To Teach or Not to Teach? A study of Dyslexia in Teacher Education
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Disability legislation and the widening of participation to a greater diversity of students requires that universities meet the needs of a growing number of students disclosing dyslexia. Previous research has shown that support for these students is often minimal, and, at best, relies on generic minimal guidelines advised by Disability Services. In addition, negative attitudes towards these students have been identified in the literature. This attitude was particularly prominent in relation to students with dyslexia in teacher education. This case study, conducted in a Scottish university, used semi-structured interviews of students, academic staff, disability support staff, head teachers in schools and documentation and data, to ascertain how the institution supported students with dyslexia in teacher education. Data were collected and analysed using an interpretivist approach where data is analysed inductively through interpretation of the data. Findings suggest that there were examples of an inclusive culture. This included a university wide admissions policy that did not discriminate against dyslexic students on application and entry to teaching, and the establishment of clear lines of responsibility and communication between Disability Services and academic staff regarding student adjustments. It was recognized by academic staff that students with dyslexia were able to use creative strategies in order to overcome the barriers created by dyslexia. However, a fully inclusive ethos was hampered by a belief that students with dyslexia may be unfit to practise as teachers as a result of dyslexia. This was despite the lack of clear evidence that this was the case. The institution therefore needs to look beyond the legal requirements of disability provision by challenging negative cultures. This study suggests that this can be facilitated by the provision of meaningful staff development that promotes equality and diversity and by listening to the voices of the students themselves.
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