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Learning Difficulties Australia Presentation to CCD Stakeholders Workshop Macquarie University 29 April 2014 Our Mission Learning Difficulties Australia.

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Presentation on theme: "Learning Difficulties Australia Presentation to CCD Stakeholders Workshop Macquarie University 29 April 2014 Our Mission Learning Difficulties Australia."— Presentation transcript:

1 Learning Difficulties Australia Presentation to CCD Stakeholders Workshop Macquarie University 29 April 2014 Our Mission Learning Difficulties Australia is an association of teachers and other professionals dedicated to assisting students with learning difficulties through effective teaching practices based on scientific research, both in the classroom and through individualised instruction.

2 2 Our History Established in 1965 as the Diagnostic and Remedial Teachers Association of Victoria Comprised a small group of remedial teachers in Melbourne Core group had received training in remedial education at the Schonell Special Education Centre, University of Queensland Aim was to establish a professional image and support for teachers working with students with learning difficulties

3 3 Expansion to Other States During the 1970s contacts were made with remedial teachers in other states In 1973 it became the Australian Remedial Education Association In 1994 it became the Australian Resource Educators Association In 2001 it became Learning Difficulties Australia

4 4 Our Membership As at 31 December 2013 our membership comprised 414 members made up as follows: Members 187 Consultant Members 103 Life Members 10 Institutional Members 112 Student Members 2 Total414

5 5 Membership by State VIC23356.3 % QLD 7117.1 % NSW 6014.5 % SA 19 4.6 % WA 16 3.9 % Other 15 3.6 % Total 414100.0 % Other: ACT 4, Tasmania 3, NT 1, Overseas 7

6 6 Our Activities Publications Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties LDA Bulletin Professional Development Referral Service Awards Submissions

7 7 Publications Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties Joint Editors: Kevin Wheldall and Alison Madelaine Published by Taylor and Francis (2008 -) First published in May 1969 under the name Remedial Education under the Editorship of Chris Davidson (1969 to 1972) Renamed The Australian Journal of Remedial Education (1972 to 1996, edited by Chris Davidson, assisted by Richard Weigall ) And subsequently Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities (1996 to 2007, edited by Chris Davidson, to 2005, and then by Kevin Wheldall and Alison Madelaine, 2005 - )

8 8 LDA Bulletin Started as a single page information sheet for members In the 1970s broadened to include more content of practical assistance to teachers By 1980s had reached up to 16 pages, with a range of articles directed at teachers Continues to provide information on ongoing LDA activities and PD events, as well as more substantial articles which deal with current issues and debates Latest issue of Bulletin currently available free online on the LDA website, with back issues available to members of LDA

9 9 Professional Development Ongoing program of Workshops and Seminars, focusing on evidence-based practice and effective teaching Based mainly in Victoria, but expanding to NSW and Queensland (two Workshops on explicit instruction in Sydney last year, and one upcoming Workshop on the Gold Cast next month, conducted by Lorraine Hammond) Consultant PD in Victoria – regular PD program for Consultant members, focusing on issues relevant to our Consultants Biennial Joint Conference in Brisbane – in collaboration with SPELD Queensland and the Learning Support Teachers Association of Queensland

10 10 Visiting Overseas Speakers 2009 – Sir Jim Rose Presented at the 2009 Joint Conference in Brisbane, and a series of Seminars in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth 2012 – Linda Siegel Linda Siegel was the recipient of the inaugural Eminent Researchers Award presented by the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, and presented Workshops and lectures in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane 2015 – Louisa Moats Dr Louisa Moats is a recognised authority in the field of learning and reading difficulties in the US. She has been invited to visit Australia as part of LDA’s 50 th Anniversary celebrations. The program for her visit has yet to be finalised.

