Learning Difficulties Australia


Understanding Terminology of Teaching those with Learning Difficulties

Please note: definitions marked ** indicate there is weak or no scientific evidence to support effectiveness, with some scientific studies demonstrating children, especially those with LD, receive minimal if any benefit when implemented in the classroom.

In education, accommodations are adjustments or modifications to teaching and learning environments intending to help equalise access to the curriculum and assessment for students with learning difficulties or disabilities. Accommodations can be in the areas of the classroom environment, presentation, language, learning strategies, and assessment, and need not compromise academic standards.

In relation to assessment, accommodations may alter three areas of testing: 1) the administration of tests, 2) how students are allowed to respond to the items, and 3) the presentation of the tests (how the items are presented to the students on the test instrument), but do not alter in any significant way what the test measures or comparability of scores. For examples of typical accommodations see: http://www.ldonline.org/article/Accommodations_for_Students_with_LD


Assistive Technology
Assistive technology is computer software and hardware that provide solutions for students who have difficulty reading or accessing text, either electronic (computer generated) or as hard copy (printed), owing to a print and/or reading disability. Several programs are available such as text prediction, text to speech, speech to text, mind mapping etc. New and emerging devices including iPod Touch models, iPads, eBook Readers and even Smart Phones and Mobile Phones provide opportunities for capturing and scanning information and converting it to voice and sound file formats as well as to text.

The Reading Pen is a portable learning tool for increasing reading autonomy and fluency, and enhancing text comprehension. See: http://www.spectronics.com.au/product/readingpen-ts-oxford 


Some resources are free such as My Study Bar which provides a suite of literacy tools which loads as a floating toolbar so the tool can be available to the user from within any program and can be run from a USB flash drive (memory stick) on any computer - See: http://eduapps.org/?page_id=7 

New programs designed to aid reading and writing are continually being developed.  Also see: http://www.ldaustralia.org/342.html 

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 
ADHD includes any of a range of behavioural disorders characterized by symptoms that include poor concentration, an inability to focus on tasks, difficulty in paying attention, and impulsivity. A person can be predominantly inattentive (often referred to as ADD), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or a combination of these two. Children with ADHD commonly have difficulties learning at school as a consequence of their attentional and behavioural problems. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD can cause difficulty in regulating attention effectively, including paying appropriate attention for the required amount of time and the ability to shift attention to another task. As a consequence, children with ADHD often have difficulties developing the skills of literacy and numeracy that require sustained attention.

Auditory discrimination 
Ability to detect and identify the similarities and differences in sounds; may be gross ability such as detecting the differences between the noises made by a cat and dog, or very specific skill such as detecting the differences made by the sounds of letters "m" and "n." 

Auditory figure-ground 
Ability to attend to and accurately identify and compare specific individual sounds against a background of conflicting sound, (e.g., hearing the teacher's voice against classroom noise). 

Auditory memory 
Ability to retain information which has been presented orally; in short term or working memory, such as recalling information presented several seconds before, or that which has not as yet been learned to mastery and committed to long term memory - such as automatic recall of information which has been learned at any time or sequential memory, such as recalling a series of information in proper or defining order.

Auditory perception deficit
An auditory perceptual deficit can cause difficulty interpreting auditory information (i.e. sound), but is not caused by problems with hearing.


Automaticity is a general term that refers to the performance level of any task when that task can be performed rather easily with little attention, effort, or conscious awareness - such as decoding words, tying shoe laces, handwriting, riding a bike or touch typing. In relation to reading, automaticity is defined as fast, accurate and effortless word identification at the single word level, and is a valid predictor of comprehension. These skills become automatic after varied, but often extended periods of training. With practice and good instruction, students become automatic at word recognition, that is, retrieving words from long term memory, and are then more able to focus attention on constructing meaning from the text rather than decoding. (see Fluency)

Balanced reading instruction (mixed methods)**
Balanced literacy/reading instruction has been suggested as an integrative approach to literacy learning, portrayed by its advocates as taking the best elements of both whole language while also emphasizing phonics. For more information, see, “Whole Language Lives On: The Illusion of "Balanced" Reading Instruction” by Louisa Moats. See: http://learning2read.com.au/articles/systematic-not-%E2%80%9Cbalanced%E2%80%9D-instruction

For a discussion of balanced reading instruction vs direct instruction see: http://educationupdate.com/johnrussell/2014/07/balanced-literacy-vs-direct-instruction.html#.VmfXkjZunIU  

Basal reader
A book that is part of a graded reading series used to teach reading, based on an approach in which words are used and meant to be learned as a whole. The words are used over and over in each succeeding lesson. New words are added regularly.

