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Posted 5th June, 2011 by Sue Partridge

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On the final day of this brilliant conference, I heard keynote speeches from Kate Cain and David Saldana,

The format of the conference allows for groups of speakers to present their research or ideas for 20 minutes, clustered into themes.  I went to a session like this on learning and memory.  Here are some of the insights:

1.  Carol Leather (University of Surrey) has found that good organisational planning is a factor for those adults with dyslexia who rate themselves as successful.  This confirms the usefulness of intervention she frequently uses in workplace support.

2.  Elpis Pavlidou (University of Edinburgh) is interested in why dyslexic children don’t become fluent and automatic in their learning.  She thinks it is something to do with them not being good at the implicit abstraction in some tasks.  She makes a good case for ensuring that learning is more active and explicit.  However, her research results are based on the rather artificial measure of differences in reaction time to the different stimuli she presented.  I am always really wary of drawing real-life conclusions from this sort of research, though Elpis’s presentation was very engaging and a good example of active learning!

3.  Maaike Loncke (Ghent University) introduced the rather complex concept of Hebb learning (where you repeat a stimulus item deliberately within a longer sequence of things to be learned and see if the learner notices).  Her idea is that this ability to notice recurring things within a sequence is impaired in dyslexia…  Not quite convinced that this experiment told me anything that I didn’t already know.

4.  Sebastian Aravena (University of Amsterdam) made a really interesting proposition that if you include a piece of learning within a diagnostic assessment it tells you more about the learner and predicts their later performance.  Haven’t we always said that observing adults over a longer period of time and in context enhances and refines our diagnosis?  However, his idea of learning was a computer game involving grapheme/phoneme matching, which I am not sure we would find that interesting with adults.  I guess it would be a little like taking the elements of the CTOPP, training them in some of the component skills and then seeing if this had an effect on a later reading score… I think there is a danger of teaching to the test if you narrow the learning down to something so precise, so lets stick to what we do!

5.  David Grant, who has  has written books about dyslexia and creativity, and sounds very much into the positive side  of dyslexia, rather ran out of time in his talk on whether dyslexic learners are visual thinkers, so I am not able to evaluate how his ideas compare with Ross Cooper’s.

That is it from the conference.  I hope you have enjoyed reading some of my thoughts on what I learned!

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