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celebrate dyslexia1st draft (Winter 2017/18)


Academic confidence and dyslexia at university


thesis graphic



This opening section of the thesis establishes the scope of the project, the rationales that have driven it, the stance and perspective that has underpinned my thinking and the direction that the project has taken, together with acknowledgement of the guidance, advice and learning development opportunities that have been afforded to me by Middlesex University, London.

An ABSTRACT is provided at the outset which summarizes the complete project, the results and what they are interpreted to mean.

In the PROJECT OVERVIEW, I introduce the current situation in dyslexia research and identify briefly how this is problematic for the researcher because there remains a lack of consensus about the definition of dysleia. I argue that this makes researching dyslexia in higher education contexts especially challenging because many of the early-learning difficulties, particularly in relation to the uptake of reading skills conventially associated with a dyslexia, will have been displaced to an extent by other academic skills and learning management issues that can have a detrimental impact on academic achievement. I argue that the debate needs to refocus on how significant changes can be made to curriculum and learning delivery in university situations rather than persist in designing support protocols for individual learners in the guise of inclusivity and reasonable adjustments which are as much to ensure institutional compliance with disability legislation as to genuinely assist students with atypical learning profiles. I continue by briefly introducing the second metric used in my project, that of Academic Confidence, where I describe how this has been used to gauge differences in the student research groups and subgroups that were identified, and I outline how this has been used to suggest that the identification of student-dyslexia at university may be more counterproductive than useful.

This leads to the clear RESEARCH QUESTIONS which are established together with the briefest of introductions about the quantitative data processes which have been employed to address them. The TERMINOLOGY used throughout the project is introduced, explained and defined where possible, although later in the thesis issues related to definitions of dyslexia in particular will be more thoroughly discussed.

This opening section continues by explaining the ethical processes and standards that have been adhered to which is followed by a significant section that establishes my position as a researcher, concluding with a short section suggesting why I believe this research and the outcomes are important and how these might make a positive contribution to the wider debate on how dyslexia - whatever it is - can be accommodated at university-level study.

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Complete Thesis Contents




This project is interested in finding out more about how dyslexia may impact on on university students' academic confidence.

The premise being tested is that students with an identified dyslexic learning difference present a lower academic confidence than not only their non-dyslexic peers but, more significantly, than their non-identified, apparently dyslexic peers. Confidence in an academic context has been established as a significant, positively correlated contributor to academic achievement and therefore this thesis will imply that identifying dyslexia in university students may be counterproductive to the attainment of these students' academic outcomes. Robust, evidence-based arguments support the view that academic confidence is a sub-construct of academic self-efficacy, whch has been identified as a significant contributor to academic achievement. Exploring how academic confidence is affected by learning differences widely attributed to dyslexia is thought to be a fresh approach to exploring the ways that dyslexic students tackle the challenges of academic learning management at university. The metric used to gauge academic confidence has been the Academic Behavioural Confidence Scale, developed by Sander & Sanders (2006) and which is gaining ground amongst researchers as a useful tool for exploring the impact of study behaviours on academic outcomes.

As for dyslexia, current metrics used for assessing dyslexic learning differences are coarse-graded and tend to focus on diagnosing the syndrome as a disability in learning contexts. The principle objective in identifying dyslexia at university (in the UK) is to provide a means to access learning support funding for additional equipment and services as a compensation for supposed additional difficulties that learning-disabled students face in the literacy-based education system that is university learning. Whilst this may have advocates amongst those outwardly pursuing social justice in learning, for example evidence suggests that stigmatization associated with being labelled as 'different' can be academically counterproductive, this project sought to detach dyslexia from the learning disability agenda firstly because there remains a persistently unresolved debate about what dyslexia is, and secondly because the syndrome presents a range of strengths as well as difficulties in relation to learning, learning engagement and academic learning management in academically able, adult learners. To this end, no current dyslexia assessment tools were felt to be appropriate for discriminating those with unidentified dyslexia-like learning profiles from both their dyslexia-identified peers and the wider student population at university. Hence, a fresh, Dyslexia Index (Dx) Profiler has been developed which attempts to take a more neutral position as a study-preference/study behaviour evaluator that can provide indications of dyslexia-like learning characteristics, as opposed to adopting the difficulty/disability-loaded approach typically seen in other dyslexia assessment tools. The essential feature of the Dx Profiler is to provide an indication of a student's level of dyslexia-ness, a term introduced in this thesis as an attempt to ameliorate the widely-used but negatively connotated idea of severity of dyslexia.

