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any psychologists or dyslexia teachers out there? help with learning styles theory needed!

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by KindDog, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. Hi.

    I am on a TDA funded specialist dyslexia teaching course. For one of my assignments I have to research a subject of my choice, for a presenation.

    I have chosen learning styles and multisensory teaching.

    I need to read up on the theory, but am wondering if I should find out about other theorists, rather than just focussing on VAK model .

    So... can anyone tell me who are the main theorists in this subject, please.
    I intend to give some pratical ideas for multisensory teaching, but need a bit more help with the rationale behind the teaching!
    Thanks in advance...
  2. Hi Susan. I was aware that VAK is a term more widely accepted as applicable to teaching methods than actual individuals' learning styles.
    I didn't realise it was quite that contentious, though!
    Actually, the controversy could be an interesting thing to talk about... challenging misconceptions and all that.
    What's your background, susan?
  3. KindDog, I'm an independent specialist reading tutor.
    You might find the rest of my website 'informative' too [​IMG]
  4. Thanks susan, hadnt realised that the link was to your own website! Very interesting...
    Am sticking with this topic, but taking a slightly different angle. I have done a bit of research and have found that the preoccupation with learning style in schools can largely be traced back to the writings of Alistair Smith, and his take on learning styles and acceerated learning, which draws on Gardner's work on multiple intelligences. The popularity of Smith's ideas seem to have made a bit impact in schools, despite the lack of evidence to support the notion of different learning styles.
    Can anyone recommend any further reading on the subject of the popularity of the VAK model, despite the lack of evidence?
  5. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    Hi you could try looking at researchers such as Alan Badderley and his working memory theory for some background to why dyslexic students ,as well as many other students, benefit from multisensory learning.
    Also general search on google scholar:
    I have been looking at the work of Prof Colin Beard at Sheffield Hallam Uni and his work into experiential learning at HE level which is based on the multisensory learning that often naturally takes place in primary schools.
    Ross Cooper, a dyslexia lecturer at South Bank has a brilliant website about his work which has some stuff on there about multisensory
    http://www.outsider.co-uk.com/ (some great video footage on there)
    and he also has a very good learning styles assessment which is free and gives detailed visual and written feedback about learning styles and is very accurate.
    The Brain HE site is good:

    Multisensory learning can help all students to understand and remember and make sense of new concepts. Many find a mixture of multisensory techniques useful, rather than just one or two.
    There are many practical applications , depending on the age of the student.
    i.e. use of memory hooks and visualizing things in a certain place in a room and linking them to a story or similar.
    This can even be used to visualize a essay plan so you put the sections in different areas of the room in your head so they don't get mixed up but you have an overview.
    Another thing is to think visually of a essay plan and make it like a visual journey, almost like a map so it has little paths going of but all those paths come together at the end so the final journey is the conclusion.
    I use multisensory techniques for revision with students and get them to combine all the senses i,e, auditory, visual ,tactile, verbal. In fact, I do some lessons that are totally multisensory in nature.
    Also mind maps can be really good either linear or the more random ones.
    One thing for sure is that after using these sort of multisensory techniques for the last 6 years with students, they really do work.
    I am thinking about doing a dissertation on experiential learning and dyslexia in the particular FE sector I work in, just need to find the 1.5K to get it supervised.
    Good luck!
  6. Moonpenny, I can't tell you how grateful I am for your lenghty and helpful post.
    What's your view on learning styles? The merits of multi sensory teaching isn't a controversial subject (is it??) but it doesnt necessary follow that just becuase you accept that a learner will benefit from visual, auditory and kinaesthetic teaching methods, that they have a particular learning style themselves. So... I ask again...what's your view?

