“Creative, imaginative teaching works for all learners, not just dyslexic ones.”
With these words at the start of his presentation to the PATOSS conference, Alistair McNaught had me hooked! And then it got better.
“If you get it right for dyslexic learners, you get it right for everyone.”
“Dyslexic learners are motivators for positive change.”
So what were some of his suggestions for teachers which can benefit everyone? I do not intend to try to summarise all of his presentation, but here are a few of his ideas which I hope will inspire and interest you.
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The highlights from today for me have been:
1. The intellectual challenge of trying to make sense of and interpret some really difficult presentations on research from genetics (Julie Williams and Bruce Pennington). I will need to read through my notes with a little more leisure to say any more… (and ask our webmaster who does a bit of genetics himself …to explain)
2. Laura Shapiro from Aston University making a lot of sense about the changes in cognitive risk factors for reading difficulties as a child develops. While waiting to speaak to Laura afterwards I was privileged to listen in on a discussion between her and Kate Cain about links between their research. I am looking forward to hearing Kate talk about reading comprehension tomorrow. Continue reading this article… »
Will changing the background colour of an electronic white board enable people to read black text more easily and more comfortably? 2009/10
In 1980 Olive Meares reported how students experienced a lessening of visual perceptive difficulties if the printed word was covered with a tinted plastic sheet. In 1981 Helen Irlen’s research identified a sub-group of students who, “Had adequate decoding skills, good phonetic skills and an adequate sight vocabulary, but still found reading exceedingly difficult and avoided it wherever possible.” They described a variety of visual impressions when looking at black text on a white background eg “The white spaces form rivers which run down the page”, or “When I start to read, the words become a black line and I don’t see them anymore.”
Initially, this pioneering work was greeted with scepticism. It wasn’t until 1995 that Arnold Wilkins became intrigued by Irlen’s claims that coloured filters ease the symptoms of visual stress. In 2003 he published ‘Reading Through Colour’, where he describes the results of rigorous research that confirmed the ideas of Meares and Irlen. He describes the syndrome as MIVS, Meares Irlen Visual Stress. Wilkins also developed Intuitive Coloured Overlays, used increasingly by schools and colleges, a free downloadable screen tinter, available to all via the internet and a Colorimeter to be used as a diagnostic tool by qualified optometrists.
Studies reveal that up to 30% of children and adults find coloured overlays useful, although only 5% have a severe degree of MIVS. In 2005 B J Evans stated that, “Visual problems are not the cause of dyslexia although they contribute to reading difficulties and many dyslexics have visual difficulties such as binocular instability and accommodative insufficiency.” In the same year, Helen Irlen stated that 65% of people who are dyslexic have MIVS.
The research was undertaken at a college of further education. The teacher/researcher hoped that tinting the electronic whiteboard, so students no longer had to read black text on a white background, would prove an inclusive method of improving the learning environment for a large number of students without disadvantaging others.
252 people from 22 classes took part in the research; this included 33 members of staff. Classes ranged from Entry Level to Level 5, from craft, vocational and academic courses. People were asked to read a text, based on Arnold Wilkin’s Rate of Reading Test, displayed on an electronic whiteboard, on first a white background and then to make a visual comparison between this and the same text on yellow, green, blue, orange and red backgrounds. People then read for a second time, the same text on the group’s preferred colour background. To eliminate the influence of practice, data from control groups, who read twice on a white background were collected.
Results of the research showed that a light green background disadvantaged less people than other colours, including white, and advantaged most. Statistically, for most people there was no significant difference in reading efficiency on a white or tinted background. However, for the minority there was such a significant benefit they would be severely disadvantaged by not changing the background colour of the board from white to green. It was also interesting to note that students on lower level courses would benefit most.
This simple adjustment could provide a cost effective, inclusive learning support technique which can be replicated in all classrooms that have an electronic whiteboard.3 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »
Recent research at Princeton University suggests that if new information is presented in a font which is harder to read then the extra effort expended in reading the text leads to greater retention of the subject matter. Details of this research can be found at the link below:
These research findings contradict the widely held view that easy to read fonts assist dyslexic learners both with speed of reading and comprehension. Ariel and Verdana fonts are generally adopted as dyslexia friendly options but in this research Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva and Comic Sans Italicized were used.
The Princeton researchers acknowledge that if the texts are too difficult to read then this may discourage some learners from continuing to read the information. Interestingly they also suggest that the adoption of harder to read fonts would be a cost effective means of raising attainment!
I am sure this research will arouse strong opinions amongst fellow dyslexia practitioners. Please use our discussion area to share your views.3 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »