Academic confidence and dyslexia at university

References & Appendices

 

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8.1  Construction of the Dyslexia Index Profiler

 

I      Collecting background information – a straw poll of practitioners

Aside from basing the Dx Profiler on evidence about characteristics of dyslexia (sub-section 2.1), an additional foundation to the Profiler was sought to increase its construct validity. Data was collected about the prevalence and frequency of attributes, that is, dimensions of dyslexia, encountered by dyslexia support professionals in their interactions with dyslexic students at their universities. A brief web-poll was designed, built and hosted on the project webpages and a link to the survey was included in an introductory Invitation to Participate sent by e-mail to the respective student service for students with dyslexia at universities across the UK. Where a specific dyslexia support service could not be identified from universities' webpages, the e-mail was sent to a more general university enquiries e-mail address. Through this process, 116 out of the 132 UK Higher Education Institutions identified through the Universities UK database were contacted. Although only 30 replies were received, it was considered that the data in these replies was rich enough to provide substantive support to the development of the Dyslexia Index Profiler.

The rationale for this preliminary enquiry was twofold:

  • By exploring the prevalence of attributes (dimensions) of dyslexia observed 'at the chalk face' in addition to those distilled through the theory and literature reviewed to that point, it was hoped that the data acquired would confirm that the dimensions being gauged through the enquiry were recognizable features of the learning and study profiles of dyslexic students at university.

  • Through analysis of the data collected, value weightings were ascribed so that the output of the Profiler would take account the relative strengths of dimensions, derived from their reported prevalence. Hence a level of dyslexia-ness based on a weighted mean average of values recorded in each of the dimensions would be established for all respondents.

 

Poll Design

 

The survey comprised a bank of 18 statements collectively preceded by the interrogative:

'in your interactions with students with dyslexia, to what extent do you

encounter each of these dimensions?'

A balance of positively-worded, negatively-worded and neutral statements were designed as to ignore this feature of questionnaire design can impact on internal consistency although the practice, despite being widespread in questionnaire design, remains controversial (Barnette, 2000). More recent studies continue to claim that the matter is far from clear and requires further research (e.g.: Weijters et al., 2010)

The 18 statements, labelled 'Dimension 01 ... 18' were:

  1. students’ spelling is generally very poor

  2. students say that they find it very challenging to manage their time effectively

  3. students say that they can explain things more easily verbally than in their writing

  4. student show evidence of being very disorganized most of the time

  5. in their writing, students say that they often use the wrong word for their intended meaning

  6. students seldom remember appointments and/or rarely arrive on time for them

  7. students say that when reading, they sometimes re-read the same line or miss out a line altogether

  8. students show evidence of having difficulty putting their writing ideas into a sensible order

  9. students show evidence of a preference for mindmaps or diagrams rather than making lists or bullet points when planning their work

  10. students show evidence of poor short-term (and/or working) memory – for example: remembering telephone numbers

  11. students say that they find following directions to get to places challenging or confusing

  12. when scoping out projects or planning their work, students express a preference for looking at the ‘big picture’ rather than focusing on details

  13. students show evidence of creative or innovative problem-solving capabilities

  14. students report difficulties making sense of lists of instructions

  15. students report regularly getting their ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’ mixed up

  16. students report their tutors telling them that their essays or assignments are confusing to read

  17. students show evidence of difficulties in being systematic when searching for information or learning resources

  18. students are very unwilling or show anxiety when asked to read ‘out loud’

Fig28.png

Figure 28:   Likert-style scale item continuous range input slider used in the Straw-Poll of dyslexia practitioners

As the poll was to be hosted on the project’s webpages, principal amongst the design ideas was discarding the conventional, Likert scale-item discrete scale-point anchors in favour of input-range sliders (Figure 28). Thus respondents were requested to judge the

frequency (extent) that each dimension was typically encountered in interactions with dyslexic students, as a percentage of all interactions with dyslexic students, by moving the slider along the scale.

 

Options ranged from 0%, labelled 'never', with the default position set at 50%, labelled 'in about half' to 100%, labelled 'all the time' It was anticipated that respondents would naturally dis-count repeat visitors from this estimate although to do so was not made explicit in the instructions so that the preamble to the questionnaire could be as brief as possible. It was also assumed that respondents would appreciate that  ‘80% of students being disorganized' and 'disorganization' being encountered in 80% of interactions with students are different. The latter response was expected. The default position was set at the midpoint of the slider scale.

 

One early study explored the effect of different survey design features included an examination about how the default position of input range sliders impacted on output, reporting no significant differences found between the zero position being set as the default in comparison to the midpoint of a range scale (Couper et al., 2006). The incorporation of continuous rating scales, often referred to as visual analogue scales, in online survey research is relatively new although as new web-authoring protocols are being developed, the process is now becoming easier to implement in web-survey designs. Hence the effects of such innovations on data quality and participant responses are beginning to attract research interest (Treiblmaier & Flizmoser, 2011), which, for example, suggests that using input-range sliders can increase data quality (Funke & Reips, 2012).