Big book
Big books are enlarged versions of a reading book, usually illustrated and with very large print, generally used in a teacher guided group of students reading together to teach concepts of print, phonological patterns such as rhyming words and various reading strategies.


Brain based learning**
Advances in neuroscience are said to allow for a greater understanding of how the brain works and can inform educators on what kinds of learning activities are most effective. However, there is no evidence that neuronal processes can be related to classroom outcomes. 

For more information see: Howard-Jones, P. A. (2014). Neuroscience and education: myths and messages. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(12), 817-824.


Central auditory processing
The way in which the brain processes, interprets, and makes use of auditory information. 

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)
Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is the language ability required for academic achievement in a context-specific environment. Examples of context-reduced environments include classroom lectures and textbook reading assignments, where there are few environmental cues (facial expressions, gestures) that help students understand the content. CALP is part of a theory of language developed by Jim Cummins, and is distinguished from Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS).

For further information see: http://esl.fis.edu/teachers/support/cummin.htm


Child-centred learning (also student-centred)**
Child-centred learning is meant to adapt to the needs and concerns of children as opposed to those of adults and has been influenced by the work of John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Noam Chomsky, Ken Goodman and Frank Smith. Child-Centred Educators reject traditional curriculum in favour of hands-on activities and group work in which students determine their own classroom activities. Unstructured, play-based activities are considered superior to teacher-directed. This content-driven learning is believed to teach the ‘whole’ child while respecting children’s individuality. (Terms such as active, co-operative, constructivist, discovery, hands-on, holistic, inquiry, learning by doing, project and thematic are often associated with student-centred learning) 


"Knowledge is constructed by the learner from experience."

A philosophical perspective which views reality as existing mainly in the mind, constructed or interpreted in terms of one's own perceptions. In this perspective, an individual's prior experiences, mental structures, and beliefs bear upon how experiences are interpreted. Constructivism focuses on the process of how knowledge is built rather than on its product or object. 

Piaget's view was that "the child must make and remake the basic concepts and logical thought forms that constitute his intelligence" (Gruber & Voneche, 1977). Proponents of constructivism suggest that the only knowledge worth acquiring is that which a student finds for one's self because it is more likely to be remembered and used.  (The following terms are also associated with Constructivist practices: active, cooperative, discovery, hands-on, holistic, inquiry, learning by doing, project, thematic).

Continuous Assessment 
Continuous assessment is an element of responsive instruction in which the teacher regularly monitors student performance to determine how closely it matches the instructional goal.

Co-operative learning **
A strategy in Progressive/Constructivist education where learning is considered a social activity. Students are split into groups to work communally on a joint assignment. A criticism of this strategy claims that more capable students end up doing most of the work and less capable students gain little from the activity.

Cueing system **
Any of the various sources of information that may aid identification of a word unrecognized at first glance, such as phonics, structural analysis, and semantic and syntactical information - see multicueing, 3 Searchlights, 4 resources.

Developmental Aphasia
Developmental Aphasia is a severe language disorder that is presumed to be due to brain injury rather than a developmental delay in the normal acquisition of language.

See: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Aphasia/

Direct Instruction (DI, di) and Explicit Instruction (EI)

Direct Instruction, Explicit Direct Instruction and Explicit Teaching are terms that are used to describe behaviourist models of teaching.   Direct Instruction (DI), is a fully scripted teaching program (such as Spelling Mastery, Reading Mastery), and di and EI are specific explicit instructional practices that include setting measurable learning objectives, guided practice,  fast paced instruction, worked examples and checking for understanding to maximise student academic achievement.  


Direct Instruction (DI) is published by Scientific Research Associates (SRA) and emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning.


There are four main features of fully scripted DI that ensure students learn faster and more efficiently than any other program or technique available:

  • ·         Students are placed in instruction at their skill level.
  • ·         The program’s structure is designed to ensure mastery of the content.
  • ·         Instruction is modified to accommodate each student’s rate of learning
  • ·         Programs are field tested and revised before publication.

See The National Institute for Direct Instruction at: http://www.nifdi.org/


Explicit Direct Instruction (http://dataworks-ed.com/) and Explicit Instruction (http://explicitinstruction.org/) provide lesson frameworks, engagement norms and strategies to assist teachers to teach one concept at a time and break down the knowledge, strategy or rule students must learn. Teachers provide multiple opportunities for guided practice and regular checking for understanding to monitor student achievement.