11 11 Referral Service Established in the early 1970s in response to queries and requests for remedial help for students with learning difficulties Designed to match individual students to qualified remedial teachers Has been a core part of LDA’s services over the last four decades LDA currently has a total of 85 Consultants on the Referral Service register; of these 22 are either ‘full’ or ‘not available’ to take referrals In 2013 LDA received a total of 411 requests for a referral, and of these 141, or 34.3, resulted in a take up LDA is currently in the process of moving to an online Referral Service, along the lines of the APS ‘Find a Psychologist’ Service

12 12 Awards LDA has a series of Awards designed to recognise outstanding work in the field of learning difficulties Mona Tobias Award Recognises contributions in the area of leadership, research, and practice. Bruce Wicking Award Recognises innovative programs or practices relating to the teaching of children with learning difficulties Tertiary Student Award Recognises significant research carried out by a student in the course of their tertiary level studies, which advances the understanding of theoretical and practical issues in the field of learning difficulties

13 13 AJLD Awards In 2012, two new Awards were initiated, funded by Taylor and Francis, publishers of the LDA Journal, the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties AJLD Eminent Researcher Award AJLD Early Career Researcher Award These Awards are designed to recognise significant contributions to research to encourage submissions of high quality research papers to the AJLD to raise the profile of the LDA Journal

14 14 Recipients of the AJLD Awards AJLD Eminent Researcher Award 2012 Linda Siegel 2013 Margot Prior 2014 ?? AJLD Early Career Researcher Award No Awards in this category have as yet been made

15 15 LDA Submissions Submission to the Inquiry of the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs into Speech Pathology Services in Australia Submitted 21 February 2014 Submission to the Review of the National Curriculum Submitted 28 February 2014 Submission to the Draft Australian Curriculum, with Specific Reference to the Sections of the English Curriculum Relating to the Teaching of Beginning Reading Submitted 30 May 2010 Submission to the NSW Legislative Council’s Inquiry into the provision of education to students with a disability or special needs Submitted 19 February 2010

16 16 Links with other organisations No formal links with other organisations LDA has much in common with the various state SPELD organisations Main difference between LDA and SPELD organisations is in membership base LDA membership base is teachers and other professionals dealing with people with learning difficulties (psychologists, speech pathologists) SPELD membership more general, includes parents and others interested in providing support and information

17 Links with other organisations cont. LDA - main focus is on providing information to our members on current theory and evidence-based practice through our publications and professional development program SPELD - main focus is to provide support and advice for people with learning difficulties

18 17 Limitations of LDA Declining membership – from about 600 in early 2000s to about 400 in 2013 Financial constraints – dependent mainly on income from membership fees – no increase in membership fees since at least 2004 Is not a charitable organisation permitted to receives grants and donations

19 Limitations of LDA cont. Dependence on volunteer members of Council for professional input and leadership - time constraints of Council members limits what can be achieved, for example in preparing submissions and position statements Uneven distribution of workload for members of Council Geographic dispersion of members of Council limits opportunities for fact to face contact

20 18 Strengths of LDA Commitment to evidence-based practice (including Response to Intervention approach) An academic Journal that provides a source for publication of Australian studies as well as international studies on research relating to learning difficulties, with a particular focus on effective interventions for students with learning difficulties A Bulletin that provides summary information on theoretical and practical issues relating to provision of support for students with learning difficulties for a non-academic audience

21 Strengths of LDA cont. A PD program with an emphasis on promoting effective explicit instruction and evidence-based practice A Council which includes as members (and ex-members) recognised experts in the field of reading research and in the development and promotion of effective strategies for teaching of reading Capacity to advocate for better teaching and training to serve all students, but particularly those experiencing learning difficulties An informative website which is regularly updated

22 19 Some Comments on LDA Bulletin from overseas readers An invaluable resource in the business of informing people and supporting the challenge to prevailing whole language practice and promotion (Debbie Hepplewhite) It will give the LDA enormous kudos to keep providing such a high-calibre bulletin and will seriously rattle cages of people not into phonics! (Debbie Hepplewhite) I must say that I'm impressed by the level of debate you guys are having. (Joe Elliott) I hope they will continue to give access to their bulletin as an on-going special offer (Sir Jim Rose)

