • Beginning readers - phonological skills carry greater weight
  • Advanced readers - semantic & syntactic skills carry greater weight
  • Assessment should be targeted to provide individualised intervention

Stage 2b: Read the section with the heading 'Cognitive and biological versus experiential and instructional causes of early reading difficulties,' (pp.25-29), and make no more than 3 bullet notes. Pay particular attention to Marie Clay, and to the IQ discrepancy hypothesis of dyslexia (i.e. the claim that a poor reader with a high IQ is likely to be dyslexic)

  • Acquisition of skills influenced by reading instruction
  • IQ tests depend on knowledge and skills acquired, in part, through reading
  • 67.1% of impaired readers brought to average in 1 semester


Stage 3: Read the implications for teachers, make as many or as few bullets as you feel appropriate, then boil them down. Think how they apply to your setting and context.

  • No clear cut, definitive and unequivocal diagnostic criteria
  • A child may only need low average intelligence to learn to decipher print
  • Assessment unnecessary - individualised intervention better than diagnosis


Stage 4: Now read the whole article from the beginning (perhaps using a highlighter pen).

When you have finished, please reflect on my questions below.

  • What was new to you in the section headed 'Components of reading ability'?
    Orthographic awareness- how letters are organised in written words p5
    Phonological and orthographic awareness are reciprocally related conditions (as one goes up; other goes down ????) p5
    Lexical (vocabulary) and sublexical (participles)- Most theories of spelling propose two major processes for translating between orthography and phonology: a lexical process for retrieving the spellings of familiar words and a sublexical process for assembling the spellings of unfamiliar letter strings based on knowledge of the systematic correspondences between phonemes and graphemes.
    Continuous ability type theories - depends on the assortment of cognitive abilities and the way in which instruction/environment builds on cognitive strengths and mitigates cognitive weaknesses.
  • What is the overarching theme of pp.5-25, where different dyslexia hypotheses are reviewed? (If you have also read Rice and Brooks, 2004, you might find a pithy quotation to summarise these pages in no more than a single sentence)
    ''Dyslexia' is not one thing but many, to the extent that it may be a conceptual clearing-house for a variety of difficulties with a variety of causes' (Rice & Brooks, 2004, p.88)
  • Which classes of reading difficulty are more common:
  • those with biological/genetic roots (i.e. from before the child was born)
  • those whose roots are social (since the child was born)?
    Social roots
  • What core difficulty is commonly shared by most poor readers (whether dyslexic or non-dyslexic)?
    Word identification skills
  • Now that you have read this research review carefully, how confident are you, on the basis of this evidence, that distinguishing between dyslexics and non-dyslexics

(a)  can be accomplished securely,

(b) is vital for the progress of either?
No I do not think it can be accomplished securely and no it is not vital for the progress of either. I agree that it would be best to identify those that are falling behind and then analyse their particular problem and work on individualised action plans. This would help all categories of learners.

Every method appears to succeed with some learners; all methods fail with some learners (Adapted from: Rice & Brooks, 2004, p.87)



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E801: Action 3.5

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E801: Action 3.5: Reading, Dyslexia and the Brain

Goswami, U. (2009) 'Reading, Dyslexia and the Brain' in Fletcher-Campbell, F., Soler, J. & Reid, G. Approaching Difficulties in Literacy Development: Assessment, Pedagogy and Programmes. Chichester, Sage.

  • The importance of locating neural sites for reading
    Can provide evidence to prove/disprove theories such as determination as to where reading begins
  • The role of developmental differences
    'High degree of consistency in neural networks recruited by novice and expert readers' (p.13)
    'reading related activity in the brain becomes more left lateralised with development' (p.13)
    [This seems intuitive to me as novice readers start by reading aloud and then move to silent reading with lip movement and then to fully silent reading]
  • How neuro-biological understanding can inform intervention
    Single route model of reading development
    Reading did not become left-lateralised (p.15)
    Hypoactivation of areas on the left with atypical continued use of areas on the right (p.18)
    Atypical auditory processing (p.19)
  • The role of brain imaging as a research methodology that can enhance our understanding of developmental dyslexia
    Wide range of functional problems so difficult to equate participants (p.14)
    Must use same techniques (p.14)
    Problems with equating groups - e.g. is difference due to non-dyslexics having greater expertise? (p.15)

Reid, G. (2009) Dyslexia: a Practitioners Handbook. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell. Chapter 2- Causal modelling framework

Frith, U. (2002) 'Resolving the paradoxes of dyslexia' in Reid, G. & Wearmouth, J. (eds.) Dyslexia and Literacy, Theory and Practice. Chichester, John Wiley & Sons.

3 levels: behavioural, cognitive, biological (over-lapping)


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E801: Action 3.4

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E801: Action 3.4: Labelling Neurodiversity

Reid, G. (2009) Dyslexia: a Practitioners Handbook. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell. Chapter 17

Pollack, D. (2009) 'The Self Concept and Dyslexia', in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development. London, Sage.

Points in favour of labels:

  • To protect from anxiety by identifying with a group (Pollack, p.204)
  • To protect self esteem by giving self and others 'a reason' (Pollack, p.205)
  • To relieve a teacher's self-esteem issues (Pollack, p.206)
  • Route out of 'self-blame' (Pollack, p.209)
  • To obtain assistance and equipment (Reid, p.273)

Points against labels:

  • Student can be written off (Pollack, p.206)
  • Reduce feelings of control (Pollack, p.209)
  • Locates problem within child and detracts from policies/organisations (Pollack, p.209)
  • Use as a crutch (Pollack, p.210); blame everything on dyslexia; become egocentric and demand rights (Pollack, p.211)
  • Feeling of abnormality (Pollack, p. 210)
  • Disclosure of label in employment/some courses (teacher training) can be negative (Reid, p.277)
  • Special arrangements can lead to feelings of obligation (Reid, p.279)


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E801: Action 3.3

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E801: Action 3.3: A Closer Look at Defining Dyslexia

1. Purposes for definitions of dyslexia (Reid, 2009, p.3/4)

British Dyslexia Association Definition (2009)

  • Explanation: Explaining to teachers and professionals how they may identify and intervene

International Dyslexia Definition (2008)

  • Research: To provide a tidy and discrete sample for researchers
  • Explanation: Explain to teachers and professionals how they may identify and intervene

British Psychological Society (1999)

  • Understanding: To help parents and the individual with dyslexia understand

Scottish Government (2009)

  • Allocation
  • Explanation
  • Understanding

Reid (2009, p.4)

  • Explanation
  • Understanding

2. In a university setting I would find the BDA definition useful as a concise, basic explanation for both students and staff. It gives a medical definition concentrating on deficiencies but also gives a positive slant on the individual's cognitive abilities and positive ideas for interventions.

