A study of specific learning difficulties in tertiary education

Gauntlett, David Allan (1988). A study of specific learning difficulties in tertiary education. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000dea4


This study is unique in investigating instances of Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia) among mature students in British institutes of tertiary education. Despite growing awareness of this condition, it is only during the last thirty years that cases of dyslexia among adults have been distinguished from aphasia.

Assessments were conducted using a structured questionnaire, psychometric tests, measures of attainment, vocational interest and personality. Test results provided support for the view that dyslexia is characterised by a discrepancy between language skills and intellectual ability accompanied by measurable cognitive differences. Significant differences were found on tests of short term memory, while spelling difficulties were the most enduring form of written language difficulty. Differences found on measures of personality, are thought to reflect an interaction between personality and coping strategies. Most subjects had felt constrained to take Jobs with a low interest level, ie. they had compromised their vocational interests and subsequently achieved lower socio-economic status than their fathers.

The investigation into the provision made by British universities revealed that very few have any formal policy for dealing with dyslexic students. Most were unable to state what course support or examination concessions were available.

In a study of factors related to modality, dyslexic students took longer to read material and remembered less than other groups. When using multi-modal material dyslexic subjects remembered more but must reconcile improving their recall ability with the expense of spending more time. In a second study of factors thought to influence the marking of scripts It was found that higher marks were not awarded to typewritten scripts free from spelling errors. Changes in format only influenced the focus of the tutors' comments.

The conclusions are that dyslexia does not improve spontaneously, the dyslexic child is likely to become a dyslexic adult who will continue to experience difficulties with language skills, especially spelling, while the individuals educational, social and occupational ambitions are likely to be compromised because of their specific learning difficulties.

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