 

Thus this poll also served as a pilot study to gauge reaction to the continuous range input sliders to determine whether their use may be appropriate for the project's main research questionnaire later. Hence it was encouraging that positive feedback was received from several respondents, who typically liked the clarity and ease of use of the sliders, and the functionality that provided much finer response judgements to be made.

The 18 dimensions chosen were a representative list of dimensions of dyslexia, developed from both anecdotal experience and evidence from literature. This was stated in the preamble to the poll and a space was provided for other attributes encountered to be recorded together with their % prevalence. In the event, 24 additional characteristics were recorded with most stated by just one respondent with the notable exception of ‘poor confidence…’ recorded by four respondents. Table 30 shows the distribution of additional characteristics, the number of times these were recorded and where given, the % prevalence in encounters with dyslexic students.

 
 
 
Table31_edited.png

Table 30:    Additional attributes of dyslexia reported by practitioners

Data received from the poll submissions were collated, and in the first instance the mean average prevalence for each dimension was calculated. This indicates the average frequency (that is, extent) that each dimension was encountered (Table 31). The objective of the poll was to inform the development of the Dyslexia Index (Dx) Profiler and this was achieved by incorporating prevalence levels derived from this poll into the analysis of data later received from students through the Dx Profiler in the main questionnaire. This was achieved by using the mean percentage prevalence derived from results in this poll to generate weighting values for each dimension in the main questionnaire. In this way, aggregating input-values provided by respondents to each dimension in the Profiler on a weighted mean basis would generate a more representative Dyslexia Index value – that is, their level of dyslexia-ness.

 
Table32_edited.png

Table 31:    Mean prevalence of dyslexia dimensions

Hence it was considered that this would add to the discriminative power of the Dx Profiler for identifying quasi-dyslexic students from the research group of (declared) non-dyslexic students to generate the Test research subgroup, and to also establish the Control, and Base subgroups.

Feeding straw poll results into the construction of the Dx Profiler

In the main research questionnaire, the Dyslexia Index Profiler formed the final section. All 18 dimensions of this poll were included. Two additional dimensions were included to provide some information about learning biography: Firstly to gain a sense of how the respondent remembered difficulties they may have experienced in learning to read in early years; secondly about similar-letter displacement mistakes in their early writing:

  • when I was learning to read at school, I often felt I was slower than others in my class

  • In my writing at school, I often mixed up similar letters like 'b' and 'd' or 'p' and 'q'

Evidence relating to dyslexia in children suggests that it can be characterised by a child's early difficulties in acquiring peer-comparative reading skills where letter reversals in early writing often also occurs. This is suggested to be one factor which aggravates the visual decoding of letter combinations into sounds internally, possibly contributing to inconsistencies in reading comprehension or mis-comprehension of words, both singularly and in sentence contexts (Lachmann & Gueyer, 2003, Liberman et al., 1971). These dimensions were not included in the poll to dyslexia support professionals as it was felt that they would be unlikely to have knowledge about these aspects of a student's learning biography. Hence the 18 dimensions surveyed in the poll, together with the two additional ones, formed the statement-set for the Dyslexia Index Profiler.

 

Dimensions were re-phrased into the first person to encourage a reflective engagement with the participant and in order to meet one of the key design objectives for the Profiler that it should be relevant to all student respondents. However it is recognized that designing questionnaire items in such a way as to best ensure the strongest response veracity can be challenging. Setting aside design styles that seek to minimize random error, the literature reviewed appears otherwise inconclusive about the cleanest methods to choose and, significantly, little research appears to have been conducted about the impact of potentially confounding, latent variables hidden in response styles that may be dependent on questionnaire formatting (Weijters, et al., 2004).

 

The complete list of 20 statements together with the statement weightings derived from percentage prevalence in the poll is shown in Table 32. It can be seen that the two additional dimensions were each weighted by a factor of 0.80 to acknowledge the strong association of these characteristics of learning challenges in early reading and writing with dyslexia biographies.

 
Table33_edited.png

Table 32:    The 20 dyslexia dimensions and their respective aggregation weightings

Reverse coding data

 

The data collected in the Dx Profiler is numerical in nature and aggregated summary values were calculated for each respondent to generate their Dyslexia Index value, thus representative of their level of dyslexia-ness. It was considered appropriate to aggregate the input-values in such a way that a high final Dx value points towards a strong dyslexic profile. However, the Dx Profiler was designed to include a balance of positively and negatively phrased statements (see sub-section 3.2(II)), and so were dimension-statement values aggregated without taking account of whether a high or a low value was a marker of dyslexia, the Dyslexia Index value would be mis-represented.