3. Looking at the Scottish definition, I would consider the good points to be the comprehensive coverage of the difficulties but the positive slant that moves this away from a deficiencies model towards a social model. I especially like the acknowledgement of the emotional difficulties that can result from lack of identification. My criticism of the definition is that it is very lengthy and does not give much guidance for intervention.


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E801: Action 3.2

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E801: Action 3.2: Definitions and Issues

1. 3 main issues which are relevant to your understanding and experiences of dyslexia and the ways in which they impact on the higher education context:

'It provides a definitive and descriptive response to what for many can be an area of emotional stress and personal conflict' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
Many students having struggled through school, go through a plethora of emotions when they finally receive a diagnosis of dyslexia. They have to come to terms with the fact that they are now considered disabled and also the anger at their parents and school teachers for not believing they had genuine difficulties earlier in their lives. They are also relieved that they do have a genuine problem. They are already struggling to keep up with their work and the extra emotional stress just makes things so much worse.

'Definitions can help provide a label' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
The label is necessary to prove the necessity for facilities and equipment obtained through Disabled Students' Allowance but it returns to the medical model of disability with the student regarded as having a deficit which can be disabling in itself. The label can also help students begin to understand themselves and develop coping strategies.

'Dyslexia is multifaceted' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
Reid suggests this is a problem when devising a definition but there is a similar problem with Asperger Syndrome which has been solved by referring to a spectrum of symptoms which may be present to differing degrees.

2. It can be suggested that a definition of dyslexia should take account of the following points but there are problems with this

i.        Related to theory and underpinned by a sound research basis

ii.        Easily translated into practice to make it a working/operational definition

iii.        Informative in relation to assessment and intervention.

iv.        Accepted by the majority of educators in the field to ensure consistency in practice

v.        Readily understood and accepted by teachers, parents and other professionals

There is no one theory for dyslexia, it is multifaceted and, although there is recognition for the factors involved, there is no accepted weighting for them. Various academics have their own favourite theories and justify them by criticising the others. The research base is vast and varies in quality. This makes it difficult to transfer into practice and it should also be asked 'what practice?' Education? Psychological assessment? Education? Funding allocation? Explaining to parents? Charities asking for money?

Investigating the incidence of a range of symptoms works for Asperger Syndrome in the majority of cases although sensory disabilities can confuse the situation as sensory disabilities can cause social isolation and affect a person's relationships, thus causing Asperger-like symptoms. Social issues may confuse the situation in literacy difficulties and cause dyslexia-like symptoms which may account for the high diagnosis rates seen in higher education.

The confusion in research leads to confusion for educators, students and parents. There is little in the way of consistency in educational practice.

The aims for a definition are laudable but they all rely on the first point - that they should be related to theory and based on sound research.


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E801: Action 3.1

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E801: Action 3.1: Your Understandings of Dyslexia

1. My current ideas: I think that dyslexia is a connection problem in the brain and that it is not just reading and writing but sequencing and short term memory problems. I believe that the term 'neurodiversity disorders' is the best one to cover Aspergers Syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia although I am not sure that Tourettes and ADHD also fit into these disorders. I can recognise similar patterns with all of the first four.

I feel that there is a high degree of over-diagnosis in higher education and that is leading to problems with some lecturers disbelieving all students who present with dyslexia and so many tend to be reluctant to provide any assistance.

2. Lecturer 1: Well, I do think there are a few students with dyslexia but it's getting ridiculous. In my first year tutorial group I have six of the nine students using dyslexia stickers. It can't be right that they all have dyslexia. I can't do my job if I cannot point out grammar and spelling mistakes. I am supposed to be helping them to learn the material and also preparing them for future learning or work. They would never hold down a job presenting work the way they do to me and it is frustrating that I can't be trusted to be a professional and encourage them to improve their work so they will be able to hold down a job in the future.

Lecturer 2: There are students at this university with problems in spelling and grammar but I tend to think that it is more to do with the schooling they have received than from any specific disability. It's interesting that the ones from good local schools and private schools do not seem to have the same problems. I am happy to put information on the VLE before the lecture but I am not spending time and money on printing handouts on blue and green paper. If the slides are there in advance they can print them out just the same as any other student.

Third year student: I have dyslexia. I suppose I look at it as a problem because it is always causing me problems in uni. Work seems to take me longer than my friends cos I can't seem to work out what the essay title wants and I end up researching the wrong things then it all clicks in and I have to start again. I used a tutor for a while but it was useless as it just takes up even more time. My spelling isn't too bad now but I still have a lot of problems with short term memory and sequencing problems. My reading is too slow for uni work. Those are the things people don't realise, lecturers I mean.

First year student: I have dyslexia and it means I can't keep up with the work. I think it is a brain problem, something to do with connections between my eyes and my brain. My spelling is awful and I am struggling with the load of reading they are giving me. I have coloured glasses which stop the text dancing around but I am still so slow.

PhD student: I do still have dyslexia but I manage by myself now. I think that it is a genuine problem in my case but I get fed up of all the students who use it as an excuse nowadays. I do not declare it most of the time now as people do not always believe it exists. I also think that hard work can cure most of the symptoms although it still exists underneath. I was appalling in junior school and struggled in senior school but my parents got me some private tuition which helped me through the work. I know my reading is still slower than my mates but it just means that I am more selective in what I read. I write notes and lists everywhere to help my organisation and make sure I do not forget anything.

3. Similarities

  • Everyone believed that dyslexia is being overdiagnosed
  • The majority mentioned organisation, reading, spelling, memory
  • Everyone saw it as a problem and discussed it using a medical model of deficiencies


  • One person saw it as an ocular problem
  • Two people thought that the symptoms, at least, could be cured with hard work
  • Both lecturers came across as very frustrated that they were being prevented from doing their job by political correctness.

4. I was surprised that the lecturers were so honest even though they were being recorded. I think that this may come from the sheer sense of frustration that they are experiencing.


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E801: Block 2 Actions

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E801: Action 2.7: Inclusion and Perspectives on Literacy

Artiles makes the point that there is silence concerning the issues of race in the inclusion debates and Walker (1999) suggests that a reason for this is that future researchers are taught that culture is a variable that must be controlled. Payne makes the point that literacy has been ignored by sociology and suggests that it is an uncomfortable subject for sociologists although he gives no reason for this other than it being problematical.

This leaves some large gaps in determining who is labelled, who uses the label and what consequences occur from using these labels. Also looking at the social environments in which literacy problems occur and their key social correlates. Payne suggests that this gap in research results in a reduction in the ability to interpret national surveys correctly.

E801: Action 2.8: Inclusion in the USA

McDermott, R., Goldman, S. & Varenne, H. (2009) 'The cultural work of learning disabilities' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

'American education is compulsively competitive' p.252

Matches British education - competition for best nurseries, schools, chat outside gates about achievements, denigrating other children, ranking by table colour etc.