Learning difficulties in grasping basic math concepts because of problems with the language aspects of math such as understanding of terms, processes, written symbols and formal procedures, and often memorization of math facts.  A severe difficulty in understanding and using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics. See: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/understanding-dyscalculia

Originally used to describe difficulty in writing legibly because of poor motor function, the term is now used also to describe a processing disorder involving difficulty with spelling that may result from poor decoding skills (sounding out words), as well as problems with organizing information and/or expressing information in written form. A severe difficulty in producing handwriting that is legible and written at an age-appropriate speed - also known as Written Expression Disorder. See: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/understanding-dysgraphia  

Dyslexia is a term used to describe a difficulty with reading words that is persistent, not responsive to remedial intervention, and cannot be attributed to other factors such as poor oral language skills, inadequate instruction, or low ability level.  It is therefore assumed to be due to underlying neurological or genetic factors, primarily affecting the phonological processing skills that are required for reading words.  

A diagnosis of dyslexia is only possible when other possible sources of reading difficulty are excluded, and can therefore be a complex and time-consuming process.  Since the research evidence indicates that effective strategies for addressing reading difficulties are the same regardless of whether the reading difficulty is attributed to dyslexia or to other causes, it has been argued that a diagnosis of dyslexia is not necessary for remediation of reading difficulties, and that resources spent on obtaining a formal diagnosis of dyslexia would be better spent on providing effective support for students with reading difficulties, regardless of the source of the difficulty.


Professor Joe Elliott toured Australia in 2015 presenting a series of Seminars and lectures focusing on issues raised in the book The Dyslexia Debate, he co-authored with Elena Grigorenko. The purpose of the presentations in Australia was to clarify the key arguments in this debate and to consider the relevance of this debate to the way in which students with reading difficulties are identified and supported. For a collection of “dyslexia debate” resources see: https://www.ldaustralia.org/client/documents/LDA%20www%20DD%20lding%20pg%20V3%2008.15%20Revised.pdf

Here is a simple definition:  Dyslexia is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in your native language—despite at least average intelligence.

Here is the research definition used by the National Institutes of Health: Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.   It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.  These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.  Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. 

See: https://dsf.net.au/what-is-dyslexia/

Dyslexia sub-types

There are a number of subtypes of dyslexia that researchers have identified. Some of the more common subtypes are:

  • Dyseidetic dyslexia 

Difficulty processing words as wholes, whether in reading (this is now called surface dyslexia), or in spelling - this is now called surface dysgraphia.

  • Dysphonetic dyslexia
    Difficulty in using the rules relating letters and sounds, either in reading (this is now called phonological dyslexia) or in spelling (this is now called phonological dysgraphia).
  • Hyperlexia
    Children with hyperlexia read words very accurately, often well beyond the level that would be expected for their age and cognitive level, but do not understand much of what they are reading.
  • Phonological dyslexia
    Children with phonological dyslexia show difficulties decoding nonwords and unfamiliar words.
  • Poor comprehenders 

Those who have difficulty understanding meaning from what they are reading and can be identified by administering a reading comprehension assessment.

  • Surface dyslexia
    Children demonstrate a difficulty in reading irregular words aloud – those that do not follow letter-sound rules.

From Jones, K., Castles, A. & Kohnen, S. (2010). Developmental Dyslexia and the Dual-Route Model, Learning Difficulties Australia Bulletin, 42(2).


A marked difficulty in remembering names or recalling words needed for oral or written language. 

Dyspraxia is a disability causing severe difficulty in performing drawing, writing, buttoning, and other tasks requiring fine motor skill, or in sequencing the necessary motor movements. Children who experience these difficulties can often manage a keyboard really well, even from kindergarten, as the motor skill factors of tasks have been removed, so they can then attend to the more cognitive aspects of the task.  

Articulatory verbal dyspraxia is a condition where the child has difficulty making and coordinating the précis movements which are used in the production of spoken language although there is no damage to muscles or nerves. 

See: Afasic Voice for Life UK Glossary 18 - Dyspraxia/apraxia http://www.afasicengland.org.uk/ 

English as a Second Language (ESL)/ English Language Learner (ELL) 
English as a Second Language (ESL) is an educational approach in which English language learners are instructed in the use of the English language. Their instruction is based on a special curriculum that typically involves little or no use of the native language, focuses on language (as opposed to content) and is usually taught during specific school periods. For the rest of the school day, students may be placed in mainstream classrooms, an immersion program, or a bilingual education program. 

Executive Function
An umbrella term referring to a number of cognitive functions associated with goal directed behaviour. The term is thought to refer to prefrontal brain functions, including things like set maintenance, selective attention, working memory, and inhibitory control. Problems with executive function overlap a number of childhood diagnoses, including LD and ADHD, as well as high functioning autism.


