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Introduction Emotions within the learning process has been shown to
affect multiple aspects of an individual’s academic experience
including their performance, enjoyment and self-concept.
Pekrun and colleagues (2006) exhibited that emotional states
are effected by judgments of control over achievement
activities and their outcomes, and of the value one places on
these activities and outcomes.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word
reading and spelling. Therefore coping with the demands of an educational system can be extremely
difficult for those with dyslexia resulting in greater risk of being effected emotional ly but is this the
case for all dyslexics? Findings suggest that dyslexics can and do experience difficulty within the
academic setting on an emotional level, for example exhibiting higher levels of anxiety, learned
hopelessness and anger (Kerr, 2001, Carroll and Iles, 2006, Singer, 2005). This research has mainly
focused on school-age children with fewer studies on students in Higher Education.
This study has investigated the role dyslexia has on emotion
within an higher education academic setting, venturing to see
if there are differences within the higher education collective
and if so in what domains do these operate in, comparing
emotions within class and during learning(or study).
Method: An anonymous online -based questionnaire (figure:1) was used to collect
responses from both dyslexic and control (non-dyslexics) students. Participants accessed
questionnaire via a web link where answers were given on a likert scale.
Materials: The Achievement Emotions Questionnaire (AEQ) is a multi-dimensional self-report
instrument designed to assess college students’ achievement emotions (Pekrun et al, 2002). The
emotions of happiness, anger, anxiety and hopelessness are examined in the academic
achievement situations of attending class or studying.
Recruitment and Participants: Both groups were recruited via online advertisement on social
networking sites Facebook (Figure:2). in addition to this The dyslexic group was also recruited
via the Aberdeen university student support network email system. 141 participants
completed the survey of which 80 were dyslexics and 61 were non dyslexic. Of the total 91
where females, 50 were males the group ranged from 16-20 to over 30 years, also of this survey
cohort 59 studied within arts and 80 within science.
it is important to remember that all of the participants were highly capable students, able to
enter higher education ,and as dyslexia is a highly heterogeneous learning disability, with
other factors other than a diagnosis of dyslexia being contributory demonstrating that
motivation and self -determination drastically effecting experience(fields et al, 2003).
We must endeavour to further our research in to this field to try and understand the facets of this difference as
2.6% of the student population in the UK (HESA, 2008) have dyslexia. One such reason for this difference
shown by studies such as Singleton (1999), is that these students, compared to non-dyslexics, spend much more
time and effort on their work in order to achieve accepted levels of academic competence, inadvertently causing
the emotions exhibited by understanding the learning process we may gain greater insight .
These experiences and emotions don’t just stop on graduation, Hughes and Dawson (1995) exhibit that a
pattern of failure at school can leading to long-lasting negative feelings of self-worth together with perceptions
of low personal intelligence leading to a vulnerability to depression(ALBSU, 1988). But there is hope Several
studies(NJCLD, 1999. Stampoltzis and Polychronopoulou, 2008) have provided remedies to these Issues in that
individualised proactive support from the institutions can alleviate these emotions.
I would like to thank my thesis supervisor
Paul bishop for his continued support and
granting me the opportunity to undertake
this research. Also This project would not
be possible without the support of Dr Lucy
M. Foley, Head of Student Support at the
university of Aberdeen Student Advice and
Support Office. Who was pivotal in gaining
access to dyslexic students. Finally I would
like to thank Lillian Snowden for proof
reading and both herself and Alan
Snowden for their unrelenting support.
Learning Disabilities: Issues in
Higher Education. A Report from
the National JointCommittee on
Learning Disabilities (NJCLD), Vol.
22, No. 4 pp. 263-266
Stampoltzis, A. and
Polychronopoulou, S. (2008), Dyslexia
in Greek higher education: a study of
incidence, policy and provision.
Journal of Research in Special
Educational Needs, 8: 37–46.