23 20 Issues to be faced Conflict between ideology and science (Why can’t a teacher be more like a scientist?) Widespread adoption of ineffective approaches to teaching of both reading and maths (The ‘reading wars’, and the resistance of teachers to adopt evidence-based practice; ‘fuzzy maths’, and the focus on ‘discovery learning’ rather than systematic teaching of the basic processes to provide a foundation for the mastery of essential concepts in maths) The Educational Bureaucracy (Relies on advice from ‘experts’ which may or may not be evidence–based. Unable to distinguish between good advice and bad advice.) Teacher Training Inadequate training of teachers to teach reading (and maths) effectively. Failure to provide teachers with a sound knowledge of the processes underlying the acquisition of reading skills, and how to teach these skills effectively

24 21 Ineffective treatment programs The failure of the education system to address the needs of students who have persistent ongoing learning or reading difficulties has led to the proliferation of (expensive commercial) programs that offer treatment (and miraculous cures) for learning difficulties. But little or no evidence that any of these programs are effective.

25 22 Examples of Ineffective treatment programs The Dore Prgram The Davis Dyslexia Correction Reading program (Gift of Dyslexia) Irlen Lenses Visual Dyslexia Programs (Cure for dyslexia in 10 one hour sessions, plus structured home exercises) Brain Gym Arrowsmith Program CogMed

26 23 What can be done to inform the public of ‘non- evidence based’ treatments and programs Through publication of articles documenting lack of evidence to support claimed effectiveness of such programs? (e.g. MUSEC Briefings, articles in publications such as the LDA Bulletin, the Conversation, etc.) Through presentation of Seminars and Workshops to relevant audiences to point out the lack of evidence to support such programs? Through the development of ‘advisories’ that can be provided to people who enquire about such programs? Through the development of some sort of register along the lines of the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), to list reading treatment programs as well as programs for other conditions such as autism and Attention Deficit Disorder, that have provided satisfactory evidence of ‘effectiveness’.

27 24 Question Is there a case for developing a voluntary register of ‘acceptable’ reading treatment programs indicating different levels of confidence in the efficacy of the program? See for example Anne Castles’ article in LDA Bulletin, November 2012: Nasty NAPLAN results: What should parents do next? Tim Hannon’s article in InPsych, December 2013: Learning Disorders in Children: Recent Advances in Research and Practice (see

28 25 Research Priorities Research into the processes underlying the development of reading and other areas of learning Identification of underlying causes - or factors associated with - learning difficulties Identification of effective strategies for assisting people with learning difficulties The application of research findings to the establishment of effective programs for prevention or amelioration of problems associated with learning difficulties

29 26 Focus on Reading Difficulties Of students identified with a learning difficulty, 80 per cent have difficulties with reading Reading difficulties affect performance in all areas of learning Reading difficulties often associated with behavioural and other problems Reading difficulties may be associated with low motivation and low self esteem Intervention programs need to focus on intensive support for developing reading and associated skills. Oral language, phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension

30 27 Challenges for the future To paraphrase Robert Sweet, President of the US National Right to Read Foundation, when commenting on the fact that about one third of the American public cannot read proficiently: We KNOW that decades of research in reading instruction have identified the essential elements of an effective reading program We KNOW that virtually all children can learn to read, if taught correctly We KNOW that "teaching phonics" can mean different things to different people, so that not all programs that claim to teach phonics are effective We KNOW that there is a solution to the problem, and that change can occur

31 Challenges for the future (cont.) The challenge is to get this message across to teachers, educational bureaucrats, politicians and the public, so that the necessary steps can be put in place for this change to take place.

32 Learning Difficulties Australia Thank you Molly de Lemos (LDA President) and Alison McMurtrie (LDA Secretary) For further information on LDA, see our website at

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