 

Hence the data outputs from some statements needed to be reverse-coded to ensure that the aggregated, weighted mean average value was not inadvertently skewed. Although this could have been achieved ‘by eye’ where a high or a low value would be a marker of dyslexia (Table 33), to consider more scientifically which dimensions should have their scores reverse-coded, a Pearson Product-Moment Correlation calculated the measure of the association (r) between each statement and the complete aggregated Dyslexia Index value. The value for the dimension being considered was temporarily removed from the aggregate in each case.

 

This process was only possible once all questionnaires had been received at the end of the data collection process. It is acknowledged that the process has limitations, not least is that even with the dimension being correlated with the others being removed from the aggregate, that may still leave other dimensions in the aggregation which may subsequently be shown to be better included, were their values reverse-coded.

 
Table34_edited.png

Table 33:    Correlation coefficients r and coding/reverse-coding indicators for Dyslexia Index dimensions

The deciding criteria used was this: if the expectation is to reverse-code a statement's data and this is supported by a strong negative correlation coefficient, hence indicating that statement is negatively correlated with Dx, then the reverse-coding process would be applied to the data. If the correlation coefficient indicates anything else – that is, ranging from weak negative to strong positive – the data would be left as it is. H/L indicates whether a High or a Low score is expected to be a marker for dyslexia and 'RC' indicates a statement that is to be reverse-coded as a result of considering r. In the event, only dimension #2: 'my spelling is generally very good' was reverse-coded due to a relatively high negative correlation with Dx of r = - 0.51. It of note that of the other dimensions that were thought likely to require reverse-coding indicated in the table as 'L', their correlations with Dx is close to zero which suggests that either reverse-coding or not will not impact on the aggregated final Dyslexia Index unduly.

In summary, the Dx Profiler calculated Dyslexia Index for each respondent using a weighted mean average of the complete set of 20 dyslexia dimensions, weightings derived from the prevalence of characteristics determined through the poll of dyslexia support practitioners, with only the value of Dimension #02, relating to spelling, being reversed in the aggregated value.

8.2  The Research Questionnaire

The project’s research questionnaire was only available electronically. The questionnaire was constructed as a web-based electronic form using Adobe Dreamweaver web-authoring software. Once complete and tested, the questionnaire was hosted on the project webpages where it remains available for inspection [At: http://www.ad1281.uk/researchQNR.html]. Students who responded to the Invitations to Participate, either directly through the link e-mailed to them by the University’s Dyslexia and Disability Service, or from the publicity notice published on the University’s student-facing intranet, were taken to the opening page of the questionnaire suite of pages. Explaining briefly the context of the research, this opening page also provided access to the Participant Information Statement and the Participant Informed Consent Statement. Participants were required to acknowledge that they had viewed both of these documents in order to gain access to the research questionnaire.

 

I      Preliminary information

 

Research participant Information Statement

  • You are being invited to participate in a research study but before you decide to take part, it is important for you to understand why the research is being conducted and what it will involve. Take your time to read the following information carefully and discuss it with others if you wish. Please contact the researcher or the researcher's supervisor if there is anything that is not clear or if you would like more information.

  • If you decide to take part after reading this information sheet, you will next be asked to give your consent to the data that you provide being used in the research and following that you can access the research questionnaire.

  • The research questionnaire is asking about your attitudes towards your learning and your confidence in approaches to studying at university. Your answers will be providing valuable data for the research which is broadly exploring the relationships between academic agency amongst university students and how this is affected by learning differences such as dyslexia or other learning challenges.

  • All data that you provide is collected anonymously, you are not asked to identify yourself or provide any contact details and so everything that you report in the questionnaire cannot be attributed back to you as a named person at any time.

  • Participation in the research is entirely voluntary and if you decide to take part you can withdraw at any time without providing a reason. Even after you have completed the research questionnaire and sent it, you will still be able to anonymously request that the data you have provided should be removed and erased.

  • The research questionnaire comprises a number of question item statements which invite you to judge your level of concurrence (agreement) with them using a Likert-style responder. You should be able to complete the complete questionnaire in about 15-20 minutes. The data that it provides will form part of the analysis to inform the discussion section of the research study, which will conclude with a thesis to be submitted as part of this PhD research project and published on these webpages.

  • The ways in which the data will be used together with your rights as a participant are explained in the Research Participant Informed Consent Statement which follows this information sheet.

  • The data collection process of this research project has been approved by Middlesex University Education Department Ethics Sub-committee (July 2015) with documentation available for inspection here {a link was provided to the relevant documentation].

