Professional development research on literacy instruction and dyslexia

Professional development research on literacy instruction and dyslexia

First Author: Alida Anderson -- American University, Washington DC, USA
Additional authors/chairs: 
Alida Hudson; Ramona Pittman; Erin Washburn; Susan Chambré
Keywords: Professional Development, Teacher training, Dyslexia, Teacher Knowledge, Neuromyths
Abstract / Summary: 

This symposium presents different research perspectives on professional development for literacy instruction and dyslexia. The five papers share theoretical and applied relationships among professional development for literacy instruction, teachers’ knowledge of literacy concepts and dyslexia, and students’ literacy outcomes. The first paper systematically reviews literature on teacher knowledge of literacy concepts. The second paper presents’ teachers’ self-reported knowledge of spelling components and self-perceptions of teaching spelling. The third paper presents an approach to assessing teacher knowledge of literacy instruction and dyslexia. Papers four and five present findings from pilot intervention studies aimed at improving teachers’ knowledge of dyslexia and literacy instruction through innovative and multimedia learning formats. Paper four presents findings from a multimedia intervention with preservice teachers aimed at improving knowledge of literacy instruction and dyslexia. Paper five presents findings from a professional development intervention using an interactive neuroscience-education dyslexia learning module on teachers’ dyslexia knowledge.

Symposium Papers: 

Teachers’ knowledge of basic language constructs: A systematic review

First Author/Chair:Alida Hudson -- Texas A & M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Poh Wee Koh; Emily Binks-Cantrell; R.M. Joshi

Purpose: Previous studies have shown that poor literacy instructional practices in elementary school classrooms stem primarily from inadequate teacher knowledge and a lack of systematic instruction of foundational literacy concepts for typical and atypical learners, particularly in the areas of phonemic awareness, the alphabetic principle, and morphology. Thus, this systematic review examined gaps in teacher knowledge of these basic language constructs in typical and atypical reading.

Method: Following the steps for conducting a systematic review as recommended in the literature, 33 peer-reviewed articles were coded for teachers’ knowledge of components relating to constructs of phonemic awareness, the alphabetic principle, morphology, and dyslexia.

Results: The review revealed four major gaps in teacher knowledge. First, teachers struggled with advanced phonemic skills of identifying and counting phonemes in words. Second, they lacked knowledge of phonics principles such as syllable types, blends and digraphs. Third, difficulties with morphology (i.e., morphemic analysis and morpheme counting) were more pronounced than that pertaining to phonemic and phonics knowledge. Fourth, teachers were susceptible to popular myths about dyslexia such as seeing letters and words backwards as a primary characteristic of dyslexia.

Conclusions: Findings showed that pre- and in-service teachers alike lacked the understanding of basic language constructs crucial to reading development. Misconceptions about dyslexia suggested that teachers might not be adequately prepared to teach students with reading difficulties. Educational and research implications relating to teacher preparation and professional development as well as student literacy outcomes will be discussed.

Teachers’ knowledge about the phonological, morphological, and orthographic characteristics of spelling

First Author/Chair:Ramona Pittman -- Texas A&M University-San Antonio
Additional authors/chairs: 
Amanda Linder

Purpose: This study sought to determine whether teachers are prepared to teach the critical skill of spelling. Specifically, are teachers prepared to teach the linguistic features (phonological, morphological, and orthographic) of spelling? Additionally, do teachers perceive themselves as being able to teach spelling?

Method: In one urban school district, 324 kindergarten-5th grade teachers were administered an online spelling survey during the first 25 minutes of a professional development session. The survey consisted of demographic questions, self-perception statements, and knowledge of spelling generalizations/rules questions. The self-perception statements were matched to the knowledge-based questions, and each question was coded as phonological, morphological, or orthographic. The questions were analyzed using cross tabs to compare confidence and knowledge responses.

Results: Overall, results showed a trend of teachers overestimating their abilities when responding to confidence statements in comparison to their performance on knowledge questions. Using strongly agree or agree for the confidence statements, only 33% of questions measuring phonology knowledge were answered correctly by teachers. Teachers’ confidence in teaching morphological awareness was slightly lower than phonology. However, teachers underestimated their morphology abilities as more knowledge questions were answered correctly than incorrectly on strongly disagree or disagree confidence statements. Lastly, 82% of the questions regarding orthography were answered incorrectly more times than correctly by teachers who responded strongly agree or agree to confidence statements on the topic.

Conclusions: Results indicate the need for educator preparation programs to increase preservice teachers’ knowledge of the linguistic features of spelling. Practical implications and solutions will be offered for increasing teachers’ spelling knowledge.

Assessing teacher knowledge of dyslexia: How do we know what they know?