In this survey of 166 university students, the research outcomes imply that the identification of learners as different by virtue of their dyslexia may substantially impact on their academic confidence and that this further implies that this disability label may be the more significantly impacting factor to effective learning at university rather than that attributed to the impediments and obstacles that are claimed to be causally connected to the dyslexia itself. Analysis of the data has produced a moderate effect size of g = 0.48 between the Academic Behavioural Confidence of students with identified dyslexia and that of students with apparently unidentified dyslexia-like study profiles. The ABC of the dyslexic subgroup was lower. This result was supported by a statistically significant difference between the mean ABC values of the two groups (t = 1.743, p = 0.043)*. However, the research outcomes have revealed more complex inter-relationships between the factors of dyslexia and factors of academic confidence that have been identified through the statistical processing of the quantitative data collected.

It is recognized that one limitation of the research has been the untested validity and external reliability of the Dyslexia Index Profiler. However the tool has served its design purpose for this study and this is indicated by good internal consistency reliability shown by a Cronbach's α coefficient of 0.852 (with an upper-tail, 95% confidence limit of α = 0.889)*. It is recommended that further research should be conducted to develop the Profiler, especially as this high value for α may be indicating some scale-item redundancy. Given this further work, a more robust, standardized tool might then be available to contribute to other studies and which might also show promise for a fresh approach to be taken towards identifying dyslexia and dyslexia-like study profiles across university communities where this might be considered appropriate. The Profiler could also become a valuable mechanism for enabling students to more fully understand their learning strengths and difficulties and hence how to integrate these into their study strategies to enhance their opportunities of realistally achieving the academic outcomes that they are expecting from their time at university. It is also recognized that the Academic Behavioural Confidence Scale may now require further development firstly because the factor analysis conducted with this study's data appears to suggest that adopting this process to obtain a study-data-related factor structure is an important element in making best use of the ABC Scale in comparison to using the factor structure developed by the Scale's originators; and secondly that in the light of the impact that technological advances are having on the delivery of university learning and the ways in which students engage with it, some elements of the Scale may benefit from updating in order to more appropriately recognize shifts in the academic learning management processes to those more widely adopted by 'digitally-native' students studying at university.

The research is important because to date, no existing, peer-reviewed studies specifically investigating the relationships between academic confidence and dyslexia have been found. It is also important because the research outcomes may contribute to the debate about whether identifying so-called dyslexia amongst university-level learners makes a positive contribution to their ultimate academic outcomes or that the benefits apparently attributed to being labelled as dyslexic are outweighed by the stigma persistently associated with disability and difference, not only in learning environments but in society more generally.

[*to be checked again and verified before final submission]

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acknowledgement teamAcknowledgements


I acknowledge with thanks, the study support and academic guidance provided by the research community at Middlesex University, the Research Degrees Administration Team at the Department of Education and in particular, the advice and interest of the supervisory team of Dr Victoria de Rijke and Dr Nicola Brunswick.
I also expresses graditude to Middlesex University for the 3-year Research Studentship funding, without which, this research project would not have been possible.



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dyslexia and confidenceOverview


Dyslexia and Academic Confidence at University

Dyslexia is identified in many students as a learning difference but the syndrome remains widely debated (eg: Elliott & Grigorenko, 2014). Nonetheless, the impacts of dyslexia and dyslexia-like profiles on learning are readily apparent in literacy-based education systems ranging from initial identification in early-age learners who experience challenges in the acquisition of reading skills, to university students who attribute many of their struggles to adapt to the independent and self-managed learning processes that are core competencies in higher education learning to a dyslexia or dyslexia-like learning profile.

