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Meet the Guest Editors: A Q&A About the Dyslexia Issue of Literacy Today

 | Oct 17, 2023

The October/November/December issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine, focused on dyslexia.

Tiffany K. Peltier

Guest editors Tiffany K. Peltier, lead learning and delivery specialist for literacy at NWEA, and Marissa J. Filderman, assistant professor at The University of Alabama, saw the issue as a way to help provide clarity on the topic.

In their opening letter, the pair write, “Many struggle to identify evidence-aligned intervention and assessment practices for students at risk for or identified with dyslexia. Understanding what dyslexia is—and what it is not—can better enable us to help students learn how to read and succeed in school.”

Tell us about how you developed your vision for this special issue of Literacy Today. What were your goals? How did you choose your authors and topics?

Marissa J. Filderman

There has been a lot of progress in understanding dyslexia and the science of reading over recent years. Our primary goal was to translate some of the most recent research for practitioners and provide some practical considerations for implementation. We also sought to include diverse perspectives, including early career researchers to full professors, individuals with dyslexia, and researchers with expertise in related fields. We were honored that these authors chose to contribute their time and voice to this issue.

There are common threads throughout the issue. Several articles connect well to each other and even promote each other, like mentioning the piece from Ashley Edwards and colleagues on the set for variability strategy multiple times. Was that cohesion important to you in planning? Why?

The specific connections between the articles actually came about organically. Some aspects are threaded throughout reading development; for example, set for variability and mispronunciation correction are two components of instruction that have been understudied until recently but are gaining traction because of their importance in learning to read. We were delighted to see the cohesion that emerged throughout the articles and attribute this more to the cultivation of interconnected topics and the well-rounded researchers who contributed.

Pam Stecker discusses screening, data-based decision-making, and progress monitoring for students with dyslexia. Can you elaborate on the importance of data in tailoring instruction and share some practical tips for using data effectively?

We know data use can sometimes feel like just another item to add to teachers’ already overflowing plate. However, when data are used effectively, it can help ensure that the right things are on the plate. Although the measures themselves can be very brief (1–3 minutes per week), data use is an iterative process that occurs over a window of time, so it can take a while to figure out the optimal intervention ingredients. There are some ways in which time gathering data may be optimized. Some examples: Identify times during small-group intervention to implement individual assessment (e.g., oral reading fluency probe) with one student while others work together. You can set up folders for each student with their progress monitoring probes and pull out the probe for that day before students enter the room. Also, set up your software to help. Enter goal formulas that calculate automatically based on students’ baseline scores. Set up graphs that automatically adjust based on the most recent data. This takes a while at the onset, but once it’s set up, it can be used for each student across the years.

Dyslexia in the Literacy Classroom

If you are interested in learning more about dyslexia, check out our free ILA Webinar, Dyslexia: What We Know and What We Want to Know, which was the first in a series of webinars ILA is holding through December that examine how educators can support students with dyslexia. To find out more about these webinars and explore other resources on this topic, including ILA’s latest research advisory, visit our website.

Why did you feel it was important to include the feature article from Corey Peltier, Emma Shanahan, and Tiffany Hogan on learning difficulties that commonly occur alongside dyslexia?

We have made large strides in implementing laws around the United States to raise awareness, enact new training, and implement screening and intervention. However, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and developmental language disorder are just as common among students and have very little awareness. We need to be sure to advocate for more training in these difficulties as well, especially because they commonly co-occur with dyslexia and can greatly impact student achievement.

In the feature article by Marissa, Christy Austin, and Courtney Bowman, they discuss the challenges of navigating the educational research landscape. Why was it important to include this topic in an issue on dyslexia?

We felt it was important to include this article because there has been a lot of (mis/dis)information shared online regarding dyslexia and reading intervention. There are individuals who share their work with the best of intentions, but who do not have the expertise to conduct rigorous research and thus their work has the potential to misinform. Because of all the information shared online, it can be difficult to identify trustworthy sources. It was important to us that the article provide some ways for teachers to identify research-based evidence and to protect themselves from sources of (mis/dis)information. Working across disciplines of reading research, cognitive science, and communication, the researchers provided this information that we hope will support teachers.

What are the top takeaways overall that you hope readers gain from this special issue?

We hope readers will walk away with the understanding that dyslexia isn’t a categorical difference, and the recipe for success in teaching a student with dyslexia isn’t hidden away in a black box. Students with dyslexia have a greater difficulty in connecting sounds to symbols than their peers, but there are other students in our classrooms that have a difficulty with that too. The more we learn about the science behind teaching reading, the greater our impact can be for all students. Providing many opportunities to respond, differentiating instruction based on student need, creating a safe and curious environment for learning, and leveraging expertise within our school buildings and networks are takeaways for educators that can help all students learn.

Learn more in the Dyslexia Issue of Literacy Today.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in blog posts on this website are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of ILA. We have taken reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in blog posts but do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of such information.

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