  7. No don't choose a different subject, I am here! There is a great book by
    Philomena Ott called 'How to Detect and Manage Dyslexia A reference and
    resource manual'.Page 8 tells of the early work by Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman. If you are going to work in Dyslexia field the book is well worth buying but local library or uni library will probably have a copy to borrow. Best of luck with the course!
  8. oh petsname, you sound lovely. thanks.
    i'm just feeling so deflated and tired. been reading up on this all day. cant even muster the energy to type properly!
    i've been reading that thread on Hickey as well, am i just feel that all this dyslexia malarky is a complete mine field for a novice like myself. how on earth can i tell the wheat from the chaff, when it comes to knwoing which theories and methods are still current and which have fallen out of favour?
    in my role as class teacher, i know excatly what i think constitutes 'good practice'. i know feel like i cant even rely on what my tutor is telling us...
  9. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    There have been a couple of threads over on opinion about VAK and many teachers seem to view it with suspicion and a considerable amount of skepticism.
    My own experience is that most people do have a preferred learning style but it is often a combination of styles which works for them - one may dominate i.e. visual but it is often helpful to go over things to be learned using several of the senses.
    i.e. if I was teaching a student how to remember a difficult name I would use the visual senses - breaking up the word with colour, auditory - listening back to ithe word on a language master while seeing the word , verbal - saying the word over and over again and kinesthetic - writing out the word - feeling the object if there is one then reinforcing and revisiting it. So the information is going in to the memory in many different ways and will be more likely to stay there with students who have poor short term memory.
    With mind maps - some students are linear thinkers and need to plan in a structured vertical way and others are more random so random thoughts jotted down as quickly as possible works. Programmes such as Mind Genius have different formats of mind maps - it is a brilliant programme/
    I have come across students who prefer the traditional way of revision and just like writing out their notes.
    I think the theory makes a lot of sense. You could look into experiential learning as there is a lot of research written on that and it is linked very much to learning through experience i.e. using all the senses to learn.
    The beauty is that it not only helps dyslexic learners but is many other students.
  10. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    <font size="3" face="Times New Roman">http://dyslexiforeningen.se/egnafiler/John_Rack.pdf
    I have a lot of respect for John Rack. I have highlighted the bit about multisensory learning:
    Dr John Rack, Head of Assessment Services and Evaluation, The Dyslexia Institute, UK

    <font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">In the past year in the UK we have been told firstly that there is another new cure for dyslexia and

    secondly that it doesn&rsquo;t exist! For example in the Times Educational Supplement on September 2
    <font size="3" face="Times New Roman">
    headline was &lsquo;Dyslexia storm brews&rsquo;, referring to a TV broadcast in October entitled &lsquo;The Dyslexia

    Myth&rsquo;. Over its 33 years of existence the UK Dyslexia Institute has seen many of these storms come and

    go, but their recurrence causes confusion and creates anxiety for many families and for many teachers

    who are doing their best to help those who have specific literacy difficulties. It is therefore important to

    keep putting out the messages about what we do know about dyslexia and what can be done about it

    which is what I am to do in this article, even at the risk of repeating what many already know.

    It is true that there are some myths around dyslexia. Dyslexia is not something that occurs only seen in

    people of average or above average intelligence. It is not something that can be &lsquo;cured&rsquo; by special diet or

    physical exercise; but those with dyslexia can be supported in order to overcome its effects. It is not

    primarily a visual or a motor problem &ndash; although difficulties in these areas may sometimes be seen

    alongside the specific difficulties with language which are at the core of dyslexia. It is true that the

    approaches that work for those who are dyslexic, work for others too, but it is wrong to treat all those

    with reading difficulties the same. Thus dyslexia is not simple and one can have some sympathy for those

    who find it confusing. But that is not reason to abandon concept of dyslexia as meaningless, as has been

    argued in the media recently in the UK.

    Effective teaching methods and our theoretical knowledge of dyslexia have developed hand in hand.

    Often the key for a dyslexic learner is meeting a teacher who seems to understand what it is like to be

    dyslexic and who can explain the theory behind the difficulties that they experience. This is one reason

    why it is so important for teachers to learn of the advances in psycholinguistics, neuropsychology and

    behaviour genetics at conferences such as the Nordic Congress. In recent years, there has been a strong

    convergence of evidence showing that specific difficulties in phonological processing are the primary

    causes of the literacy and related difficulties seen in dyslexia. It is clear that there is a genetic component

    (Olson, 2004) and that differences can be seen in areas of the brain specialised for language processing.

    There are different views about the origins of these phonological problems and the extent to which they

    might be causally related (or not) to difficulties with more basic functions in auditory, visual and motor

    processing as Frank Ramus discusses in his article in this journal. However, there is no doubting the

    central role of phonological processes as causal factors in dyslexia.