To gain a greater understanding of the issues is at least a first step towards meeting the learning needs of learning differences (Mortimore & Crozier, 2006), although encouraging the design and development of more accessible curricula - particularly in Higher Education - seems preferable to retrofitting the curriculum to the learner (Lancaster, 2008) by way of 'reasonable adjustments'. This might then mean that learners with dyslexia would feel more included and less 'different' (eg: Dykes, 2008, Thompson et al, 2015) or even that identifying their study profiles as falling within the dyslexia envelope is unnecessary, could be counterproductive in relation to positively advancing their academic achievement and may now be best considered as an alternative form of information processing (Tamboer et al, 2014) in teaching and learning environments that are sufficiently adaptable and flexible to accommodate difference without differentiation. When learning differences cease to impact on access to, and engagement with learning - in whatever ways this is ameliorated - it is reasonable to suppose that the persistent disability model of dyslexia, tacitly implied by 'diagnosis', 'reasonable adjustment' and 'support', will have reduced meaning. Instead, the positive strengths and qualities that form part of the dyslexia spectrum of apparent differences can be celebrated and integrated into the development of the learner in ways that will encourage a greater sense of academic agency to emerge, possibly reflected by stronger academic confidence which may contribute positively towards better and more successful academic outcomes at university (Nicholson et al, 2013).

This project is interested in learning more about how students with dyslexia or dyslexia-like profiles integrate their learning differences into their study-self-identity. It has explored their judgements of its impact on their study processes in relation to their sense of academic purpose, in particular the confidence expressed in meeting the academic challenges they face at university. A fresh, innovative profiler has been developed which attempts to offer an alternative understanding of learning difference which does not focus on deficit-discrepancy models and on disability. The research takes the standpoint that it may be students' awareness of their dyslexia and what the dyslexic label means to them that is the most significant factor impacting on their academic confidence when compared with the challenges that the dyslexia itself may present to their learning engagement. This is thought to be an innovative approach to dyslexia research and aims to challenge the persistent medical, deficit model of dyslexia and the labelling of the syndrome as a disability in Higher Education learning contexts where the prinicple aim is to enable access to differentiated learning support. The research is also expected to contribute to the discourse on the non- or late-reporting of dyslexia in university students (eg: Henderson, 2015), and also add to the limited range of research relating to the academic confidence of university students who are from minority groups, especially those deemed to have a learning disability in whatever ways this might be defined.

Hence the aim of this research project is to explore the relationship between the learning difference of dyslexia and specific aspects of academic agency at university. Zimmerman (1995) spoke of academic agency as 'a sense of [academic] purpose, this being a product of self-efficacy and academic confidence that is then the major influence on academic accomplishment' and it is through the principal concepts of academic self-efficacy and particularly academic confidence that this research project has been tackled. Exploring these relationships and how they are impacted upon by the learning difference of dyslexia is important because relationships revealed may contribute to the emerging discussion on the design of learning development and 'support' for groups of learners who feel marginalized or disenfranchised because conventional learning curriculum delivery tends to be out of alignment with their learning strengths, or due to their perceived stigma about being labelled as 'disabled' in a learning context. This project is particularly topical at this time in the light of plans for dyslexia to be disassociated from the (UK) Disabled Students' Allowance in the near future. Hence the research may contribute to an expected raised level of discourse about creating more inclusive curricula that supports a social justice agenda by arguing for a wider provision of undifferentiated learning development that is fully accessible and actively promoted to the complete, coherently integrated student community in HE and which moves away from the negatively-connatated perception of learning support as a remedial service both amongst academics and students at university (Laurs, 2010).