 

 

Participant informed consent statement

Participant Informed Consent Statement - by moving forward from this page to the questionnaire, it will be assumed that you have agreed to participate in the research and that:

  • you have understood that the answers you provide in the questionnaire and the data that is generated will be completely anonymously received by the researcher and not identifiable directly to you;

  • you have understood that you have the right to withdraw from participation in the project at any time without any obligation to explain your reasons for doing so;

  • you have understood that you can request the researcher to remove and erase any data that your questionnaire reply generates provided your request to do so is received by the researcher before the formal data analysis process begins in January 2016. (Details about how to request removal of data are provided after the questionnaire has been submitted);

  • you have understood that the data that your questionnaire reply generates will be used as part of the process of data analysis and will form part of the publication of the research project outcomes, and that as a result of the anonymity of your data as received by the researcher, nothing in any publication can be attributed to your contribution.

 

II     The Research Questionnaire

The Research Questionnaire remains fully operational and is available on the project webpages at: http://www.ad1281.uk/researchQNR.html

Screenshot representations of the five sections are provided below, followed by some explanatory notes.

Fig29_edited.png
Fig30_edited.png
Fig31_edited.png
Fig32_edited.png
Fig33_edited.png
Questionnaire Notes
  • A representation of the input-range slider controls is shown. By moving the control to the left or the right of the default, central position, which represented 50%, a number value was recorded between 0 and 100%.

  • The sections of the questionnaire were not labelled 1,2, etc because each section was revealed in turn with other sections remaining hidden, achieved using controls on the webpage.

  • The Psychometric Scale (Section 3, above) comprised 6 sub-scales of 6 items each which were attempting to gauge respectively:

    • Learning related emotions

    • Anxiety regulation and Motivation

    • Academic Self-efficacy

    • Self-esteem

    • Learned helplessness

    • Academic Procrastination

 

In the event, data collected from this scale was not used in the Results and Analysis (section 4) and hence not referred to in the Discussion (Section 5). The reasons for this are presented in sub-section 3.2(II). This data will not be discarded as it is planned to return to at a later date for inclusion in a subsequent report.

  • Participants submitted their questionnaire using a control on the webpage which converted the data into tabular form that was automatically sent through e-mail. Simultaneously, the questionnaire was displaced by an Acknowledgement of its receipt which included a thank you for participating together with an unique, Questionnaire Respondent Indicator (QRI). This 8-figure number was randomly generated by a short script on the questionnaire webpage, was included as part of the questionnaire data submitted, and was devised to enable any participant who wanted to withdraw their data after submitting it to do so. This would have been achieved by following a link on the Acknowledgement page to the Participant Revocation Form, where the QRI could be inserted into a form field. On submitting this form, a further e-mail would be generated and sent, enabling that specific dataset to be removed from the datapool. In the event, no participants followed this process.

8.3  Ethics approval documentation

 

Ethics application and approval documents are not reproduced here but are available on the project webpages, where a request to view them can be submitted.

Ethics application and approval documents available:

  1. Middlesex University Research Ethics Review Form A;

  2. Middlesex University Ethics Sub-Committee Request for Research Clarification;

  3. Response to Request for Research Clarification;

  4. Middlesex University Form ED17 Ethics Approval;

  5. Middlesex University Independent Field/Location Work Risk Assessment Form FRA1.

 

8.4  Dyslexia Index factor values of respondents in subgroups

These data tables are not reproduced here but are available on the project webpages, where a request to view them can be submitted.

 

8.5  Multiple Regression Analysis Scatterplots

Fig34.png

Figure 34:   Scatterplot of Standardized Residuals against Unstandardized Predicted Values for the complete datapool.

Fig35.png

Figure 35:    Scatterplot of Standardized Residuals against Unstandardized Predicted Values for Research Group: ND.

Fig36.png

Figure 36:    Scatterplot of Standardized Residuals against Unstandardized Predicted Values for Research Group: DI.

Fig37.png

Figure 37:   Scatterplot of Standardized Residuals against Unstandardized Predicted Values for Research Subgroup: ND-400, the Base Group.

Fig38.png

Figure 38:   Scatterplot of Standardized Residuals against Unstandardized Predicted Values for Research Subgroup: DI-600, the Control Group.

Fig39.png

Figure 39:   Normal P-P plot of regression standardized residuals for the complete datapool.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table37_edited.png

Table 37:     Regression models’ correlation coefficients, R, determination coefficients/effect sizes R2, and statistical significances of the models.

Table38_edited.png

Table 38:     Regression models’ ANOVA outputs.

 
 

Andrew Dykes B.Ed., M.A., M.Sc., CELTA, FHEA

Academic confidence and dyslexia at university

A PhD Research Project October 2014 - May 2019

Middlesex University, London

Andrew Dykes B.Ed, M.A, M.Sc, FHEA

ad1281@live.mdx.ac.uk; academic@ad1281.uk

+44 (0)79 26 17 20 26