    A key line of evidence that has helped establish the causal role of phonological skills in reading comes

    from intervention studies which evaluate the consequences of training on literary outcomes. In my

    presentation to the Nordic conference, I reviewed findings from 4 important intervention studies from

    Cumbria, Colorado, Florida and York. Further details of these studies can be found in a recent review by

    myself (Rack, 2004). These studies, in turn, have built on the pioneering research done in Scandinavia by

    Ingvar Lunderg and colleagues, and in Oxford by Lynnette Bradley and Peter Bryant, which has lead to

    the consensus view that phonological processing underpins literacy development. Research now is

    focused on comparisons of different types of training and on ways of adapting effective methods so that

    they can be delivered to the largest numbers who need support. This practical application of the research

    evidence was a second focus of my presentation.

    Several consistent findings have emerged from the experimental and applied research on effective

    teaching. First and foremost, these studies show that children who have failed to make satisfactory

    progress with &lsquo;standard&rsquo; methods, can make good progress with the kind of multi-sensory teaching

    methods that originated with Orton and have been developed and refined by organisations such as the

    Dyslexia Institute over the past 30 years. The effect size statistic is typically around .5 which means that

    for every unit of progress made by the control group, the intervention group make the same progress and

    half as much again.

    Secondly, the findings are consistent in suggesting that developing phonological skills is necessary but

    not sufficient to bring about literacy gains. Data from Hatcher et al&rsquo;s study in Cumbria, for example,

    require us to reject a strong version of the phonological deficit theory which predicts that those whose

    phonological skills improve the most will improve the most in reading. In that study, the &lsquo;Phonology

    only&rsquo; group improved most on the phonological tests but the &lsquo;Reading plus Phonology&rsquo; group improved

    most in reading. Thus, it seems that there is a certain threshold of phonological awareness that needs to

    be, but direct teaching of strategies and provision of structured opportunities for practice is also needed. It

    is an open question as to whether other factors to do with underlying cognitive abilities, self-esteem,

    motivation or something else altogether is important to move beyond the level of word decoding. It seems

    reasonable to suppose that other factors will be relevant but further research is needed to establish what

    these are and how they may be promoted through teaching. Promising candidates include teaching of

    vocabulary and an emphasis on morphology.

    Thirdly, the Colorado and Florida studies, discussed in my presentation, show that similar gains can be

    achieved with different kinds of programmes when these are delivered by skilled teachers. It should be

    stressed that the programmes being compared both involved systematic teaching of phonic rules with the

    differences primarily in the emphasis or balance of the components of the programme. Most researchers

    would find it difficult to include an intervention programme which they believed would be unlikely to

    <font size="3" face="Times New Roman">

    The argument becomes complicated when we move on to ask whether one teaching approach is better

    than another or whether one approach is better for children with one particular set of characteristics. Here

    the scientific evidence is not as informative as the evidence of practical experience. One reason for this is

    that skilled teachers working with individuals or small groups will usually be creative and adaptable.

    They will use different materials to achieve the same objectives and adapt the same materials to meet the

    differing needs of individuals. It is therefore very difficult to find evidence, in a systematic study, that

    particular methods are less effective than others. However the Dyslexia Institute&rsquo;s SPELLIT study found

    just this kind of evidence. Here we compared a structured phonic teaching programme with a programme

    of activities to be done at home using materials and instructions provided for parents. The participants

    were age 7 &frac12; and at this age, after 2 &frac12; years of schooling in the UK, had been identified by their teachers

    as not progressing. We found that those children with more severe difficulties in reading and phonology

    made good progress with the structured teaching programme; doing much better than children with

    similar difficulties who had the home support programme. However, the opposite pattern was found for

    those children with less severe difficulties &ndash; children with better reading and better phonological skills did

    better with the home support programme.