The key research focus has tested the hypothesis that, for a significant proportion of students with dyslexia, it is their awareness and feelings about how their dyslexia affects their studies at university that has a more significant impact on their academic confidence in relation to the learning differences that the apparent dyslexic condition itself may present. This is important to explore not only because attributes of academic agency and in particular, academic confidence, are increasingly widely reported as markers of future academic achievement but also because it further raises the issue of how to tackle the 'dilemma of difference' (Norwich 2010), originally identified as a significant factor in education by Minow (1985, 1990). This is especially pertinent as dyslexia has been shown to be negatively correlated with both academic confidence and academic achievement (eg: Barrett, 2005, Asquith, 2008, Sanders et al, 2009) indicating that significant interrelationships may be present.

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questionsResearch Questions


  • Do university students who know about their dyslexia present a significantly lower academic confidence than their non-dyslexic peers?

If so, can particular factors in their dyslexia be identified as those most likely to account for the differences in academic confidence and are these factors absent or less-significantly impacting in non-dyslexic students?

  • Do university students with no formally identified dyslexia but who show evidence of a dyslexia-like learning and study profile present a significantly higher academic confidence than their dyslexia-identified peers?

If so, are the factors identified above in the profiles of dyslexic students absent or less-significantly impacting in students with dyslexia-like profiles?


How can these results be explained? Are the analysis outcomes sufficiently robust to suggest that identifying dyslexia in university student may be detrimental to their academic confidence? Further, that an identification of dyslexia may therefore be academically counterproductive?


The datapool from which information has been collected comprised students in Higher Education learning at UK universities and included, without discrimination or prior selection, those studying at all levels and from any 'home' or overseas origin or background; this was the Research Group.

Academic confidence has been evaluated using the Academic Behavioural Confidence Scale (Sander & Sanders, 2006) which was incorporated into the data collection questionnaire.

Students in the dataset (research subgroup) with non-identified dyslexia-like study profiles were identified using an innovative Dyslexia Index Profiler which was developed for this project and was incorporated into the data collection questionnaire.

Students in the dataset (research subgroup) with dyslexia has been identified by self-disclosure. Their dyslexia has been validated through outputs from the Dyslexia Index Profiler.

Attributes of both of these datasets will be compared to those from a group of non-dyslexic students, identified by self-disclosure and validated through outputs from the Dyslexia Index Profiler.

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ethicsEthics and Permissions


This research study has been conducted in accordance with all the specified and regulatory protocols set out in the University Regulations of Middlesex University, London.

Following an application to the Ethics Subcommittee of the School of Health and Education, approval to pursue the research and report the results in the form of a thesis to be submitted to the university for consideration for the award of Doctor of Philosophy was obtained on 21st July 2015.

Informed consent was obtained from all research participants, whose confidentiaility and anonymity was protected, who were not harmed by and who participated voluntarily in this study, and were given the opportunity to withdraw the data they had provided from the research at any time.

All Ethics approval documents are available here.

This research study is independent and impartial, has not been influenced by any external source or agency and has been conducted in accordance with guidance provided in the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics (2015).

The researcher confirms that the research has been conducted with integrity and to ensure quality to the best of his ability and is entirely his own work.

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exam desksStance


In the domain of university education, my view, which is broadly based on over a decade's experience of trying hard to be a good academic guide, is that there is a burgeoning need to influence a change in the system of delivery - and most definitely assessment - of learning in Higher Education. As universities open their doors to a much broader spectrum of students through widening participation and alternative access schemes, I believe that many of these new faces, together with the more traditionally-seen ones, would benefit academically were there a better institutional-level understanding of the impact that individual differences have on educational engagement, ownership of learning (Conley & French, 2014) and hence, likely attainment.

