|The needs of New Zealand adults with dyslexia are typically not sufficiently catered for in the tertiary education system (Rowan, 2010a; Tunmer & Greaney, 2010). In recent years efforts have been made to increase training opportunities for adult learners with literacy needs and to enhance the quality of teaching (Tertiary Education Commission, 2010b). This challenge can only be met if New Zealand adult literacy educators are adequately prepared in teaching learners with dyslexia. Research suggests they are not (Benseman, Sutton & Lander, 2005b; Dymock & Nicholson, 2012; Leach, Zepke & Haworth; 2010).
The purposes of the study were (a) to investigate the need among adult literacy educators in New Zealand to engage in training or professional development (PD) in order to improve their capability to cater for the needs of adult dyslexic learners; (b) to measure their perceived confidence as well as their perceived and actual knowledge levels in three areas: language, reading development, and dyslexia; and (c) to measure the effectiveness of targeted training and professional development.
An online survey was conducted with 137 staff at tertiary organisations, including PTEs, ITPs and Wānanga. Post-survey, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 4 adult literacy educators. The online survey included a questionnaire and a knowledge assessment. The questionnaire measured educators’ confidence levels in meeting the needs of dyslexic learners, their perceived training need, and their perceived levels of knowledge in the areas of language, reading development and dyslexia. The knowledge assessment measured the actual levels of knowledge in these three areas.
The results suggested that there is a high need among New Zealand adult literacy educators to engage in training or professional development in dyslexia, that they feel less than confident in meeting the needs of dyslexic learners, and have insufficient knowledge in areas relevant to the teaching of dyslexic learners. Perceived knowledge levels exceeded actual knowledge levels, indicating unrealistic self-evaluations of knowledge. A comparison of the test results of educators who had and those who had not engaged in dyslexia training indicated that targeted training and professional development is effective in raising educators’ awareness and understanding of dyslexia.
Implications support the development and reform of training and PD opportunities in dyslexia to better prepare, inform and educate New Zealand adult literacy educators.