Dyslexia and Modern Language Learning Project

by Matilde Gallardo, Sarah Heiser, Ximena Arias-McLaughlin and Jo Fayram

This staff development project, supported by the AL Priorities and Programme for Staff Development (ALPAP), has worked from January this year with twelve ALs from the Department of Languages to develop professional expertise in the field of dyslexia and language learning by facilitating access to information on the subject and by providing a space for sharing good practice with peers and with the institution’s Disability Advisers.

Rationale for this project:

Distance language learning tutors often feel insufficiently prepared to support their dyslexic learners; and given the little research in the field of dyslexia and modern language learning for adults, they have no specific subject guidance in regards to how to evaluate language and monitor comprehension, and how to standardize assessments to cater for the multisensory abilities of these learners. Tutors do not often feel prepared to teach dyslexic students, but they have excellent practice on language teaching and strategies which, when focused on that direction, can be applied to their dyslexic learners.

On the other hand, learners with Dyslexia have found challenges in terms of managing their studies, organizing their thoughts, communicating the message required, phonological processing, working memory and lexical access fulfilling the requirements of distance learning tuition and assessments.

The work carried out:

With this project we aimed to produce guidelines and recommendations for tutors but also to Module Teams, Advisers and Disability and Accessibility teams at the University and raise awareness of the pedagogical implications of teaching modern languages to dyslexic adult learners on virtual environments. Areas of particular interest include assessment, course design and tuition delivery. The following aspects were discussed by participants because of their important role in improving our understanding of the experiences of dyslexic learners and the tutors who support them:

• The potential of virtual communication tools (forums, synchronous audio-conferencing tools) and the online environment in general to support dyslexic students.
• The perceived difficulties for dyslexic learners when studying languages at a distance
• The perceived difficulties for tutors supporting dyslexic language learners
• The approach to applying marking criteria and correcting speaking and writing assignments for dyslexic students

Participants have engaged in collaborative task design using discussion forums and online rooms in a designated area in the internal DoL Training workspace http://learn3.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=300057
At least twelve teaching and learning resources have been developed in this project to cater for all levels and languages as well as for specific learning differences of students with Dyslexia. These resources are now available in the free-access online repository LORO http://loro.open.ac.uk/ (search tag ‘dyslexia’)

Future plans:

The project is in its final stages, but follow-up activities will continue next academic year with two university-wide training events in the Autumn and Spring terms lead by ALs on OU Live. The “Guide to Good practice” will also be widely disseminated in July-13.

Participants’ contributions have been extensive and important, as recognised by Accessibility experts. Many of them have also been involved as “champions” in a number of dissemination and training workshops and presentations in regions/nations as well as online. A final evaluation of the project and its outcomes will be available at the end of this academic year.

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