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Developmental Dyslexia in primary school children – an investigation of the effectiveness of teachers’ risk judgments. date by Supervisor

School of Applied Sciences

About the Project

The aim of the project is to examine decision-making processes in primary school teachers faced with children at risk of developmental dyslexia (DD). In line with the Scottish and the UK Governments policies, teachers are now responsible for identifying and supporting children with DD. If the risk is not recognised in the first instance by the teachers then no further assessment or support of specialist teachers can be offered. This in turn lowers the chance of children meeting their educational and personal potential. Lack of, or late, diagnosis and targeted intervention may lead to negative outcomes such as low self-esteem, behavioural and mental issues (Eissa, 2010) or even tendency to engage in crime (Rack, 2005; Selenius & Hellström, 2015).

Recognition of dyslexia requires expertise (Rose, 2009). Typical characteristics of dyslexia are not always easily recognised due to coping strategies developed by children (Tamboer et al., 2016), or poor understanding of dyslexia amongst teachers (Dyslexia Action, 2012). Adding to this complexity, there are other characteristics that may have an effect on teacher’s decision making. Shaywitz (1996), for example, identified gender bias amongst teachers: although she found no gender differences in dyslexia incidence in her study when the research team performed dyslexia identification, boys were more likely to be recognised as at risk when judgements were made by teachers. Other factors that could potentially sway teachers’ decisions are the children’s: socio-economic status, having English as an additional language

(EAL) or intelligence level. Research on the impact of these factors on dyslexia prevalence is not consistent and largely confusing.
Given that schools hold many types of information on each child, and bearing in mind that dyslexia is complex and can manifest in many different ways, it is important to investigate how teachers process the information available to them in order to make a decision. As there is very limited research looking into dyslexia risk decision making in teachers, this project will start from drawing on literature focusing around jury and clinical decision-making in order to explore the known paradigms in those areas and introduce them to the new context that is the subject of the current project.

This mixed-methods, Scotland-wide project will: 1) provide an insight into current practices in schools through online interviews with teachers; 2) empirically identify how teachers use the data available to them and the type of information they draw on to make the judgement of dyslexia risk through a series of online experiments. A review of the recent literature in order to produce a user-friendly, evidence-based teacher guide reflecting the most up-to-date understanding of dyslexia will be also produced. The findings of this investigation will inform policy makers, practitioners and teacher training providers that in turn will lead to more accurate dyslexia risk judgement practices allowing children to be supported as soon as possible and achieve their educational and personal outcomes.

The project can be conducted both in the full and part time mode.

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in Psychology or in Education with a good fundamental knowledge of research methods.

English language requirement
IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes:
• Experience of fundamental Click here to enter text.
• Competent in standard statistical software (SPSS or R)
• Knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research methods
• Good written and oral communication skills
• Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
• Good time management

Desirable attributes:
Knowledge of developmental dyslexia and/or decision making Previous experience working with children

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded position

Please quote project code SAS0063 in your enquiry and application.

• Completed application form
• CV
• 2 academic references, using the Postgraduate Educational Reference Form (Found on the application process page)
• A personal research statement (This should include (a) a brief description of your relevant experience and skills, (b) an indication of what you would uniquely bring to the project and (c) a statement of how this project fits with your future direction.)
• Evidence of proficiency in English (if appropriate)


Croskerry, P. (2002). Achieving quality in clinical decision making: cognitive strategies and detection of Bias. Acad Emerg Med.; 9(11):1184–204.
Croskerry, P. (2003). The importance of cognitive errors in diagnosis and strategies to minimize them. Acad Med.; 78(8):775–80.
Dyslexia Action (2012). Dyslexia still matters. Surrey: Dyslexia Action
Education Scotland, (June, 2014). Making Sense: Education for Children and Young People with Dyslexia in Scotland Executive Summary. Livingstone, UK.
Eissa, M. (2010). Behavioral and Emotional Problems Associated with Dyslexia in Adolescence. Current Psychiatry, 17(1), 39–47.
Elstein, A.S., Schwarz, A. (2002). Clinical problem solving and diagnostic decision making: selective review of the cognitive literature. BMJ;
Graber, M.L., et al. (2012). Cognitive interventions to reduce diagnostic error: a narrative review. BMJ Qual Saf ; 21:535–57.
Piotrowska, B. (2018). Investigating the performance and underlying mechanisms of a novel screening measure for developmental dyslexia: Implications for early identification. (doctoral thesis). Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK.
Rose, S. J. (2009). Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties, (June).
Tamboer, P., Vorst, H. C. M., & Oort, F. J. (2016). Five Describing Factors of Dyslexia. Journal of learning disabilities. 49(5):466-83

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