j ad1281 PhD Project Site Map
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Dyslexia and academic agency

This project is interested in the impact of the dyslexic label on university students' sense of academic purpose - that is, their academic agency. The premise being tested is that students with an identified dyslexic learning difference present a lower level of academic agency than not only their non-dyslexic peers, but, more significantly, than their non-identified dyslexic peers. This is thought to be a fresh approach to exploring how students attributed with learning differences engage with the university teaching-and-learning environment. The research hopes to demonstrate that it may be the identification of a learner as 'different' that has the more significantly negative impacting factor on their academic agency, as opposed to factors attributed to the learning difference itself. If this emerges from the analysis, the research may also be raising complex ethical issues relating to the disclosure of learning differences to university students. A significant challenge has been to develop a mechanism for finding students with a non-identified dyslexic learning profile. The questionnaire that has been developed uses a innovative, 'dyslexia index', created from an earlier-stage enquiry to dyslexia support professionals working in UK universities which is integrated with the standardized, Academic Behavioral Confidence scale as the key identifer for academic agency. Supporting these evaluators are 6 psychometric scales measuring respectively: Learning Related Emotions, Anxiety Regulation & Motivation, Academic Self-Efficacy, Self-Esteem, Learned Helplessness and Academic Procrastination. These are used to create highly original profile maps for each respondent with QNR data collected through innovative, continuous-scale 'sliders' which replace the more traditiona,l Likert-style discrete-choice indicators. Initial analysis of data collected so far appears to be presenting evidence that the outline hypothesis of the research is supported, however this is very tentative at this stage as data analysis has only just commenced (June 2016).
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Andrew Dykes BEd MA MSc CELTA FHEA

the researcherThis project has stemmed from professional expertise gained at the University of Southampton 2003 - 2010, where my role was in supporting the learning development and technology needs of the university's community of students with dyslexia. Widely experienced in earlier-career teaching and learning across the education sector in the UK, the move into Higher Education followed completion of my first Master's in Adult and Lifelong Learning at the University of Bath and the Open University. At Southampton, I completed a second Master's, in Specific Learning Difficulties, where the dissertation component of the course has evolved into the pilot study for this current research project based at Middlesex University, which I joined in 2014 on a university-funded Research Studentship. In 2011 I gained the valuable CELTA qualification to become a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language, subsequently teaching international students at an EFL Study Centre in the South of England. More recently my professional role has been as a learning development tutor and academic guide at an East Midlands widening participation university. My expertise and experience in HE has recently been recognized through Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. I am also a member of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) and of the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), where I am currently building my portfolio to gain Chartered Librarian status. Given the substantial datapool collected, I am hoping that this research project will lead into post-doctoral research with the aim of gaining a better understanding about the impact of dyslexia in tertiary adult learners – particularly in the context of the unhelpfulness of the label. Further research will also support my advocacy of a much more accessible and inclusive learning environment at university, and also enable the development of fresh and innovative research instruments to exploit new technologies available in web-based data-collection and data-visualization techniques. My wife is a library professional, my eldest son is close to completing his training in medicine and the younger one is working through A-levels, also planning to study medicine. The cat does very little. June 2016
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