Dyslexia assessment practice within the UK higher education sector: Assessor, lecturer and student perspectives
Ryder, Denise Therese
Date: 24 February 2016
University of Exeter
PhD in Education
The formal assessment of dyslexia within the UK higher education sector is a relatively recent practice. The extant literature that there is reflects this historical observation. Missing from this body of literature, though, is any insight gained via systematic studies into the professional practice of those individuals directly ...
The formal assessment of dyslexia within the UK higher education sector is a relatively recent practice. The extant literature that there is reflects this historical observation. Missing from this body of literature, though, is any insight gained via systematic studies into the professional practice of those individuals directly responsible for identifying dyslexia in higher education students. In an academic climate where the very concept of dyslexia is being increasingly questioned, the perspectives of dyslexia assessors, together with those of other groups most closely affected by assessors’ practice, constitute an important area of knowledge for all parties concerned with higher education pedagogical and disability issues. This thesis is based on results from the collection and careful analysis of such perspectives acquired through four surveys of large numbers of participants and a smaller number of interviews with practicing dyslexia assessors. The study’s findings reflect both the diversity encompassed by the dyslexia concept within the higher education sector, as well as the complex relationship that exists between dyslexia research and its operationalization into the practice of individual assessors. Whilst data from assessor participants displayed a detailed lack of consensus on one level, this analysis was overridden on another level by a general consensus amongst interviewees around the main purpose and foci of assessment. Lecturers’ and non-dyslexic students’ understanding of, and attitudes towards, dyslexia and dyslexic students were indirectly influenced by assessors’ practice, particularly by what they invariably observed as the heterogeneity of assessed dyslexic students. Dyslexic students, in identifying their self- perceived difficulties, exemplified this diversity within the category. The study’s findings, based on the informed perspectives of its relevant participants, suggest that much current higher education policy and practice around the recognition of dyslexia is based on erroneous unexamined assumptions. The thesis concludes with tentative suggestions as to how the assessment of dyslexia and subsequent provision for the learning difference could be more streamlined with both contemporary research positions and institutions’ commitment to move towards greater inclusivity.
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