Explicit Instruction – see Direct Instruction


Expressive Language 
As contrasted with Receptive Language, Expressive language is generated by the speaker or writer to express meaning. 

Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with appropriate expression and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on what the text means. 


Higher-order skills (HOTS, Higher-order thinking skills)
Deemphasising the acquisition of general knowledge and facts through drill and repetition, and prioritising skills of reading and thinking critically by synthesizing, analysing, reasoning, comprehending, application and evaluation of information, developing metacognitive strategies and problem solving in order to be better prepared for the rapidly changing requirements of the 21st Century. 

See: http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/teaching_higher_order_thinking,37431.html?issueID=12910



When teaching foreign languages, the practice of communicating only in the language being taught. Some schools provide a partial immersion program as a means of teaching foreign language through curriculum instruction instead of being taught as a separate subject.  In beginning reading instruction, another term to describe the Whole Language philosophy of immersing children in the experience of reading and assuming that children can recognize the phonetic patterns in words and intuit the rules without needing to have every rule explicitly taught.


Individual Education Plan (IEP)
An IEP is a plan documenting and reporting on the priority learning outcomes for a student with a specific learning need. The IEP focuses on key goals to promote the maximum development of each student. An IEP is based upon assessment to identify and then to state the student's unique characteristics and needs, educational goals and objectives to meet those needs, and instructional materials and services to be provided. An IEP may also be referred to as ‘NEP’ (Negotiated Education Plan).


Individualised instruction 
Content, materials and pace of learning based on the recognised individual differences, abilities and interests of each learner. Unlike traditional classroom education where the amount of time devoted to a topic is limited and student achievement is variable, properly implemented individualised instruction means that the amount of time devoted to a topic is variable and student achievement is more constant.  Individualized instruction is not the same as one-to-one teaching, but requires carefully prepared instructional materials and teacher guidance. Varying degrees of individualised instruction are used at all levels of education.


Individual Learning Styles, Learning Styles **
"Educational conditions under which a student is most likely to learn." Stewart and Felicetti (1992)

Individual learning styles are based on the assumption that everyone is different, everyone learns differently and therefore individual student outcomes can be improved if learning is provided according to that student’s learning preferred style. Teachers are encouraged vary the educational conditions for students by providing different verbal, aural, concrete and tactile aids and experiences when presenting content.    

However, cognitive science informs us that while individuals do differ in their abilities with different modalities, teaching in an individual’s preferred modality does not affect academic achievement. Academic achievement improves when individuals are taught in the content’s best modality. (The following terms are also associated with individual learning styles: learning styles - auditory, kinaesthetic, modality, tactile, verbal, and visual)

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
A (USA) federal law that entitles children, whose disability requires specialized instruction and related services, to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This special education law, first enacted in 1975, was most recently amended in December 2004, with final regulations published in August 2006 (Part B for school-aged children) and in September 2011 (Part C, for babies and toddlers). So, in one sense, the law is new, even as it has a long, detailed, and powerful history.

See: http://idea.ed.gov/

Instructional Casualty
Instructional causality is a fairly recent term that is used to describe a student who struggles to learn to read due to inappropriate or non-optimal instruction rather than due to any intellectual or neurological disorder within the student.  It is the same as the term ‘dyspedagogia’ which also means ‘faulty teaching’.

Intelligence (general)
Intelligence is the term used in ordinary discourse to refer to cognitive ability.

Intelligence (specific)
Intelligence is a psychological construct referring to the underlying processes that determine abilities related to abstract thought, reasoning, planning, understanding and problem solving, expressed in measurable form as an intelligence quotient (IQ). 

Invented spelling**
Invented spelling refers to the practice of encouraging beginning readers when writing, to spell words from what they know, without expectation to conform to conventional spelling. The idea is that the act of writing, for the beginner, is more important than correctness of form (accurate spelling). Eventually, according to this school of thought, the student will learn and use the correct form. However, the preponderance of empirical evidence on children’s spelling development indicates that children learn to spell correctly faster if taught to do so in a direct and systematic way. 

Language comprehension 
This term should refer to understanding language in any of its forms, but in the vernacular, it has come to be synonymous with listening comprehension. When people use the term "language comprehension," they are typically not referring to sign language, written language, semaphore or smoke signals. Typically, the term is reserved for describing the understanding of spoken language. 

Learned Helplessness 
Learners who acquire a tendency to become passive, depending on others for decisions and guidance demonstrate learned helplessness. In individuals with LD, continued struggle and failure can heighten this lack of self-confidence. It is often attributed to over-zealous ‘support’ provided beyond the real needs of the learner.