    ^^^^^^In conclusion, I would suggest that there is a pleasing convergence between the research findings and

    the practical experiences of skilled, specialist teachers. At the core of the teaching methods that originated

    with Orton is the idea of making multisensory connections between print, sound, movement and meaning

    to support the learning of reading and spelling skills. ^^^^^^^^^^^
    The weight of evidence from the studies reviewed

    here, and from others, is that learning programmes need to include a range of activities, working at

    different levels of text, and that the benefits are greatest when the linkage is made explicit. The evidence

    of applied studies that have used different models of providing support is encouraging as it suggests that

    there are important roles for computer activities and for home support activities alongside individual and

    class-based methods.

    Greg Brooks reviewed the evidence on &lsquo;What works for children with literacy difficulties&rsquo; in 2003 and

    concluded, in support of the experience of organisations such as the Dyslexia Institute, that &lsquo;ordinary

    teaching&rsquo; is not effective, but that good progress could be made with specific structured intervention. The

    work of Torgesen and colleagues at the Florida Reading Centre also supports this conclusion. Children

    receiving support in their regular classrooms could be &lsquo;stabilised&rsquo;, preventing them from falling further

    behind, but only with intensive structured teaching did they begin to catch up to their age peers. The main

    message to take from all this work is that dyslexic children slip further behind if their needs are not

    specifically addressed and that the later this is left, the worse the problems become and the harder they are

    to deal with. However, I also argued that expectations should be kept high, as there are effective methods

    for teaching dyslexic people to read. The research evidence is interesting in showing that differences

    between methods of teaching may matter less than some may think. Teaching decoding skills in the

    context of text reading, for example, is just as valid as teaching decoding skills in isolation and then

    applying those skills in context. My research from the SPELLIT study shows, however, that some

    methods and approaches do seem to be better for some children and that matching the programme of

    support to the individual needs is critical. In summary, timing of support &ndash; earlier being best &ndash; intensity of

    support, use of a structured and systematic teaching and scaffolding of skills in context are features of

    effective practice. Less easy to assess in research studies, but of unquestionable importance are the skills

    and personal qualities of teachers. Practical experiences tells us that an understanding of the biological

    and cognitive theories dyslexia can be very helpful in understanding why certain difficulties occur and

    enabling the learner to find compensatory strategies. What also seems to matter is being, to quote Joe

    Torgesen, &lsquo;relentless&rsquo;. It was suggested to me that this word might not be so familiar to an audience of

    non-native speakers, so I elaborated on it&rsquo;s meaning as &lsquo;never give up&rsquo;!

    Advances in theory through studying the brain and the development of language skills hold the

    promise of earlier identification and intervention, but the success of so many dyslexic learners is now, and

    is likely to remain, in the hands of knowledgeable, skilful and relentless teachers. Never give up!

    </font><font size="2" face="Times New Roman">References

    Brooks, G (2003) What Works for Childrenwith Literacy Difficulties? The Effectiveness of Intervention Schemes.

    DfES Report Number 390. ISBN 1 84185830

    Hatcher, P., Hulme, C., & Ellis, A. W. (1994). Ameliorating early reading failure by integrating the teaching of

    reading and phonological skills: the phonological linkage hypothesis. Child Development, 65, 41-57.

    Olson (2004) Genetic and environmental causes of reading disabilities: results from the Colorad Learning

    Disabilities Research Center. In M Turner and J Rack (Eds)
    <font size="2" face="Times New Roman">
    Rack, J.P (2004) Review of research on effective intervention. In M Turner and J Rack (Eds)
    <font size="2" face="Times New Roman">
    New York: Kluwer/Plenum.

    Rack, J.P. & Hatcher, J. (2002). SPELLIT.
    <font size="2" face="Times New Roman">
    in primary school children, to develop methods of assessment and to evaluate different methods of teaching

    including specialist teaching and home support programmes
    <font size="2" face="Times New Roman"></font>
    <font size="2" face="Times New Roman">
    Torgesen, J.K., Alexander, A.W., Wagner, R.K., Voeller, K., Conway, T., & Rose, E. (2001). Intensive remedial

    instruction for children with severe reading disabilities: Immediate and long-term outcomes from two instructional

    </font><font size="2" face="Times New Roman">Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34 33-58.</font>
    <font size="2" face="Times New Roman"></font><font size="2" face="Times New Roman"></font>
  11. moonpenny

    moonpenny Occasional commenter

    Don't know what happened to the formatting - just follow the link instead :)

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