overviewPhD Presentation NOTES #6
link to pdf
[A list of references is provided in ~Notes #20]
Fish struggle to climb trees

  • The point being made here epitomises the sense of frustration and inadequacy felt by many with a dyslexic learning difference in trying to embed their own learning strengths, qualities and processes into an environment of curriculum delivery which is framed to suit very different, but conventionally considered as 'normal', learning and study characteristics.

  • 'Difficulty’ or ‘disorder’ are both loaded with negative connotations that imply deficit, particularly within the framework of traditional human learning experiences in curriculum delivery environments that remain almost entirely ‘text-based’.  This is despite the last decade or two of very rapid development of alternative, technology or media-based delivery platforms that have permeated western democracies and much of the alternative and developing worlds.

  • This 'new way' is embraced by an information society that sees news, advertising, entertainment and ‘gaming’, government and infrastructure services, almost all aspects of human interaction with information being delivered through electronic mediums.

  • And yet formal processes of education by and large remain steadfastly text-based which, although now broadly delivered electronically, still demand a ‘conventional’ ability to properly and effectively engage with the ‘printed word’ both to consume knowledge and also to create it.

  • This persistently puts learners with dyslexia - in the broadest context - and with dyslexia-like learning profiles at a continual disadvantage and hence is inherently unjust.

  • An interesting, forward-looking paper by Cavanagh (2013) succinctly highlights this tardiness in the delivery of education and learning to keep up with developments in information diversity and candidly observes that the collective field of pedagogy and andragogy should recognize that, rather than learners, it is curricula that is disabled and hence, needs be fixed – a standpoint that resonates with the underlying rationale that drives this PhD Project.

  • Cavanagh is one of the more recent proponents of a forward-facing, inclusive vision of a barrier-free learning environment - the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) – which as a 20-year-old ‘movement’ originating from a seminal paper by Rose & Meyer (2000) is attempting to tackle this issue in ways that would declare dyslexia to be much more widely recognized as, at worst, a learning difference amongst a plethora of others, rather than a learning difficulty or worse, disability.

  • The core focus of UDL is that the learning requirements of all learners are factored into curriculum development and delivery so that every student's range of skills, talents, competencies and challenges are recognized and accommodated without recourse to any kind of differentiated treatment to 'make allowances'. Hence it becomes the norm for learning environments to be much more easily adaptable to learners’ needs rather than the other way around.

  • There is an increasing body of evidence to support this revolution in designing learning in this way, where researchers persistently draw attention to the learning-environment challenges facing different learners, ranging from the desirability for equitable accommodation into the exciting new emphasis on developing STEM education (eg: Basham & Marino, 2013) to designing learning processes for properly including all students into health professions courses (eg: Heelan, et al, 2015).