Learning Difficulty
In Australia, the term learning difficulty is used to refer to students who experience significant difficulties in learning and making progress in school, but who do not have a documented disability such as an intellectual disability. Approximately 20 per cent of students are generally considered to have learning difficulties in one or more areas of learning.  Most learning difficulties (approximately 80 per cent) are in the area of reading. Within the group of students with learning difficulties there is a smaller subset whose difficulties are more severe and long-lasting, and these students are sometimes described as having a learning disability. However, unlike the situation in the United States, where the category of students with a learning disability is clearly defined for purposes of funding through the US Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), the term learning disability has no precise definition in Australia. It should also be noted that the terms learning difficulty and learning disability are now commonly used in the UK to refer to individuals whose primary disability is an intellectual disability. 

See Graham, L., & Bailey, J. (2007). Learning disabilities and difficulties: an Australian conspectus-introduction to the special series. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40(5), 386.
Learning Disability
The term learning disability originated in the United States, and is associated with a medical rather than an educational approach to the conceptualization of learning problems.  For the purposes of funding under the US Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), a learning disability is defined as ‘a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in a deficient ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. This term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. This term does not include children who have learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; mental retardation; or environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage’. 

See http://www.ldonline.org/about/partners/njcld#topics  for a recent position paper on the definition of learning disability and implications for policy and practice, issued by the US National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) in February 2011. 

Learning to learn (also Metacognition)
Metacognition is knowing about knowing, that is, knowing when and where to use particular strategies for learning or problem solving.  Some educators advocate that since information becomes out-dated but knowing how to access information doesn’t, teachers should not waste time teaching facts but should focus on the skill of learning. However, facts and domain-specific information are a requirement for metacognitive strategies. 


Listening comprehension
Understanding intended meaning from spoken language. Listening comprehension, as with reading comprehension, can be described in "levels" -- from understanding only the facts explicitly stated in a spoken passage that has very simple syntax and uncomplicated vocabulary, to implicit understanding and drawing inferences from spoken passages that feature more complicated syntax and more advanced vocabulary. Accurate listening comprehension is a valid predictor of language comprehension in general and should be assessed in different contexts, especially when reading comprehension skills are poor, indicating that probably weak decoding skills are the cause of poor reading comprehension, not general intellectual ability or lack of prior knowledge.

The ability to read, write and use written language appropriately in a range of contexts, for different purposes, and to communicate with a variety of audiences. ‘Reading and writing, when integrated with speaking, listening, viewing and critical thinking, constitute valued aspects of literacy in modern life’ (DEETYA, 1998, p. 7). In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), reading literacy is defined as the ability to understand, use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate effectively in society.

Look/Say **
With the 'Look and Say' beginning reading method, children learn to recognise whole words or sentences rather than individual sounds. Initially used to teach deaf children how to read by juxtaposing a picture with a word, the method was adopted by a Boston Primary School Committee and it soon became the dominant method in the state. By 1844, however, the defects of the new method became apparent to Boston teachers, who issued an attack against it, urging a return to an intensive, systematic phonics approach.

Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a neuropathologist in Iowa, in 1929 claimed that the cause of children's reading problems was the new sight method of teaching reading.

Low-progress reader
Low-progress readers are identified as the bottom 25 per cent of students who struggle with reading.  This group includes students who may have deficits in phonological processing skills leading to a reliance on compensatory visual and contextual strategies, as well as students whose difficulties in learning to read are associated with ineffective teaching of initial reading (the instructional casualties), and students with a generally low level of intellectual functioning whose difficulties with reading are part of a general pattern of low achievement in all areas of learning.

Memory and learning 
Working memory, our mental work space, is where we process, manipulate and store information over a short period of time. Effective working memory supports learning, especially in the early childhood years to adolescence, and is central to successful learning. There is a wide range in the span of children’s working memory ability and capacity.

There are multiple and interacting cognitive and neural systems - sensory, motor, visuo-spatial, and verbal / language - that feed working memory, with strong connections between sensory perception and memory.  Different kinds of memory include:

  • Procedural memory – the first memory to develop when learning skills, mostly motor, which become automatic and once learned are for life e.g. writing, riding a bike
  • Autobiographic memory – stored facts and sequences of life events
  • Episodic memory – details of particular experiences of recent past, into the present - allows conscious recall. Explicit memory which encodes factual knowledge.
  • Semantic memory – for facts and knowledge which become representational and can be learned for life if used sufficiently frequently, but has varying rates of acquisition. Semantic memory or long term memory (also called implicit memory), is the most intact secure memory system, and is responsible for skills and habits which once learned, do not consciously have to be recalled.

