Theses Doctoral

Learning from Experience: The Practice of Teachers with Dyslexia Working with Special Education Students in Massachusetts

Brooks, Lisa

This qualitative study sought to expand what is known about best practice for students with dyslexia in public schools. Despite its prevalence, there is confusion in the education field about what dyslexia actually is, how to identify it, and how to best remediate the difficulties associated with it. An untapped source of educational insight is teachers who have dyslexia and what they have gleaned from their experiences. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of 20 Massachusetts teachers with dyslexia as they reflected on their own experiences in special education. Utilizing semi-structured interviews that included critical incident questions, answers to the following research questions were sought: (a) What did teachers with dyslexia say they learned from their experiences in and out of the classroom setting with respect to self-concept, resilience, and their journey to becoming a teacher? (b) In what ways have teachers’ own experiences as learners and teachers with dyslexia influenced the ways that they currently practice? (c) In what ways did teachers with dyslexia perceive their learning disability affected their ability and capacity to teach students with dyslexia?

Participants described traumatic experiences that resulted from teacher misinformation or late diagnoses. Results included strong support for increased teacher knowledge and understanding about dyslexia, including the variability and complexity of the profile, training in scientifically-based reading interventions and carefully chosen classroom placement, and recognition that dyslexia continues across the lifespan. Results were analyzed with feedback from four member check participants and input from three higher education dyslexia experts.

The researcher made four conclusions: (1) Teacher training about the dyslexic profile is vital for all teachers; (2) All reading teachers must learn scientifically-based systematic phonetic reading approaches and access to such training must be improved; (3) Candidates and teachers with dyslexia have particular skill and empathy for working with students with dyslexia and should be supported; and (4) Teachers with dyslexia should have opportunities to share their voices in educational decision making.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Bitterman, Jeanne E.
Masullo, Susan
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
January 22, 2020