Dyslexia in higher education: enhancing student belonging and overcoming barriers to achievement through communities of practice
Keywords:dyslexia, community of practice, belonging, confidence, achievement, empowered
Feeling that they belong is a crucial part of a student's learning journey which impacts enjoyment, attainment and retention. Dyslexic students can feel isolated within their diagnosis and do not openly discuss their inherent challenges and strengths, often due to previous educational and/or social misconceptions. In the United Kingdom, with a professional diagnosis, tailored support for this Specific Learning Difference (SpLD) may be sought through government funding known as Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). However, many dyslexic students remain undiagnosed, or do not wish to disclose, and this, combined with a reduction in DSA funding in 2015, has negatively impacted the achievement and affinity of this cohort. Although as a result of this funding cut higher education institutions became legally responsible for making reasonable adjustments to their teaching practices, this broad-brush approach does not support dyslexic students in understanding the many intricacies associated with this SpLD, or how to navigate their learning in a higher education context. To bridge this gap, and help like-minded students share ideas to help others whilst also developing their own skills and confidence, I initiated a community of practice (CoP). After a year of fortnightly meetings, a group of empowered individuals, who had a much deeper understanding of what being dyslexic meant, emerged with newfound confidence, having connected and collaborated with neurologically similar people.
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