about this research project

blogpage_celebratedyslexia

This is the discussion and writing portal for this PhD Research Project, based at Middlesex University, London UK.

The research is interested in the relationship between dyslexia and academic confidence in university students. It hopes to unpick some of the issues surrounding the stigma attached to being labelled as ‘dyslexic’ in a literacy-based education system and explore how these impact on students’ sense of academic purpose. Zimmerman (1995) talked of this sense of purpose as academic agency, suggesting that when considered as a product of academic self-efficacy and academic confidence this becomes the major influencing factor on academic accomplishment.

By focusing on academic confidence as the metric to be explored, the numbers and the words that have arrived through the innovative data collecting processes have been carefully and objectively analysed. The outcomes are currently being written up but early indications are pointing towards a deeper understanding about what dyslexia means at university and indeed, are illuminating the dilemma about whether or not it is helpful to continue to identify those with these alternative, preferred learning characteristics as ‘disabled’ in the belief that this will positively contribute to their learning experiences at university.

It is thought that the research methodology and processes scoped out to explore this relationship are fresh and innovative, especially through the development of an alternative framework against which a dyslexic profile is contextually defined and quantified. This has led to a new metric being constructed, ‘Dyslexia Index’, which has been applied to the complete research cohort (n=166) of both dyslexic and non-dyslexic university students and appears to have successfully identified a small group of learners who present a dyslexia-like learning profile but who are previously unidentified as dyslexic. This has been key to finding out more about levels of academic confidence for the three, distinct groups of learners in the cohort: those with identified dyslexia, those with no indications of dyslexia, and those with a dyslexia-like learning profile that has not been previously identified.

Following completion of the data collection process, the Dyslexia Index profiler has been detached from the main research questionnaire and is available to try out here. It is hoped that a post-PhD project will be to test and develop the profiler into a reliable, valid evaluator with a view to making it freely available as an alternative tool for exploring the learning characteristics of students at university, especially as a means for directing them towards learning development opportunities which may exist at their institutions and which might enhance their learning engagement, enjoyment and ultimately their academic outcomes.

It is hoped that the discourse that the project may provoke and promote might contribute a little to a wider discussion about the nature of inclusive and accessible curricula in university learning and teaching in the UK, that further encourages a shift in focus from the deficit model of learning support, so regularly ascribed to students with learning differences, to one of learning development which more proactively engages with the students’ learning strengths and creativity in ways that ensures their greater academic integration into the wider knowledge communities at university.

This study blog is forming an integral part of the research process which has been diarizing and recording my progress throughout the project. It is proving to be an invaluable part of the ‘write-up’ process which has just commenced (September 2017).  Contributions and comments are welcome from anyone interested, but especially from fellow researchers and students in the broad field of education research. Contact details are provided in the footer of every page on the project’s main website, available here.


References
Zimmerman, B.J., 1995, Self-efficacy and educational development. In: Bandura, A., Self-efficacy in changing societies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

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