A goal of learning is achieving the episodic to semantic shift - turning explicit memories into implicit memories. Poor working memory is a reliable predictor of learning difficulties in both reading and numeracy with 80% of children who experience poor working memories failing to succeed at expected levels of achievement.


See: Holmes, J., Butterfield, S., Cormack, F., van Loenhoud, A., Ruggero, L., Kashikar, L., & Gathercole, S. (2015). Improving working memory in children with low language abilities. Frontiers in psychology, 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4415325/

“Metacognition, thinking about thinking or being aware of the type of thinking that one is using, refers to higher order thinking that involves active control over the thinking processes involved in learning.  Activities such as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature. Because metacognition plays a critical role in successful learning it is important for both students and teachers. Metacognition has been linked with intelligence and it has been shown that those with greater metacognitive abilities tend to be more successful thinkers.” 
See: http://www.hent.org/world/rss/files/metacognition.htm

Metacognitive Learning
Instructional approaches emphasizing awareness of the cognitive processes that facilitate one's own learning and its application to academic and work assignments. Typical metacognitive techniques include systematic rehearsal of steps or conscious selection among strategies for completing a task.

Mind Mapping (also word map)
Mind, or concept mapping involves writing down a central idea and thinking up new and related ideas which radiate out from the centre. By focussing on key ideas written down in your own words, and then looking for branches out and connections between the ideas, you are mapping knowledge in a manner which will help you understand and remember new information.


Mind maps are used for: brainstorming, summarising, note taking, consolidating information, thinking through complex problems, studying ad memorising information.

Miscue (also reading miscue)
The term used by K.S. Goodman (1965) to describe errors in reading and/or comprehending text. Goodman assumes that miscues are not random errors, but are attempts by the reader to make sense of text. Thus, errors, especially any error pattern(s), provide rich information for analysing language and reading development. - An inventory, based on samples of children’s oral reading, to analyse recorded errors to then assess how the child comprehends what is being read. 

Typically, there are 6 basic miscues to note from oral reading: 

  • Correction -  the child realises the error and re-reads without prompting
  • Insertion – while reading, the child inserts a word or two not in the text
  • Omission – the child leaves out a word(s)
  • Repetition – the child repeats a word or portion of the text
  • Reversal – the order of a word or print, will be reversed
  • Substitution – instead of reading the printed word, a different word is inserted

Miscue Analysis (also Running Record)
A Miscue Analysis is an individualised assessment that provides in-depth information about what strategies a reader is using and helps to identify areas that need attention for reading to develop. It is sometimes called a Reading-with-Understanding Running Record. 

Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD)
An antiquated medical and psychological term originally used to refer to the learning difficulties that seemed to result from identified or presumed damage to the brain. Reflects a medical, rather than educational or vocational orientation

Multiple intelligences **
Howard Gardiner’s theory is that there are seven domains of intelligence; linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal. These claims are not supported by mainstream research in psychology. Furthermore, Gardener’s ‘intelligences’ are highly subjective and there is no evidence that teachers are able to objectively identify and teach to these intelligences in students.

Multisensory approach
A multisensory approach advocates instructional strategies that integrate use of students’ senses, including touch and movement. It is thought that practice to mastery can be facilitated by using a variety of multisensory materials and activities requiring use of the same skills and concepts to vary practice, and encourage independent function which can then often be generalised across contexts.

Multisensory Structured Language Education (MSSL)
‘Multisensory’ in MSSL teaching programs, is not a casual reference to including things to see, hear and touch. Instead, it means that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile learning pathways are integrated in every lesson throughout the teaching program. The International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC) evaluates programs to determine whether they meet their rigorous criteria.  

From the original Orton-Gillingham method, many variations have been developed. Some of the modified Orton-Gillingham methods written by Orton students are The Slingerland Method, The Spalding Method, Project Read, Alphabetic Phonics, The Herman Method, and The Wilson Method. Other works included in which the authors of the programs used the tenets of Orton's work, but were not directly trained by Orton-Gillingham personnel are The Alphabetic- Phonetic- Structural -Linguistic approach to Literacy (Shedd), Sequential English Education (Pickering), and Starting Over (Knight). The Association Method (DuBard), and the Lindamood-Bell Method (Lindamood -Bell) have as their basis the research into hearing impaired and the language impaired individuals. For more information, see: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/6332  