The learning environments and processes that are generally prevalent at university are not informed by psychological knowledge and appear to be increasingly driven by the ‘student experience’ of university with the annual National Student Survey having a strong influence on what this is, as students are increasingly considered as consumers (Woodall et al, 2014). In the earlier period following its introduction in 2005, high ratings in the NSS had significant implications for funding, although the direct impact of the NSS on university budgets is now (2017) less significant because universities' income streams are largely from student fees. So whilst the direct financial influence of the NSS is reduced, this has been displaced by shift in emphasis towards how the outcomes of the survey bolster the reputations of universities, especially as viewed by the parents of the largest group of university 'customers', that is 18-24-year-olds. Through my experience in higher education during this last decade or so I have witnessed educational models based on communities of knowledge being displaced by ones that are more focused on the more attractive, social experiences of being at university. This may be more apparent in institutions that are less driven by research funding because these universities have to rely more unidimensionally on income sources generated from student fees to meet their costs: hence, more students equals greater income. Having worked in both WP (Widening Participation) and Russell Group universities, and networked with academic and learning development colleagues across the sector, this is my observation and although I concede that the underlying intention of the NSS is to positively influence teaching and learning quality and to make universities more accountable, the extent to which responding to 'the student voice' achieves this is the subject of continued research (eg: Brown et al, 2014) not least due to wide variations in how raw score data is interpreted (Lenton, 2015).

However, the 'knowledge model' is not without its failings either: arguably entrapped by a rigid pedagogy that in many cases remains rooted to a well-established didactic approach for transmitting knowledge, this kind of university learning can appear to be underpinned by the idea that it is sufficient to inculcate knowledge through a kind of passive, osmotic cognitive process. Notions of ‘student-centeredness’ and inclusivity are less important in this ancient, traditional and frankly elitist approach to imbibing knowledge than is a desire to maintain kudos and reputation. A case in point is the situation that my nephew found himself in throughout the first year of his study at a highly respected London university. It is accepted that making a transition from directed study at A-level to self-managed learning at university can be challenging but even as a top-grade A-level student who was nevertheless expecting his course to be difficult, so far, his 'university experience' has been an unhappy one. He feels that his earlier academic confidence has been substantially eroded because he has yet to find a route to the learning development and support from his academic tutors that he was expecting to be available and which he feels he needs if he is to make progress on his course. He has found the learning environment to be stale, unwelcoming, uncommunicative and isolationistic. He tells me that he considered giving up and leaving his course many times throughout the opening months and greatly regrets his choice of course and university despite these being, on paper at least, a good match for his academic interests and career aspirations. Although his may be an isolated case reported anecdotally, it may also be an indication of a wider malaise and reticence to engage more equitably with the contemporary university student who is choosing to invest in higher education. This seems inappropriate and unnecessarily challenging and if universities are to be part of an academically rigorous, tertiary education system that anyone with the right academic credentials can attend but which includes aspirations towards genuinely fostering social mobility, engendering social justice and meeting the learning development needs of its 'customers', then together with the maintenance of strong academic standards, a renewed effort should be devoted to finding ways to create a middle ground between possibly comptemptible student recruitement incentivization and an outdated, traditional, self-preserving learning orthodoxy. There must be an intermediate position that is properly developed, truly focuses on student-learning-centredness and provides a genuinely inclusive curriculum that everyone is able to engage with so that they are actively encouraged to aspire to their academic potential through the quality of their learning experience at university. Pockets of excellence do exist and these should be brought into the educational limelight with all haste as exemplars.


one size fits noneLearning diversity

When challenged, or even driven by new legislation The Academy tackles issues of learning inclusivity through the minimal requirements to ensure compliance with 'reasonable adjustment' directives originally established in disability equality legislation now decades old. Adopting a ground-up reframing of academic curricula in ways that by design, embrace learning diversity appears to be outside the scope of strategic planning for the future of tertiary-level, high-quality learning - no doubt because it is considered radical, difficult and far too expensive. Despite this, some pockets of excellence really make a difference to some, if not all learners, demonstrated by those enlightened providers who look towards the adoption of elements of 'universal design' in the construction of university courses in which embracing learning diversities is at the core of curriculum processes (Passmann & Green, 2009). These are learning environments which place at the heart of their curricula the principle of giving all individuals equal opportunity to learn, the creation of learning goals, methods, materials and assessments that work for everyone and dispense with a 'one-size-fits-all' learning-and-teaching agenda in favour of flexible approaches that can be adapted and adjusted for individual needs (Jorgenson et al, 2013). However, attempts to create socially inclusive learning environments and opportunities tend to be inhibited by organizational factors (Simons et al, 2007) which can lead to a tokenist ‘nod’ being the more likely response to advocacy for genuinely making things (i.e. ‘learning’ in its broadest context) better for all participants in the knowledge community of university. More recently this position has been aggravated by an increased focus on accountability and quality of teaching at universities that has particularly created a tension in research-intensive institutions, especially where well-meaning campaigns for a reconfigured and more inclusive perception of 'scholarship' is nonetheless driving a wedge between teaching activities and research ones by lowering the status of teaching (MacFarlane, 2011). This is despite more recent research activities which have been concerned with identifying 'good teaching', quantifying what this means and presenting evidence that this is at the heart of high quality student learning (Trigwell, 2010).

