Modern languages and specific learning difficulties (SpLD): implications of teaching adult learners with dyslexia in distance learning

Gallardo, Matilde; Heiser, Sarah and Arias-Mclaughlin, Ximena (2015). Modern languages and specific learning difficulties (SpLD): implications of teaching adult learners with dyslexia in distance learning. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 30(1) pp. 53–72.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02680513.2015.1031647

Abstract

In modern language (ML) distance learning programmes, teachers and students use online tools to facilitate, reinforce and support independent learning. This makes it essential for teachers to develop pedagogical expertise in using online communication tools to perform their role. Teachers frequently raise questions of how best to support the needs of their diverse groups of adult language learners. This is particularly relevant in the case of modern language students with learning difficulties, including dyslexia, whose previous experiences of language learning can sometimes be negative and frustrating. This case study relates to a staff development project which took place between December 2012 and June 2013 at the Department of Languages in the Open University, UK, and involved 12 ML teachers across a range of languages and levels. In the Dyslexia and Modern Language Learning project, teachers worked and learnt together to: (1) develop understanding of key issues in relation to ML learning and dyslexia, (2) share good practice and experiences through reflection and collaboration, (3) find effective methods and strategies to support adult ML learners with dyslexia and (4) facilitate the joint design of learning resources for the online environment. The study presents the findings and the outcomes of the project, including the set of teaching and learning resources produced by the teachers as well as their recommendations on good practice. It also discusses the impact of the project on developing ML teachers’ attitudes and practices when supporting adult students with dyslexia.

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