'for whom the bell curve tolls' p. 255 [Great quote]

New approach here with the introduction of vilification of those at both ends of the spectrum. Matches with my personal experience in the UK where I enrolled my daughter in a school temporarily whilst my mother was ill and, after the first day, I was asked to supply work for her as they did not have any that were at her level.

School involves large numbers of children. In order to keep the government and largest number of parents happy, teaching needs to be aimed at the highest percentages of children i.e. those in the middle of the bell curve. Those in the upper and lower quartiles cause problems .

'legitimate escapes from low test scores' p.255

See this so often at university - whether dyslexia is used as an escape by the student or an escape by the lecturer who is running out of time or ideas to use with students struggling with their course.

'White parents now seek the diagnosis of LD for the extra allowances it offers their children (Sireci, Scarpati & Li, 2005)' p.259

'Being treated differently can be good, or dangerous, depending on the cultural preoccupations with which it is aligned.' p. 260

E801: Action 2.9: Gender differences in literacy achievement

Boys - underachievement - HE sector

This is not really recognised in the HE sector as there is a common assumption that all students reaching HE are intelligent and articulate both orally and on paper. I do see it though with the frustration lecturers experience when they have students in their classes who ask intelligent questions and come up with innovative ideas but, without fail, achieve marks that are not consistent with these indicators of their intelligence and interest in the subject. It could be argued that it is the assessments that are wrong but these assessments are designed around what the students will be required to do in a work or research setting. Having worked closely with a group of eight geologists throughout their 4 years studying an undergraduate Masters, I can see the following patterns:

  • 2 out of the 4 girls and 1 out of the 5 boys in the group were willing to put in the work required to study the guidelines and conform to the requirements; All gaining 1st class marks
  • 1 girl has consistently declared dyslexia as a reason for her low marks although the two mentioned above also have diagnoses of dyslexia that they have not declared at university; Struggling to pass
  • 3 of the boys give intelligent verbal responses to questions and perform well in field work exercises and the laboratory but perform poorly in exams and written work. These three have all stated that they see no need to 'jump through the hoops' necessary to gain top marks in written work in exams as the lecturers know they understand the material. All three are very active socially. Two should pass the Masters at a low level (2:2); one is likely to fail.
  • 1 boy has struggled throughout with the material but has worked hard to ensure his lecturers explain the concepts to him and he has studied the guidance carefully in order to maximise his marks; currently on line for 2:1 undergraduate Masters
  • 1 girl is valued by her peers as giving intelligent and informative opinions during laboratory sessions and fieldwork. However, she constantly refers to herself as 'thick' in front of the lecturers, does not answer questions and spends little time studying and more on integrating herself socially; currently on line for 2:2.

From these points I tend to see a slight trend on male/female lines but more along the lines of what the student considers important in life with the majority of the boys valuing their current social status more than any prospective future status.


Some interesting points and ideas for research made in...

Millard, E. (1997) Differently Literate: Boys, Girls and the Schooling of Literature, New York, RoutledgeFalmer.

E801: Action 2.10a: Reviewing the article

Burns, J. & Bracey, P. (2009) 'Boys' underachievement: issues, challenges and possible ways forward' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

Literature Review:

  • Sets underachievement of boys in context
  • Sets out why it is important to consider
  • Refers to Gov documents/policies
  • Refers to history - girls achievement
  • Aspects mentioned without references
  • Language is casual in places
  • Missing concepts - single sex schools?

Research Methods:

  • All schools in one area - so local factors could effect
  • Comprehensive? By what definition if one school is mostly working class?
  • Definition of working class?
  • Qualitative - staff perception-senior staff most appropriate?
  • 'Frank' and 'honest'? How judged?
  • Quantitative - exam results - have these changed over years?
  • Why only one schools OFSTED?
  • Approaches used to address problem
  • Why were heads willing to participate?
  • All urban comprehensive (not inner city)
  • One school had competition from all girls school in locality that changed intake pattern


E801: Action 2.10b: Inclusion & Achievement

  • Segregation of boys likely to cause trouble - will this help either them or boys in general in the long term?
  • Positive discrimination to place boys in groups where it is cool to work - what about the girls who are displaced? ATTITUDE
  • SMART targets - MOTIVATION
  • Mentoring selected pupils - not inclusive- MOTIVATION/ACADEMIC

E801: Action 2.11: Culture, home and language

Major Language and Equity Issues facing refugee children

Audio taped interview with Workney Dechasa, senior refugee and community education adviser

  • No formal education/literacy in first language
  • Some have different script
  • Some have different style of learning
  • No English language at all
  • No history of past school experiences to refer to
  • Trauma makes setting difficult
  • Some have emotional problems e.g. separation
  • No parental support to cope with academic demands

Need to have their experiences and past education respected in order to feel valued by their peer group. [Inclusion]

School can be stable part of child's life when the family is being moved around. Poverty can be a problem as there are no reading materials available in the home.

Materials need to reflect experiences of children so teachers need to know the situation. They can access books from refugee centres etc.

Relate to Fernando Diniz, senior lecturer in faculty in Education, Edinburgh

  • Connections not acknowledged between socio-cultural factors and literacy
  • Child-centred learning starts from where the child is located - home - so culture and languages of home are important
  • How cultural and linguistic context at home is valued at school - power relationships
  • Ethnicity is description of groups in terms of culture/language
  • Race is used in context of racisism
  • Bilingualism in British classroom context refers to those who are non-white - more restrictive category than that used in research
  • Home links - how does school programme relate to the home background e.g. 4-5 hours a day operates in English and receives speech therapy. However, operates in different language at home.
  • Language background, gender issues and cultural background can combine to mask other problems
  • Power - deciding which children do what, any act has element of power; teacher's own values.


E801: Action 2.12: Reflecting on Parental Involvement

In my experience there are only two styles of parental approach to school:

Style One where the parent recognises that they are responsible for their children's education under the Education Act 1996 (a consolidating act which incorporates the 1944 Education Act and later legislation) which states in section 7 that:

"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to

receive efficient full-time education suitable ;

a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and

b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Legally, if the school fails your child, it is your fault for choosing the wrong school! I have heard my teaching friends discuss with dread those parents who take this to an extreme and ensure they not only know what their children are doing from day to day but also can discuss with pedagogy behind the school work with them! Some of my friends consider these parents a real threat. Taken to a lesser degree these parents are the ones who support their children's work in the evenings and support the school with loads of fundraising.

Style Two is where parents are keen to delegate their responsibilities to the school as soon as the children start attending. I vividly remember speaking to a parent of the swimming club where I was Chief Coach. She was telling me that her son had been diagnosed with dyslexia and also had a lot of short term memory problems. She was telling me so that I was aware that he may not remember training sequences etc. I said that this must be hard work for her but she said that it was much better because it was now totally the school's responsibility to deal with him. These are the parents who rarely attend parents' evenings and, at an extreme, do not support their children's work in the evenings. Some of this group consider that they should have nothing at all to do with their children's education but others would like to do so but do not have the confidence and feel it is safer to leave it to the school.

When designing programmes for parent-school partnerships, it is important to consider the sensibilities of the parent's involved and the barriers that they have to overcome in order to participate in the programmes.

I was briefly involved in the Sure Start programme and, locally, that was organised along strict expert model lines with staff instructing parents on how to take care of their children, what classes to attend and judging when a child was fit for nursery or when they should be taken home or to a doctors. Many of the very young parents (12-16yrs) found this reassuring but some of the other parents were upset by the attitude.

E801: Action 2.14: Engaging the parents

Tett, L. (2009) 'Excluded voices: class, culture and family literacy in Scotland' in Flether-Campbell, F., Soler, J. & Reid, G. Approaching Difficulities in Literacy Development: Assessment, Pedagogy and Programmes, London, Sage.

Reader 2: Chapter 13

Linguistic differences between this and Artiles
This is a much more readable article as it is aimed at practitioners rather than the research community. There is much less rhetoric to justify the programme and it reports on the process and findings. It criticises the monolingual approach of the course and backs this with theory to explain the consequences.

Three examples of underpinning theory:

  • Psycholinguistics
    Readers construct meaning during reading by drawing on their prior learning and knowledge in order to make sense of texts (Goodman, 1986)
    emphasising strengths p223
  • Situated
    Using the literacy practices of everyday life p219
  • New Literacy Studies
    Socio-cultural aspects
    Relationship between power and language p221


E801: Action 2.15: Pause, prompt and praise

Understanding of the three techniques
Based on psycholinguistics (Clay, McNaughton)
Now call it behavioural interaction approach - Clay from DVD
One-to-one - more opportunity to self-correct

Would parents/carers or peers make most suitable tutors?
Peers may not have the necessary patience to pause and may be keen to illustrate their own knowledge by just giving the word

E801: Action 2.16: Using pause, prompt and praise

Links between school and community
Higher reading age gains when implemented at home and school (from paper)

How background and culture are integrated:
Glynn & Glynn (1986) study which Khymer-speaking mothers were working together with their children in order to discuss pictures and work out meaning (from paper)

Important to read material they can relate to even if it is in English. Tutor must understand the messages in order to prompt correctly (DVD)

Care with terms - prompt in Maori infers pushing in overbearing way

E801: Action 2.17: Early literacy in East Renfrewshire

Family background - looking to parents to provide fun activities to supplement school work

levels of ability - identify difficulties early so can help those with easy to solve problems and reserve major interventions for those still showing difficulties

literacy-rich environment - book bags - move to concrete - smiley sheet as whether good book or not, collect stickers to get book tokens,

integration of school and community - read 'Oliver's vegetables', trip to shops to buy veg and then cook; walk in community finding signs

professional development - reading story with other staff to observe the group; automaticity and literacy interactions studied in movement class

collaborative, reflective practices - practices based on well known or commissioned research



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E801: Action 2.6: Inclusion and Globalisation

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E801: Action 2.6: Inclusion and Globalisation

Johnson, D. & Kress, G. (2009) 'Globalisation, literacy and society: redesigning pedagogy and assessment' in in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

The inclusion of digital literacies as part of the portfolio of literacies required by modern learners has been studied in many contexts - that of the different forms of digital literacy, the skills required for accessing information in a digital format, the skills required for extraction and evaluation of information etc.

A lot of institutions initially believed that a techno-based curriculum would cure all problems and level the playing field for people with disabilities. A lot of money was spent on various forms of technology and much of it was wasted.

Currently, in online and distance learning, the readjustment is towards  learner-centred activities with universal design for online learning materials BUT with an emphasis on user-controlled flexibility. Collaborative learning is on the increase with the use of peer networks via Twitter, forums and blogging.

Policies and institutions may take a while to catch up but individual teachers are leading the way with some fabulous activities for their students.

Assessment is also improving dramatically with online portfolios and peer feedback.

The following is from a previous blog post:

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines - Version 1.0 (CAST, 2007)

UDL has three primary principles that provide the structure for these Guidelines:

Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation (the "what" of learning). Students differ in the ways they perceive and comprehend the information presented to them.

I am currently working with a student who has a severe visual impairment. She lost most of her sight at the age of 16 years by which time she had already discovered that her preferred learning style was visual. She still has enough sight to revise by drawing out large diagrams but it is not easy for her.

Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Expression (the "how" of learning). Students differ in the ways they are able to navigate a learning environment and express what they know.

I have experienced the following adjustments in the universities where I work: allowing speech impaired people to plan and design PowerPoint presentations using the inbuilt speech features; allowing a student with ME to verbally present the information rather than spend all evening writing a report on a field course;

Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement (the "why" of learning). Students differ markedly in the ways they can be engaged or motivated to learn.

One third year module at Keele University is Inspirational Landscapes in Geography. Assessment is 20% test and 80% project. Previous student projects have included:

    • Impact of the Malvern Hills on Elgar's music
    • Video diary of a walk in Wordsworth's footsteps
    • Photomontage of the experience of Dovedale
    • Influences of Indian landscape on fashion design
    • Johnny Depp: face, costume and landscape
    • Landscapes of Lord of The Rings
    • Thomas Hardy and the "Wessex" landscape
    • Landscape design for computer games

The module sounds fascinating and I know several students who really enjoyed it. http://www.esci.keele.ac.uk/people/pgk/geg-30014/handbook.html




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E801: Action 2.4: Reid & Valle (2004)

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E801: Action 2.4: Reid & Valle (2004)

the mostly white middle class teaching force operates on assumptions embodied in our discursive practices about what constitutes knowledge, the purpose of schooling, and appropriate curriculum (Losen & Orfield, 2002)

Currently the focus is on remediating individual impairments rather than redesigning the context.

The teacher sets and assesses tasks depending on expected 'normal' responses. Children consistently performing outside those norms are analysed, individualised and pathalogised as different.

Testing the children justifies the reasons for their failure and exclusion. This exclusion from the learning environment removes the child from the community in which is so important for him/her to gain their learning and thus reinforces the difference from the norm. This will be more pronounced in children whose primary (home) environment is substantially different from the school environment.

If the child's primary linguistic discourse is different from the one at school, teachers may question a child's linguistic competence and use tests to diagnose disability. These tests are based on standard English and so those with a different primary discourse are likely to do poorly.

Educational settings and legal regulations are set to maintain the situation of the power elite and the majority of white, middle class parents are happy to support a system that will give the educational and economic advantage to their child.

