Can’t spell, can’t teach? An exploration of stakeholder attitudes towards students, with dyslexia, training to be primary classroom teachers.
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThe aim of this research was to investigate stakeholder attitudes towards people, with dyslexia, training to be primary classroom practitioners. The study examined stakeholder awareness and understanding of the term dyslexia; their perceived strengths and challenges, of those training to be teachers, with dyslexia. The study explored the impact of attitudes on disclosure of dyslexia and the potential of their employability as primary teachers in light of inclusive legislation and whether attitudes, held by a range of stakeholders, were on a neutral to positive or neutral to negative spectrum. The research entailed the implementation of an online questionnaire completed by 214 current stakeholders (including Initial teacher Education lecturers, school staff, Initial Teacher Education students and parents) and 11 semi-structured interviews. Findings suggest that there is uncertainty and confusion about the term dyslexia, its associated characteristics and its causes. Many stakeholders perceive dyslexia negatively with key characteristics being linked, predominantly, to deficits in reading, writing and spelling. This research has found that stakeholders identify a number of strengths that those with dyslexia bring to the teaching profession. These key strengths include empathy, inclusive practice and ease of identification of children with dyslexia. The main challenges/concerns identified by stakeholders, of those entering the profession, with dyslexia, were - the demands of the profession; the inability to teach particular age groups/subjects and the level of support needed to ensure success and retention following qualification. This latter concern constitutes a key finding of this research, as the level of support afforded by universities is perceived as being unrealistic in the workplace. The ethical responsibility that universities have, in preparing students for the demands and reality of the workplace, has emerged. The notion of what constitutes ‘reasonable adjustments’ is questioned by many stakeholders. This research concludes that a number of ‘reasonable adjustments’ are perceived as being unreasonable within the teaching profession due to the professional roles, responsibilities and requirements of being a teaching professional. Furthermore, uncertainty about legislation exists with regard to reasonable adjustments, whose responsibility it is to enforce reasonable adjustments and how schools can actually support those with dyslexia, in light of professional standards. Overall, this research has found that 16.1% more stakeholders display attitudes on the neutral to positive spectrum than neutral to negative with regard to those with dyslexia training to be primary classroom teachers. However, this masks major differences between stakeholders and between responses to particular statements/questions. A significant majority of stakeholders demonstrated a negative attitude towards the notion of people with dyslexia entering the teaching profession, believing that parents should be concerned if their child is being taught by someone with dyslexia. Both of these findings could have serious implications on the future disclosure of those with dyslexia. This research has found that a fear of stigmatisation and potential discrimination, which deter those with dyslexia from disclosing on course and job applications are justified and real. This research concludes that employability chances are lessened upon disclosure of dyslexia.
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