Weekly Digest #32: Evidence-based Learning Strategies for Learning Disabilities

Weekly Digest #32: Evidence-based Learning Strategies for Learning Disabilities

This week we were asked on Twitter about learning strategies for teens with learning disabilities. Similarly to when we were asked about procrastination a few weeks ago, this was not within our areas of expertise, so we decided to do some research and put together this digest. Of course, “learning disabilities” is a very broad category, and the suggestions for, say, dyslexia may be quite different to those for ADHD. The sources we present here address a broad range of learning disabilities and strategies, and should serve as a jumping-off point for more in-depth blog posts in the future.

 
Image from Wikimedia

Image from Wikimedia

We first wanted to determine whether any of the effectiveness of the 6 learning strategies had been examined in children or adults with learning difficulties. While there were a few relevant papers (which we’ll write about in an upcoming blog post), there were no non-academic, open-access write-ups of them. This press release on a study about retrieval practice and traumatic brain injury was the only thing we could find! In this study with 10 severely impaired individuals, retrieval practice was compared to massed study and spaced study, and was clearly more effective than both for memory of word pairs.

 
Image from Wikimedia

Image from Wikimedia

We next searched more broadly for evidence-based resources on learning disabilities. The Reading Rockets project is dedicated to communicating research about reading to everyone involved with teaching children to read – in fact, their vision and goals seem quite similar to ours, but in the domain of reading:

“We bring the best research-based strategies to teachers, parents, administrators, librarians, childcare providers, and anyone else involved in helping a young child become a strong, confident reader. Our goal is to bring the reading research to life — to spread the word about reading instruction and to present "what works" in a way that parents and educators can understand and use.”
 
Image from Pranav on Flickr

Image from Pranav on Flickr

The LD@school website is produced by the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario and serves to inform and equip educators with evidence-based tools for supporting children with learning disabilities:

“The LD@school website features evidence-based, evidence-informed and practice-informed approaches, practices and strategies that can be put directly to use in the classroom. The website includes other resources and professional development materials such as videos, podcasts, webinars, blogs, articles and student success studies. The site also features an online community where educators can share their thoughts and find answers to issues relating to teaching students with learning disabilities.”

The link we selected describes the various mathematical skills that children need to acquire, and what techniques can be used to scaffold each one.

 
Pic by resource author

Pic by resource author

Recent research suggests that note-taking on the computer is less effective than note-taking by hand. This post on our own blog was written by a student who suffers from dysgraphia (a learning disability that affects one’s ability to write by hand), but devised his own way of taking notes on the computer to overcome those drawbacks. Without even realizing it, Martin was integrating effective learning strategies from cognitive psychology into his computerized note-taking practice, including self-explanation, retrieval practice, and interleaving. This post is a great reminder of how humans can compensate for areas of weakness.

 
From linked source

From linked source

This amazing set of resources consists of 41 one-page summaries of the literature on the effectiveness of learning disability interventions ranging from ineffective interventions such as Braingym and Weighted Vests, to evidence-based interventions including Response Card and Direct Instruction. The penultimate briefing, “Is it a scam?”, gives 13 red flags that can be used to identify ineffective interventions.

Note: We originally included a story [The Woman Who Fixed Her Own Brain] about Barbara Arroswmith Young, who claims to have “fixed her brain”. We found this story through an interview with the woman herself alongside our mentor Roddy Roediger, and so we mistakenly assumed the source was legitimate. We were soon alerted by Holly Shapiro [raviniareadingcenter.com] @RaviniaReading and Miriam Fein @MiriamFein that this source was not evidence-based, and Miriam Fein was the one who recommended the excellent MUSEC briefings as a replacement. We thank them for their feedback.


Every Sunday, we pick a theme and provide a curated list of links. If you have a theme suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Our 5 most recent digests can be found here:

Weekly Digest #27: Resources for Teaching Content Curation

Weekly Digest #28: The Effectiveness of Study Groups

Weekly Digest #29: Why do You Procrastinate, and What Can You do About it?

Weekly Digest #30: Learning and Attention

Weekly Digest #31: Exercise and Learning

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