Differentiated instruction - e.g. present text at various reading levels

Compensatory instruction - e.g. watch film rather than read whole book

Instructional compensation e.g. design for norm and adapt for others

My views

The paper presents ideas for fully inclusive education without the need for special needs categories. The suggestions reflect the ideas suggested by the universal design for learning movement that was previously so commonly discussed in e-learning discussions. Nowadays they have been supplanted by more of a discussion on flexible design.

Having made such a fuss about the social environment, Reid & Valle conveniently forget it when they discuss how to implement their ideas for inclusion. What about the family backgrounds of these children? Cultural influences? It is all very well getting the children to discuss their backgrounds and life experiences but many may be unwilling to do so due to family prohibitions or culture. Inclusion does not equal a safe environment and bullying will still occur. It will not be safe for children to discuss life experiences in front of bullies and they may not consider it safe for them to reveal their problems by accessing the variations in curricular design. How do we create this safe environment when they go out of school to exist in other environments which may demand they protect their identity by attacking the identities of classmates?


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E801: Action 2.2: Current Literacy Policy

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E801: Action 2.2: Current Literacy Policy

"The University is committed to widening and deepening access to Higher Education. It believes that opportunities to participate in higher education should be provided to all those with the ability to benefit."


Academic policy statements from various universities all seem to follow the same multi-faceted approach of developing a set of transferable, academic skills. Literacy is included as part of the portfolio and  encompasses communication and study skills such as essay preparation, information handling, and textual analysis in addition to language skills.

These policies consist of a variation of the following points:

  • Pre-sessional programmes for disabled and EFL students
  • Diagnostic tests may be offered or compulsory
  • Learning resource support
  • Within department training in literacy skills

"Narrowly defined academic literacy refers to one's ability to read and write effectively within the college context in order to proceed from one level to another.  In a more broader sense it will imply the students ability to read and write within the academic context with independence, understanding and a level of engagement with the learning.  Academic literacy is also said to compromise of a variety of discourses with their own conventions and methods of inquiry.  In order for students to be termed academic literate they ought to acquire these conventions implicitly or explicitly.  They also need to familiarize themselves with the methods of inquiry of specific disciplines.  These acquisitions will impact heavily on the students' ability to manipulate the surface features of the language which invariably make their writing ungrammatical.  It is claimed that the mastering of surface features (i.e. language jargon) in writing, may mean that the student has not really engaged meaningfully with the subject matter, if this be the case students are inclined to "mask" their lack of understanding.  Such a false appearance of understanding of academic literacy can become "unstuck" as the demands on the learner increase task" [Lebowitz 1995] [p34]


In general, academic literacies are assessed as an integral part of the degree course although some universities have specific assessments in their foundation or first year courses and some departments cap assignments at 40% if they show poor grammar and spelling. Dyslexic students have stickers that they can put on their work to avoid capping but they are not always received well by all departments and not in use at all universities.

In short there is not a national policy on encouraging academic literacy or literacies; there are generally not university-wide policies; if any policies do exist they are generally hidden deep within departmental policies. They are generally taught by a mixture of implicit and explicit methods, some of which are by isolated study skills approaches and some by more integrated methods. I consider that this confusion in both policy and approach makes it difficult to work out any coherent policy for those students who also have learning difficulties. This results in individual lecturers making their own decisions on how to deal with the assessment of students with literacy difficulties and, in my experience, this varies from extreme lenience where no marks are lost for spelling and grammar to the situation where more than two mistakes results in the whole piece of work being capped at 40%. This is clearly unsatisfactory but there are advantages in the lack of policy in that appropriate methods to assist a student are designed around that student individually and there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach.


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E801: Action 2.1: Artiles (2003)

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E801: Action 2.1: Artiles (2003)

Artiles, A. (2009) 'Special education's changing identity: paradoxes and dilemmas in views of culture and space' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

Action 2.1a

Study of inclusion and over-representation
Human Capital Theory (p221) - [functional literacy links]

What are the main staging posts in this argument?

  • Ignoring racial diversity in implementing inclusive models
    Hegemony of dominant social group
    Silence / controlled or ignored in research
  • Lack of vision for culturally responsive education system
    Standards based / impact of tests
    lack of English
  • Lack of attention to socio-historical context and complexity of culture
    [cf D/eaf culture vs racial culture / identity crises]
    Social structure of education [see Rassool]
  • Limited definitions of space
    First space - physical/perceived space
    Second space - conceptions of power/ideology - not considered by overrepresentation discourse
    Gaps in spaces - overrepresentation not conceptualised as second space
  • Problematic views of difference
    Special educators may reconstruct education system but ignore all the racial/social impacts on learning

What are the three main 'theatres of activity' from which he draws his evidence?

  • Literacy
  • Special educational needs
  • Research

What would you identify as a 'recommendation' as a result of Artile's work?

Research should use a complete perspective on culture when theorising about overrepresentation and inclusion.

My thoughts:

An interesting paper, albeit very long-winded with far too much rhetorical justification.

Strong similarities with Artile's reports of Soja's ThirdSpace and Rassool's lenses which she describes as the overlaps between subject disciplines.

Not sure I totally understood the 'transparent norm' within the concept of diversity but had a look around and found this quote from http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/viewArticle/420/827

'Bhabha elaborates:

[Multicultural policy] entertain[s] and encourage[s] [. . .] cultural diversity, [while correspondingly] containing it. A transparent norm is constituted, a norm given by the host society or dominant culture, which says that these other cultures are fine, but we must be able to locate them within our own grid. ("The Third Space" 208)

The aim of this model of multiculturalism to control or sanitize cultural difference implicitly calls for the production and preservation of norms and power hierarchies such as margin and centre, insiders and outsiders, us and them. More significantly, this conception of multiculturalism perpetuates the myth of "natural," or "real," difference, from which the discourse of racism gains its pervasive strength.'

I am working with a student at the moment who is registered blind and it has been interesting to discuss with her the conflicts between her dual cultural identities of being Muslim and of being a blind law student. As a blind student her workload is very high as accessing the material she required takes at least three times as long as for other students. However, as a Muslim, tradition expects her to entertain her relatives at the weekend and she has struggled to ensure her family understands that she needs time to work. She struggles to be independent in her life but the cultural expectation is that she should not go out alone. Her brothers are expected to accompany her and she has been discouraged from mobility training using a long cane and a guide dog is a cultural impossibility as the majority of Muslims regard dogs as unclean.

She is in the process of negotiating with her family in order to locate her cultural identity as a blind student within her family's grid.

Action 2.1b

I described this in detail in TMA01 and some of this is reproduced here. Lea & Street (1998) describe three models of student writing: study skills model; academic socialisation model; and academic literacies model.