Pekrun, R., Elliot, A. J., & Maier ,
M. A. (2006) Achievement goals and
discrete achievement emotions: a
theoretical model and prospective
test. Journal of Educational
Psychology, 98, 583–597
Marsh, H.M. (1990) Influences of
internal and external frames of
reference on the formation of math
and English self-concepts. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 82 (1990),
Higher Education Statistics Agency
(2008) Student tables: Table 11b—
first year UK
domiciled HE students by
qualification aim (#12), mode of
study, gender and disability
Hughes, W., & Dawson, R. (1995).
Memories of school: Adult dyslexics
recall their school days. Support for
Learning, 10(4), 181–184.
Singleton, C. H. (Chair). (1999).
Dyslexia in Higher Education: Policy,
provision and practice (The Report of
the National Working Party on
Dyslexia in Higher Education
Kerr, H. (2001), Learned Helplessness
and Dyslexia: A Carts and Horses
Carroll, J. M. and Iles, J. E. (2006),
An assessment of anxiety levels in
dyslexic students in higher education.
British Journal of Educational
Psychology, 76: 651–662.
Singer, E. (2005). The strategies
adopted by Dutch children with
dyslexia to maintain their self-esteem
when teased at school. Journal of
Learning Disabilities, 38(5), 411-423.
Field, S., Sarver, M. D., & Shaw, S. F.
(2003). Self-Determination A Key to
Success in Postsecondary Education
for Students with Learning
Disabilities.Remedial and Special
Education, 24(6), 339-349.
Responses from a modified version of the AEQ have demonstrated that within this study’s
dyslexic cohort, when assessed, had significantly greater mean Likert scores on the negative
emotions of anxiety and hopelessness compared to a non-dyslexic control cohort. This study
was unable to report a significant difference between the participant groups on anger and
enjoyment, although mean responses from dyslexics were greater for both emotions, also
anger was only marginally insignificant.
The context had an impact on responses from all participants within the study, as there was
significant emotional different between the contexts assessed for all emotions assessed. When
participants were asked to imagine themselves during study, higher mean responses were
reported than when asked to imagine themselves in class. This current study was not able to
report an interaction between the dyslexic status of the higher education students and the
context in which they were asked to imagine themselves in for any of the emotions assessed,
in that we were unable to find a context in which dyslexic’s expressed a significantly greater
emotional response than non-dyslexic peers.
We have found a significant difference in between response for
anxiety with dyslexics (M= 3.172, SD=.091) and non-dyslexics
(M=2.713, SD=.105), F(1,138)= 10.985, p= .001. There was a
significant main effect of a context on responses on assessment
of anxiety levels in class (M=2.745, SD=.074) and studying
(M=3.140, SD=.076), F(1,138)=43.927, p= >.001. There was no
significant interaction between context and presence or absence
of dyslexia F(1,138)= 1.758, p=0.187.
We have found a significant difference in between mean
responses for hopelessness with dyslexics (M=2.363,
SD=.106) and non-dyslexics (M=1.992, SD=.122),
F(1,138)=5.265 , p= .023. There was a significant main effect
of a context on responses on assessment of hopelessness
levels in class (M=2.002, SD= .080) and studying (M=2.352,
SD=.089), F(1,138)=724.958, p= >.001. There was no
significant interaction between context and presence of
dyslexia F(1,138)= .087, p= .768.
We have found no significant difference in between response for enjoyment with
dyslexics (M=3.454, SD=.067) and non-dyslexics (M=3.341, SD=.077), F(1,138)= 1.232 ,
p= .269. There was a significant main effect of a context on responses on assessment of
enjoyment levels in class (M=3.269, SD= .055) and studying (M=3.526, SD=.058),
F(1,138)=27.542, p= >.001 There was no significant interaction between context and
presence or absence of dyslexia F(1,138)= .003, p=.958.
We have found there to be marginally no significant difference in between response for
anger with dyslexics (M=2.736, SD=.076) and non-dyslexics (M=2.527, SD= .087),
F(1,138)= 3.273 , p= .073. There was a significant main effect of a context on responses
on assessment of anger levels in class (M= 2.497, SD=.068) and studying (M=2.767,
SD=.062) F(1,136)= 21.205, p= >.001. There was no significant interaction between
context and presence or absence of dyslexia F(1,136)= .198, p= .657.