Monday, August 13, 2012

The Centre for Reading Research CRR: first papers on dyslexia in higher education released

The Center for Reading Research, Belgium, is a research group connected to the Department of Experimental Psychology of Ghent University , sponsored by an Odysseus Grant from the Government of Flanders.

It is centered on three research topics:
  1. Word recognition
  2. Language dominance and reading
  3. Dyslexia in higher education
Dyslexia in Higher Education
Some 1-3% of the population have specific reading problems unrelated to overall intelligence or other limitations (pure dyslexia).

This means that each year tens of students with dyslexia enter higher education. To know how to best help them, we have decided to direct some of our resources and expertise to this problem.

More specifically, we try to get a clear and objective picture of the strengths and weaknesses of dyslexic students in higher education and the measures they find helpful.

We are currently running an in-depth study of some 100 students with dyslexia and 100 controls on an extensive battery of tests. This will allow us to address questions such as:
  • Which tests are particularly informative to assess dyslexia? Several tests have been developed in recent years, but few of them have been validated, so that it is not always clear whether they give a correct assessment.
  • Are there different profiles of dyslexia? It seems unlikely that all reading problems are due to a single cause. It will be good to get a clear picture of the different profiles that are present in our sample.
  • Are some weaknesses particularly hard to overcome and, if so, is there any type of support?
  • Are some strengths particularly helpful and, if so, can these be taught?
  • Can we learn more about the processes that form the basis of reading difficulties? If so, does this allow us to develop better training?
Here you find the first results of our study.

Dyslexia in Higher Education Reports
At long last the first papers of our dyslexia project have been accepted for publication. In this project we administered a battery of tests to a sample of 100 first-year students with dyslexia and 100 controls, to have a full profile of their strengths and weaknesses.

The basic findings are:
  • The students with dyslexia show a pattern of results that completely fits the traditional definition of dyslexia: equivalent fluid intelligence combined with severe deficits in word reading, spelling, and phonological processing (there are no indications that they use the assessment to compensate for a lack of other skills).
  • The students with dyslexia are also slightly at a disadvantage to retrieve verbal information from long term memory; this includes simple arithmetical facts (addition, multiplication, division).
  • Because the problems are so specific, assessment only requires three tests (word reading, word spelling, phonological awareness). This allows us to correctly predict the status of 91% of future participants.
  • The handwriting of students with dyslexia is not judged as more sloppy than that of controls. Their texts tend to be slightly less structured, though, and are therefore judged as less agreeable to read. This is something we think remedial teaching can help with.
A full description of our findings can be found in:
Callens, M., Tops, W., & Brysbaert, M. (in press). Cognitive profile of students who enter higher education with an indication of dyslexia. PLoS One. pdf

Tops, W., Callens, M., Lammertyn, J., Van Hees, V., & Brysbaert, M. (in press). Identifying students with dyslexia in higher education. Annals of Dyslexia. pdf

Tops, W., Callens, M., Van Cauwenberghe, E., Adriaens, J, & Brysbaert, M. (in press). Beyond spelling: The writing skills of students with dyslexia in higher education. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal. pdf

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