Study Skills Model

XXXX University sessions are often held by library staff, IT technicians or career centre personnel and involve isolated subjects out of context. Kress (cited in Lillis & Scott, 2007, p.12) discusses this approach as normative with the identification of the conventions exhibited by a normal academic member of the community and the teaching of these conventions in isolation. This mirrors the autonomous model described by Street (cited in Lillis & Scott, 2007, p.11) and the cognitive aspect of literacy described by Rassool (2009).

Academic Socialisation Model

Support for learners with literacy difficulties at XXXX University is currently organised in a different manner. Students are encouraged to bring work with them to sessions so that an independent tutor can assist them with their difficulties with the aim of the students becoming as independent as possible over time. This form of support reflects the approaches for younger learners described by Julia Douetil, the National Co-ordinator of Reading Recovery (E801 DVD, Section3) who describes the scheme as a 'battery of independent strategies' that produce individualised plans that are aiming for independence. Lea and Street (1998) criticise these practices as an acculturation of students into academic discourse which fails to address literacy as a social practice as the onus is on the student to change their orientation to learning.

Academic Literacies Model

Individual departments at XXXX University run support sessions where students are assisted to negotiate the contrasting literacy practises between disciplines [the majority of XXXX University students study dual honours degrees]; their knowledge and identity as dual honours students is valued; and the power relationships between disciplines is acknowledged.

These three models are causing tension between lecturers and support staff and also confusion for students as Lea and Jones (in press) report that students rely on the authority of their lecturers when valorising materials. This causes dismissal of study skills sessions held by support staff as irrelevant with poor attendance and lack of attention. The support sessions for students with literacy difficulties have a poor take-up and many students only use them during their first 6 months.

Studying a dual honours course the student is negotiating competing cultures of, for example, a geology student, a music student and a disabled student. At the same time many are coming to terms with their new cultural identities as adults as they move away from home for the first time. Many students find that they cannot come to terms with the swift changes in cultural identity and select which ones are most important to them. This can lead to students denying disabilities, refusing assistance and immersing themselves in their courses. The only way to help these students is to make them aware that support is still available if they decide that they require it in the future and to ensure that any support they do accept is on their own terms and is unobtrusive and does not conflict with their other cultural identities.

In some cases the opposite happens and students identify themselves as a disabled student and fight for constant assistance and use their identity as a disabled student as a barrier to other identities and an excuse for the inability to acquire the culture of their disciplines.

Action 2.1c

I work at three universities and various departments from the whole set are only too relieved to hand over disabled students to the care of support services. They have stated privately that they do not believe that a student with a disability can access their degree course to an adequate level to obtain employment in that field and so there is no point in them studying that particular course.

Alternatively there are departments who are not happy for their students to receive any support as they consider that it will not be valued in the workplace and if they confer a degree on a student with a disability, the whole department's reputation will suffer. This approach is backed up by some professional organisations such as the NHS who raise objections to allowing professional notetakers into lectures for disabled students.

When lecturers and professional organisations hold the opinion that some students should not be studying a degree as they will not benefit the workforce then it is no wonder that some students do not disclose their disabilities or accept help. This is especially true of literacy difficulties where debate over the existence and extent of dyslexia has resulted in many lecturers being reluctant to assist learners with dyslexia. Other students resent those with a diagnosis who get extra time in exams and what they consider 'freebies' using their Disabled Students' Allowance and life can be unpleasant for those who ask for assistance.

Action 2.1d

I have a lot of experience working with disabled students in the field who are studying geology. As part of their field work they are expected to attend residential courses of up to a month long where they work for long days in the field with lectures, preparation work, report writing and presentations in the evening. Some of these courses are 100% of the module mark and this depends on a combination of marks for performance in the field (including presentations of work); a mark for the field notebook (including content, organisation, neatness, spelling and grammar); and often a written report which may have to be written by hand on the boat/plane on the journey home and handed in at the airport!

I am present to act as notetaker and/or support worker for students with a wide variety of impairments and it is possible to envisage the difficulties of working at this intensity level for students who have Myocardic encephalopathy or experience chronic pain. I also work with students who have hearing and/or visual impairments and those with literacy difficulties.

The simplest adjustment for the university to make is to set the student extra work instead of attending the field trip. This is generally in the form of literature reviews and essays concerning the area where the trip is taking place and may involve microscope analysis and study of samples returned from the field. This option is used for students who are taking geology as a second subject and are not showing an interest in using their qualification for employment. However, many of the lecturers do not believe that it should be possible to achieve a geology degree without field work and all encourage students to attend as many field trips as possible (Least Restrictive Environment). There are problems with the use of notetakers as most sites are in wild country and require training in advanced outdoor skills and use of walking and navigation gear. Many lecturers are understandably apprehensive about taking unknown personnel in the field.

'The inclusive education movement argues all children can learn1, that learning is supported by a strong sense of community2, and that services are based on need rather than limited by location3. Also, the movement promotes schoolwide approaches, such as teacher collaboration4, enhanced instructional strategies5, curriculum accommodations and modifications6, and additional supports in general education settings.' (Lipsky & Gartner, 1999, cited p.223)


1.   All students are expected to achieve the same learning objectives by whichever route is possible

2.   All are encouraged to attend field trips to build up the sense of academic community

3.   DSA pays for support workers on field trips

4.   Collaboration is between lecturers, students and support workers at this stage

5.   Many universities are working on virtual field trips and other adaptations for disabled students

6.   Any student can miss up to 10% of a field trip but if they miss more than this there are options to repeat the trip or essays to complete to make up the marks.

Dyson (1999) - 2 discourses for rationale: Rights-and-ethics (fairness from Lipsky & Gartner,1999, but also 'free market'/individual choice from Rizvi & Lingard, 1996); and efficacy (no greater gains if segregated)

Dyson (1999) - 2 discourses for realisation: political (resistance to special ed. professionals); and pragmatic (what it should look like)

Action 2.1e

The probability of the incidence of a particular genetic disability occurring within a population is theorised to be equal across all populations.

13% of the European population aged 16-64 has a disability (Eurostat study, 2001; 12% in 1995) but there are significant differences between member states which is postulated to be due to different cultural perceptions, levels of awareness, quality of services, integration of people with disabilities.


If we are looking at special education and seeing a difference then it suggests that there are other factors that we are not considering and thus there is a 'problem'.

Data are not facts - and it is a waste of time looking at raw data without considering the methodology of the collection of the data, the background of the subjects and the motivations of the collector.

The group of learners with literacy difficulties at my local university tends to be mainly white, middle class - I do wonder if this reflects the fact that they have involved and educated parents who are able to communicate with schools and colleges and insist on the assessments required for dyslexia diagnoses.