Naming Speed 
Naming speed, or Rapid Automatised Naming (RAN), is one predictor of future dyslexia. A RAN Test consists of naming an array of objects, colours, letters or symbols as quickly as possible. The rapid naming of just letters and numbers is called Rapid Alphanumeric Naming.  Research has shown that speed in naming pictures of objects and colour patches also predicts future reading skill.
See: http://wordresearch.liviablackburne.com/2010/01/color-and-object-naming-speed-predicts.html

For a study on Rapid Naming and Phonological Processing as Predictors of Reading and Spelling and many research references, see:http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Rapid+naming+and+phonological+processing+as+predictors+of+reading+and...-a0197363398

National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy
On 30 November 2004 the then Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MP, announced details about the Australian Government National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy. The Inquiry was a broad, independent examination of reading research, teacher preparation and practices for the teaching of literacy, particularly reading. See: http://research.acer.edu.au/tll_misc/5/ 

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
The NICHD is one of the US National Institutes of Health that it is concerned with child health and well-being. In 1997, the NICHD and the US Department of Education formed the National Reading Panel to review research on how children learn to read and to determine which methods of teaching reading are most effective based on the research evidence.
The NICHD provides direct support for clinical research that examines LDs affecting oral language abilities related to reading and writing, basic reading skills, reading fluency, reading comprehension, and written expression. See: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/Pages/nrp.aspx

National Institutes of Health (NIH) 
The NIH is an important funding body for medical research in the US, and is the major funder of evidence-based research on beginning reading.  Administratively under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the NIH consists of over 20 separate Institutes and Centres. http://research.acer.edu.au/tll_misc/5

National Literacy Strategy 
The UK Department of Children and Families National Literacy Strategy (NLS) promoted the teaching of reading in its broadest sense from the beginning of a child's education. This includes decoding, comprehension, grammatical understanding and a more general experience of different books and texts. In the NLS scheme, none of these aspects is given priority at any particular time in a child's acquisition of reading. For example, when a child learning to read encounters a word he or she does not know, the child is encouraged to 'work out' the word either by inferring from narrative context or syntax, by sounding out the word or by recognising the shape of the word from a previous encounter. This approach has been termed the '3 Searchlights' model (see Three Searchlights) at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmeduski/121/12106.htm 

National Reading Panel (NRP)
The NRP was a United States government body formed in 1997 at the request of Congress with the stated aim of assessing the effectiveness of different approaches used to teach children to read. The panel was created by Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, and included prominent experts in the fields of reading education, psychology, and higher education.

In April 2000, the panel issued its report, "Teaching Children to Read," and completed its work. The report summarized research in eight areas relating to literacy instruction: phonemic awareness instruction, phonics instruction, fluency instruction, vocabulary instruction, text comprehension instruction, independent reading, and computer assisted instruction, and teacher professional development. See: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/Pages/nrp.aspx


The National Reading Panel found that the most effective way to teach all students to read is direct, explicit, intensive and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. A summary of the panel's findings can be found at the University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning, Big Ideas in Beginning Reading, http://reading.uoregon.edu/big_ideas/

Non-categorical approach (to reading difficulty)
A non-categorical approach to reading difficulty focuses on the student's current level of functioning and the teaching strategies required to assist the student to improve his or her reading skills, rather than on spending time assessing the cause of the difficulty and attaching a label, such as dyslexia, before any help can be provided.  This approach is based on the assumption that all children can learn if the instruction is effective, and that separating or categorising students into subgroups, such as dyslexia or ADHD, does not provide educators with any useful information in terms of instruction.  

Oral Language Difficulties 
A person with oral language difficulties may exhibit poor articulation, vocabulary, listening comprehension, or grammatical abilities and/or skill(s) for his or her age. 

A multisensory phonetically based approach to remediating dyslexia created by Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, built upon the typical and consistent sound / symbol relationships in English.

Out-of-Level Testing
Out-of-level testing is the practice of assessing students in one grade level using versions of tests that were designed for students in other (usually lower) grade levels.

The speed at which content is presented and instruction delivered. Pacing which matches the student's rate of learning is optimal. 

Paired Reading
Two students read either out loud or silently together and discuss what they have read with each other. This is also referred to as the Neurological Impress Method (NIM).

See: Lorenz, L. & Vockell, E. (1979). Using the neurological impress with the learning disabled readers.  Journal of Learning Disabilities, 12, 420-422.

Pedagogy is the art, science, or study of teaching the principles and practice of educational instructional methods, or the interrelationship between teacher practice and student outcomes.  Pedagogy seeks to address the process of production and exchange between teacher, learner, and the knowledge jointly produced.

A pre-test is given before instruction to determine current independent level of performance or achievement in a specific area. 