The positive contributions to properly engaging with learning diversity in our universities that these initiatives are making seems patchy at best. In the face of sector-wide challenges ranging from widening participation to developing business-focused strategies that can respond to the government-imposed marketization of higher education (and the funding challenges that this is bringing), tackling the institutional entrenchment of traditional teaching and learning processes with a view to making the learning experience better for everyone and simultaneously striking a good balance between these activities and the essential job of universities to foster climates of research innovation and academic excellence, may be slipping further down the ‘to do’ list, not least because funding is uncertain and other initiatives aimed at providing alternatives to university are on the increase. Witness the diversity of current routes into teaching, most of which are eroding the essential value of academically-based initial training by attempting to develop rapid responses to a recruitment crisi,s that are at best, inappropriately thought through. Never are all these uncertainties more sorely felt than amongst communities of learners who come to university with spectra of learning profiles and preferences that are outside the box and as a result, often feel disenfranchised and not properly accommodated. For these individuals and groups whose learning needs fall outside the conventional envelope, broadly met by the existing ‘one-size-fits-all’ provision of higher education, the current processes of compensatory adjustments tend to apply strategies targeted at ‘fixing’ these unconventional learners – well-meaning as these may be – rather than focusing on the shortcomings of an outdated ‘system’ which originally evolved to serve the academic elite. These students are often labelled with difficult-to-define ‘learning disabilities’ and whatever these so-called ‘disabilities’ are, they are dynamic in nature, not necessarily an objective fact and that it is learning institutions that translate broad profiles of learning strengths and weaknesses into difficulties and disabilities through the strongly literacy-based medium of transmission of knowledge (Channock, 2007) and the lack of adaptability of this to learning differences.

stanceThe stance of this PhD project strongly advocates the belief that an overhaul of the processes for communicating knowledge through current, traditional curriculum delivery is well overdue, and also calls for a paradigm shift in the conventional assessment procedures that learners are required to engage with in order to express their ideas, demonstrate their intellectual competencies and foster the development of innovative thinking. With the focus of this research being ‘dyslexia’ – whatever this is, and which at the moment (Autumn 2017) remains labelled as a learning disability at university, I find myself uncomfortable with the disability label that is attached to the broad profile of learning differences and preferences apparently identifiable as a dyslexia, which is at variance with my strongly held views about embracing learning diversity. Whether someone has dyslexia or not wouldn’t matter – indeed, categorizing a particular set of learning profiles as a dyslexia would be inappropriate, unhelpful and unnecessary not least because in my ideal university, teaching, learning, assessment and access to resources would be offered in an equal variety of ways to match the learning diversities of those who choose to consume and contribute to knowledge environment at university. Everyone would feel included and properly accommodated.

The aim is that by exploring the relationship between the learning disability/difference of dyslexia and academic confidence the research objective is to establish that attributing a dyslexic label to a particular set of learning and study profiles can inhibit academic confidence and hence for the owner of this profile of attributes, contribute to a reduced likelihood of gaining strong academic outcomes. Academic confidence, through being a sub-construct of academic self-efficacy, is widely reported as a potential marker for academic performance (Honicke & Broadbent, 2016) and has been quantified in this project by using an existing measure of Academic Behavioural Confidence (Sander & Sanders, 2006) .

In short, when it comes to guiding learners towards getting a good degree at university, this project is testing the idea about whether is it better to label a so-called dyslexic person as ‘dyslexic’ or not.