First Author/Chair:Erin Washburn -- University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Additional authors/chairs: 
Tiffany Peltier

Purpose: An important first step in helping teachers develop research-informed understandings about dyslexia is assessment of their knowledge. Teacher knowledge about dyslexia has been measured in several exploratory ways with no one standardized tool widely used.

Method: The goal of this descriptive study was to analyze the content of three survey instruments (Peltier et al.in review, Washburn et al., 2013, Washburn et al., 2017) for similarities and differences in structure and outcomes. This analysis was conducted to inform future assessment of teacher knowledge of dyslexia in the context of professional development.

Results: Difference in measurement approach (4-point Likert true/false, 6-point Likert disagree/agree, open-ended response) was a key finding. When provided a 6-point scale with 20 items, over half of teachers’ responses (n=13) fell in the middle of the scale (slightly disagree/agree). Similarly, the majority of responses to the 20 4-point true/false scale items fell within the “probably” range (n=18). Notably, neither survey provided an option of unknown/unsure although, on the open-response survey, 22% of teachers did not answer “what are some characteristics of dyslexia?” Regardless of measurement approach, was teachers’ responses indicated the misconception that dyslexia is related to difficulty with vision (e.g., seeing letters/words backwards).

Conclusions: Findings from this study have helped to revised surveys of teacher knowledge to include perspective-taking (“To what extent do you think an expert in dyslexia…”) and scale choice of “unsure.” These findings support the use of a mixed-methods approach as a means to assess what teachers do and do not know about dyslexia.

Educating the future: Addressing preservice teachers’ knowledge gaps in dyslexia

First Author/Chair:Susan Chambré -- Marist College
Additional authors/chairs: 
Molly K. Ness

Purpose: Research indicates that preservice teachers hold numerous misconceptions regarding dyslexia, considering it a visual rather than phonological deficit. We created asynchronous online modules to address these misconceptions Our research explores how multimedia experiences enhance preservice teachers’ conceptual knowledge of dyslexia.

Method: Thirty-four undergraduates at a four-year liberal-arts college participated. Candidates completed 10 online module such as listening to podcasts, reading online content, and completing dyslexia screeners. Written reflections were required after each module. The first and last module employed a pre-test/post-test format of questions about dyslexia. Responses from pre-tests to post-tests was analyzed via a coding framework of levels of reading teacher knowledge: declarative, situated, stable, expert, and reflective (Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005). We also examine reflections according to themes of: characteristics, neurological basis, assessment, and instructional support.

Results: Analysis suggests that brief online modules (1) dispel myths about dyslexia and (2) provide knowledge about instructional supports. Participants’ understanding of dyslexia advanced from the declarative level (knowing that) to situated knowledge (knowing how). The following themes emerged from the reflective journals: (1) word level struggles and phonological deficits as dyslexia characteristics, (2) recognition of a hereditary component of dyslexia, (3) the need for screening and school supports.

Conclusions: While modules increased declarative and situated knowledge, candidates still need practical experiences with structured literacy to move towards stable and expert knowledge. At a time when public sentiment and media call for increased teacher knowledge about dyslexia, our work provides a low-cost replicable model for other preservice training

Investigating the effects of an interdisciplinary neuroscience-education learning module on teachers’ dyslexia knowledge

First Author/Chair:Alida Anderson -- American University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Eric Schuler; Kyle Mitchell; Lauren McGrath

Purpose: We have developed an interactive, interdisciplinary dyslexia learning module designed to increase teacher’s understanding of reading science by presenting key findings from current neuroscience and education research. The purpose of this pilot study was to investigate whether teachers’ participation in the learning module would lead to changes in dyslexia knowledge.

Method: Participants (N = 49) were recruited through a university MA-level teacher education program and completed the 35-minute module. Participants also completed a pre/post-assessment of knowledge about dyslexia and a demographic questionnaire, including questions about age, parental status, and level of education.

Results: The module training improved dyslexia knowledge from pre- to post-test, t(48) = 3.83, p<.001, d = .55. We also saw that teachers were less likely to endorse a particularly pervasive myth about “backwards reading” in dyslexia after completing the module, (χ(1) = 5.88, p=.015, OR = 4.67). Using multiple regression, we examined demographic predictors accounting for change in performance. The overall regression model was not statistically significant, F(17, 25) = 1.74, p=.101, R2adj = .23, but significant coefficients were interpreted for this pilot study. Significant predictors of performance change included: having a Master’s degree (b = 4.81, p=.029), younger age group (18-24 (b = 8.75, p=.014); 25-34 (b = 8.01, p=.019)), and being a parent (b = 6.16, p=.002).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that an interactive, interdisciplinary neuroscience-education training module focused on reading development (atypical and typical) shows promise in supporting teachers’ knowledge growth about dyslexia.