'Although few question...' Artiles, 2009, p.226

Flow/Structure: Statement of problem, list of causes, contrasts, reasons

Use of literature: backing up facts in this paragraph

Use of theory: causes linked to theories

Action 2.1f

It definitely matters who is doing the labelling. For example an educational psychologist is generally working freelance and needs to satisfy the disability department of a university who is employing them to diagnose dyslexia in students. They earns a lot of money for doing what the department wants i.e. diagnosing dyslexia so that students can obtain DSA and get the equipment that they would like. This also justifies the employment of the psychologist; makes life easier for the staff of the disabilities office who are having to satisfy lecturers that they are doing their job; justifies the existence of the number of staff in the office; and keeps struggling students happy for a while as they have a justification for their struggles (whether true or not!).

Action 2.1g

I think that silence in a research university setting is very different from that in a school setting. There are three subjects that are totally taboo: the student may be disabled but also does not have the ability to study at that level; the lecturers' belief that certain disabled students should not study their subjects; the fact that international students with disabilities are not supported.

The first is allied with the role of academic culture and is sometimes linked with the distrust of support workers in academic communities. In my experience, support workers at further education level are often encouraged to support students to perform beyond their ability levels by providing personalised instruction and even by writing assignments with their students. This assists institutions to hit their targets but students achieve undeserved grades which enable them to enter university to study subjects without the actual knowledge and experience that they require. This results in failure in their first year at university which reflects badly on the student, their department and on the support workers concerned. It has a knock-on effect that makes university departments reluctant to accept disabled students in future and thus less welcoming on open days and at interview. This results in a reduced likelihood of inclusion of disabled students in that particular department of the university.

It is widely recognised that all students are assimilating a new culture at university but it is expected that once students have gained the marks to get to university, they are capable of the fast pace of learning and acquisition of new terminology and concepts that characterise this academic culture. Students that do not perform at this level, when they have previously gained A level grades that suggest that they are capable of doing so, are generally considered to be lazy. However, the current system of A-levels in modular format makes gaining high grades much more achievable for many disabled students including those who take longer to fix information in long term memory as a limited amount of information is presented in a period of time with plenty of revision time built in to the process. The spring semester at university ends on the Friday of week 12 and exams start on the Monday, there is often no revision time.

This is also linked with the second area of silence. I tend to find lecturers at research universities are passionate about their subjects and enjoy working with students who are working hard and achieving good results. They have an open door policy and will help any student but their highest commitments go to those that will move through to the inner circles of the academic community and they will take on through Masters and PhDs. The department and university reputation depends on their ability to produce good research and supply graduates to good jobs in their field. They need good students who can perform well in research and in employment. If a disabled student cannot access all aspects of the course at university and need courses adjusted for them, then the lecturers have doubts about their ability to gain prestigious employment in the field or ability to participate in high level research.

The third area of silence concerns international students who are not able to access support for their disabilities. International and EU students are not eligible for Disabled Students' Allowance and are generally advised to try to find charitable support. Some universities do try to find some funding but it is not reliable. This creates the situation of underrepresentation of international and EU students receiving additional help.

Action 2.1h

In Action 2.1a I discussed the choices that disabled students make when they start university and how they have to make many decisions very rapidly in order to maintain aspects of their cultures they value and often have to abandon aspects they cannot maintain. It is very closely linked with identity theory and I imagine the cultures as a Venn diagram with interlinking circles with the student at the centre.

Thinking of a specific first year student


  • Deaf culture
  • Chemistry department culture
  • Forensic Science department culture
  • Astrophysics department culture (extra subject)
  • Mature student culture
  • Freshers culture

The clashes occur where these cultures overlap and have different priorities. My example in 2.1a was of a blind student who needed to be independent as part of the culture of a high achieving law student but also needed to be accompanied as a blind Muslim woman.

I am not saying that these clashes do not occur for all students but that the disability culture includes an extra dimension and ALL dimensions need to be considered when supporting a student at university level. If they choose to discard parts of their disability culture by refusing support, then that is their choice. Other students may decide to discard parts of their culture as a fresher and not get drunk all the time; or discard parts of their Muslim culture and get drunk whilst at university.

Action 2.1i

Cohesion - allows members of a culture group to assume an identity. Empowers the group member who can identify with the rules and form their identity.

Stability - fossilised
Empowers others who can make assumptions about the group from previous experience

Tension between group traits is illustrated by the Latinos example

Action 2.1j

I work closely with a group of students with Asperger syndrome. One student is very intelligent and high achieving. She was in her third year when another student with Asperger syndrome started his first year in the same subjects. The lecturer was very confused as he could not equate the behaviour of the second student with the first student and eventually said that he thought that the first student was not very typical of someone with Aspergers.


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E801:Action 1.21: Reflecting upon the impact of national literacy strategies

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Action 1.21: Reflecting upon the impact of national literacy strategies

To what extent do your own national literacy policies impact upon your professional practice?

I generally work with students who have good functional literacy as I am based in higher education. There are exceptions to this with students who are diagnosed with dyslexia or have English as a second language. In this way national literacy policies do not have much impact.

What impact could national literacy strategies and national literacy policies have upon educators working in areas other than primary schooling?

I think that national strategies/policies will have an impact on secondary and FE college educators because they have been used to being able to remediate a percentage of those learners who are struggling with functional literacy. If the policies work as advertised, then secondary support workers will need to have specialist knowledge and techniques to help those learners with more resistant problems.

With a lower percentage of learners reaching secondary school with literacy difficulties, there will be more of a stigma attached to having difficulties and thus barriers will increase. Secondary teachers will also become accustomed to classes where the nearly all the learners can access the material and they are likely to reduce their efforts to ensure it is accessible to all.

Drawing upon your own experiences and your reading of this section identify any of the themes and issues explored above which are relevant to your own professional contexts

Very difficult to do as I work in higher education. I am concerned about  some of the reports about learners having functional literacy but not reading for pleasure. One University has high entry levels and has identified problems with literacy standards of students studying history and geography. I have recently started work at another university which has lower entry levels and more practical courses. I will be interested to see how they address the literacy levels of their students, many of whom have taken NVQ and vocational A-levels where they can submit  work and have it corrected and resubmit it again until the teacher is happy with it.

What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of national literacy strategies?

I think that one of the major positive effects is that they set a teaching standard and give educators strict guidelines to follow. This reduces the effect of poor teaching and there are still plenty of poor teachers out there. The strict guidelines also restrict good teachers from giving individual treatment to learners and helping them all follow individualised learning programmes.

Comparisons between teachers and schools do serve to drive up standards but it is likely that schools will insist on teachers teaching students to reach the standards rather than encouraging them to develop a wide range of skills.

To what extent do you think national policies need to allow flexibility in the ways in which educators can address difficulties in literacy?

In order to meet the standard the government requires, the policies cannot be too flexible. I think this is wrong for individual learners but will meet the political agenda.

Make a note of any other issues and tensions related to meeting the needs of students who experience difficulties in literacy development that are related to your national or institutional policies and initiatives.

I worry that the target of a certain percentage of learners meeting functional literacy standards for their age group will allow educators to 'give up' on the students with most severe difficulties as they do not need them to meet the percentage.