If not, then in the first instance this would seem to indicate that dyslexic students, such as they are questionably defined, may be best left in blissful ignorance of their so-called ‘learning difference’ because if they are to have better prospects of gaining a higher academic outcome to their studies that is comparable to their non-dyslexic peers, they should be encouraged to battle on as best they can within the literacy-based system of curriculum delivery that they are studying in, despite it not being suited to their learning profiles, strengths and preferences. Hence there would be no recourse to ‘reasonable adjustments’ that identify them as ‘different’ because the identification itself might be more damaging to their academic prospects than the challenges they face that are considered attributable to their dyslexia. Secondly, this research outcome will add weight to my fundamental argument advocating a shift in ‘the system’ to one which embraces a much broader range of curriculum delivery and assessment as the most equitable means for establishing a level playing field upon which all students are able to optimize their academic functioning.

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research gapResearch Importance


This study is important because it makes a major contribution towards filling a gap in research about dyslexia and academic confidence in the broader educational context of academic confidence as a sub-construct of academic self-efficacy and dyslexia as a learning difference in literacy-based education systems. Aside from two unpublished dissertations (Asquith, 2008, Barrett, 2005), no peer-reviewed studies have been found which specifically explore the impact that dyslexia may have on the academic confidence of learners in higher education. Asquith's study built on the earlier work by Barrett by investigating correlations between dyslexia and academic confidence using Sander & Sanders' (2006) Academic Behavioural Confidence Scale as an assessment tool for exploring academic confidence and Vinegrad's (1994) scale to gauge dyslexia. This study appears to be the only direct precursor of this current PhD project as it also sought to compare three undergraduate student groups: those with identified dyslexia, those with no indications of dyslexia and those who were possibly dyslexic. However this PhD project is the first to develop a fresh measure for identifying dyslexia-like study profiles that is not grounded in the deficit-model of dyslexia.

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terminology and registerTerminology & Register



The term dyslexia is widely used throughout this thesis despite the literature review demonstrating that establishing what this means remains difficult and perhaps no longer necessary. This is an expedient approach not least to avoid the persistent use of alternative and unweildy phraseology. Caution must be drawn however, lest the reader applies an implicit, pre-conceived understanding of dyslexia because this thesis is aligned with the emerging and revisionary ideas of dyslexia among many recent researchers such as Cooper, Pennington, Elliott & Grigorenko and Tamboer & Horst to name a few, which extend or develop the earlier view of Stanovich who argued nearly two decades ago that the time was well overdue for a complete rethink about what we mean by learning disabilities and how educators need to reframe their approaches to working with learners whose profiles are outside the conventional envelope provided for in most education systems.

In this thesis, the term dyslexia-ness is introducted and widely used so as to displace the negatively-connotated idea of severity of dyslexia with a more neutral term.


Academic Confidence

An attempt has been made in the literature review to tease out the notion of academic confidence by considering how it has developed from a casually used term that integrated a tacit understanding about the attribute of confidence more generally into a slippery academic context, into a clearly defined and measurable construct which has its roots in the Social Cognitive Theory of Albert Bandura.


Academic Learning Management

In the context of this study the phrase academic learning management is introduced and used throughout as an umbrella term to refer to the broad study preferences and study behaviours that students employ to engage with their learning at university. Hence it is about the non-cognitive aspects of university study but which are essential components for successful academic attainment. The phrase academic learning management is an emerging term, more widely used in research and literature about tertiary learning in South East Asian learning communities, but which is slowly permeating the global research community. It is not being used in this project in relation to academic learning management systems which more usually are referring to learning management systems such as virtual learning environments and the academic use of social media platforms.



In following with the conventional academic protocols for reporting research, the majority of this thesis is written objectively and in the third-person. However, some sections relate more of the personal and reflective elements of the learning journey that has been this research project and hence are narrated in the first person. This also serves to distinguish between the reporting of the evidence-based outcomes of the project and my stance as a practitioner-researcher in the field of education and learning development at university.



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