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E801:Action 1.20: A tale of early phonics in early reading in England

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Action 1.20: A tale of early phonics in early reading in England

Hall, K. (2007) Literary policy and policy literacy. In Solar, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. (2009) Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts. London, Sage.

What lies at the heart of the analytic and synthetic phonics debate?

Synthetic phonics - sounding out and blending. Concentrates on phonemes

Analytic phonics/analogy phonics - perceiving patterns and drawing inferences. Taught key words with common spelling patterns (onsets and rimes)

Both statistically indistinguishable (Togerson et al., 2006)

What factors does Hall identify as being responsible for 'phonics winning out'?

Media coverage of Clackmannanshire

A seemingly simple solution was very attractive

Support by all parties

Where would you position yourself in relation to this debate?

I believe that phonics are important for all learners to decode words. I hated the real books approach but it was successful for many learners because they simply taught themselves to decode words using phonics. It was unsuccessful for those who had any problems with the process including visual, aural or social.

I do think that learners need to be motivated, enthusiastic and involved in the process of learning to read. Whole word methods can be preferable to synthetic phonics as they have more relevance for the learner and also encourage interest and comprehension.

However one approach does not suit all learners and a mixture of methods is preferable. How does this work in practice with 30+ students in a class with one TA? I have no idea. I think that if we are going to have large class sizes, then we have to use structured, whole class teaching. This means that there will have to be a focus on one method of teaching and, if this is the case, then phonics has to be the method. This will result in a high percentage of learners being functionally literate, although there is some evidence that they no longer enjoy reading. Functionally literate is what we need to look good in international comparisons and to produce a reasonably effective workforce. We do have to realise that one method does not fit all and there will be failures in this method. We can use schemes such as reading recovery to pick up the pieces of some of the learners when it fails them and thus force percentages even higher but we have to recognise that there will still be people who do not achieve functional literacy without individual help and still others who will never achieve it.


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E801: Action 1.1: Research and the National Literacy Strategy

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Action 1.18: Research and the National Literacy Strategy

Beard, R. (2000) Research and the National Literacy Strategy. In Solar, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. (2009) Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts. London, Sage.

Retrospective justification for research drawn upon by NLS

Concern over literacy standards

  • Moral panic in press
  • Political pressure, 1997 was an election year when Labour came to power

International/national comparisons impact on initiatives

  • Competitive - England had 'long tail' but needs to be considered against cultural and linguistic biases
  • Slavin (1997) working in US influenced NLS - but he adds in early intervention

School Effectiveness Research

  • Measured by progress cf intake
  • Structured teaching and whole class teaching to maximise teacher attention - effective learning time

Structured and whole class teaching superior to individualised teaching?

With huge classes and few qualified teaching assistants then it has to be structured and whole class but I would not agree it was superior.

Accumulated Inspection Evidence - importance in future policies

I tend to think that political considerations and moral panic in the press are more likely to influence future policies than the more impartial evidence of the accumulation of inspection evidence. I would not agree that the inspections are completely apolitical as the government directs the inspection criteria.


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E801: Action 1.17: Illiteracy, literacy and social inequality

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Action 1.17: Illiteracy, Literacy and Social Inequality

Payne, G. (2006) Recounting 'illiteracy': literacy skills in the sociology of social inequality. In Solar, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. (2009) Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts. London, Sage.

Terms already encountered:

  • Functional literacy - low levels of literacy/numeracy for tackling specific social tasks - social definition
  • Moser (1999)- tested domains (prose, document, usage, numeracy) in 'real-life' material
  • New Literacy Studies

New ideas

  • Post modernism led to social perspective
  • Reaction to NLS (Brandt & Clinton, 2002)
  • Literacy not investigated in sociological research
  • Moral panic over literacy rates
  • Formal qualifications determine entry to middle class occupations
  • Normative literacy - literacy presented as skill of concerned citizen, responsible member of the community, useful employee - deficit view
  • Adult = 16-65 (working age); limited info on gender or ethnicity


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E801: Action 1.16: Reflecting on the writing process

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Action 1.16: Reflecting on the writing process

Lea, M. R. & Street, B. V. (1998) Student writing in higher education: an academic literacies approach. In Fletcher-Campbell, F., Soler, J. & Reid, G. (2009) Approaching Difficulties in Literacy Development: Assessment, Pedagogy and Programmes. London, Sage.

What are the arguments for a practices approach to literacy that takes account of the cultural and contextual component of writing and reading processes?

Allows analysis of academic literacy and differing expectations without value judgements

How has this approach drawn from 'academic literacy' and 'new literacy' studies?

It is placed in a social setting of the particular academic field. It relies on the social customs and practices of the academic peer group and, in more applied courses, of the employment contexts.

Study skills - isolated, fix problems and transfer to context - behavioural psychology approach

Academic socialisation approach - induct student into new culture - social psychology, anthropology, constructivist
-criticised as academy is not homogeneous

Academic literacies - closest to new literacy studies - epistemological approach; institution is site of power. Switching practices, social meaning and identity - threatening to student

To what extent do you think the RLF is an example of how this approach might be implemented in specific departments in universities and other HE settings?

Professional writers are likely to be outside the discipline and so an academic mentor is required to advise them on practices in the university, department and discipline (English Subject Centre, 2003, from study guide). Surely it would be better to have a good academic writer from within the university department to supervise this? I can understand that it may work well in English but I cannot see it working well in other subjects.

The link in the study file is wrong. The English Subject Centre is located at...


In what ways do you think the themes and approaches related to academic literacy and new literacies discussed by Lea and Street could be relevant for those working with other adult students and school pupils who are not enrolled in HE institutions?

I do some work at Keele University which prides itself on a broad base to their degrees. This means that students may be studying with up to six different departments in their first year. Each of these departments will have different guidelines for writing and different referencing systems. This paper threw some light on the difficulties experienced by students.

  • Linguistic switching / code switching - in different disciplines, modules and interdisciplinary studies
  • Tutors find it difficult to prepare handouts on 'good writing' for particular contexts
  • Academics can explain form but not what constitutes the elements such as 'critically analyse' or 'evaluate'. These terms describe the results of years of practice in a particular field and cannot be defined. This makes study skills irrelevant as the technique required is part of academic practice not an isolated skill.
  • Writing skills are not transferable across departments and sometimes not between tutors in the same department.

I consider that several things could be worth looking at in other areas of education. One of these concerns looking at study skills as isolated practices. If students in higher education need to be able to study in context to learn these skills, what are we doing with our basic skills learners when we withdraw them from context with synthetic phonics or isolated skills practices?

If tutors cannot describe 'good writing' in a particular context, why do we describe it authoritatively to learners at GCSE and A-level? Shouldn't we be emphasising that we need to suit our writing to context?





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