Reading comprehension
Reading comprehension is the process of making understanding of what has been read, depending on knowing the meaning of the words read (vocabulary), general knowledge about the context of what has been read, and prior knowledge. The ability to read words (as in decoding) does not necessarily ensure understanding if the words and context are unfamiliar to the reader (see the expanded definition of literacy).

Reading disability
A reading disability is a significant difficulty in learning to read which is assumed to be due to underlying neurological factors.  See also Dyslexia.

Reading First 
Reading First (2002-2008) was a US Federal education program mandated under The No Child Left Behind Act, that focuses on putting "scientifically-based" methods of early reading instruction in classrooms utilising  proven instructional and assessment tools consistent with this research to ensure that all children learn to read well by the end of third grade. The three Reading First technical centres became the main source of teacher education and program evaluation on evidence-based beginning reading instruction. During the period that Reading First was funded, approximately 100,000 K–3 teachers received training and continuous professional development in reading science. See: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/index.html

Reading Recovery **
Reading Recovery (RR) is the registered trademark for an accelerated early intervention literacy learning program developed in the 1970s by Dr. Marie Clay, a New Zealand educator. RR was intended for children at risk in reading and writing progress after one year of schooling, providing one-to-one tutoring in 30-minute daily sessions for 12 to 16 weeks from specialist RR trained teachers, for the lowest 10 to 20% of a first-grade class as identified by individual assessment measures and teacher evaluation. A stated outcome of the program is that once students demonstrate reading and writing skills at a level equivalent to that of their peers, their series of lessons is discontinued. 

Children are taught that understanding, making sense of what is read, is the ultimate goal of reading. However, many RR strategies, like those of Whole Language, teach that further learning comes through the use of multiple sources of information, for example, pictures that accompany words children are attempting to read. As children approach words in text with which they are unfamiliar, they are encouraged to look at the first letters of words, glance at the pictures, and then "guess" what words might "make sense" within the context of story. Inaccurate naming of words is disregarded if they make "sense" within the context of print. Phonemic patterns are taught as they may happen to appear in text; hence the term incidental phonics teaching as opposed to explicitly taught systemic phonics.

For a historical review so Reading Recovery see: Reynolds, M., & Wheldall, K. (2007). Reading Recovery 20 years down the track: Looking forward, looking back. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 54(2), 199-223.Further information is available from:  https://www.ldaustralia.org/reading-recovery-resources.html

Receptive Language 
Receptive language is the ability to comprehend vocabulary, directions, concepts and questions. Understanding language also involves attention, memory and sustained concentration.

 See: http://www.childdevelopment.com.au/sound-awareness/64


Reciprocal Teaching 
Reciprocal teaching is a multiple-strategy instructional approach in the form of a dialogue between teachers and students regarding segments of text, for teaching comprehension skills. Teachers and students explore four strategies: asking questions about the text they are reading; summarizing parts of the text; clarifying words and sentences they don't understand; and predicting what might occur next

 in the text. 

Repeated and Monitored Oral Reading 
In this instructional activity, students read and reread a text a certain number of times or until a certain level of fluency is reached. This technique has been shown to improve reading fluency and overall reading achievement. Four re-readings are usually sufficient for most students. Students may also practice reading orally with audiotapes, tutors, peer guidance, or other means. 


Response To Intervention (RTI) 
RTI is the three-tiered approach to the provision additional learning support to students having difficulty with learning that offers increasingly intensive research-based instruction and intervention(s) based on assessed and early identification of individual student’s progress. The RTI process begins with high-quality instruction and screening of all children in the general classroom. Progress is closely monitored to assess both the learning rate and level of performance.   Educational decisions about the intensity and duration of interventions are based on individual student response to instruction. RTI is designed for use when making decisions in both general and special education, creating a well-integrated system of instruction and intervention guided by child outcome data.  See: http://www.ldaustralia.org/304.html and http://www.rtinetwork.org/learn 

Round Robin Reading (RRR)
Students take turns to read aloud while the rest of the group follows along silently reading from the same text. Variations include ‘Popcorn Reading’, where the teacher starts reading and after reading a few sentences, the teacher “popcorns” to a student chosen at random. This student must read a set minimum amount of text, perhaps two or three sentences before choosing another student to read by calling “popcorn” and naming another student. Another variation is ‘Combat Reading’ where readers actively work to catch other students on the wrong word or otherwise not reading along with the group. The idea is to keep students engaged so as not to get caught on the wrong word, page, or paragraph. 

Rose Review
The Independent review of the primary curriculum in England undertaken by Sir Jim Rose, January 2008. The central questions for the review were: what should the curriculum contain and how should the content and the teaching of it change to foster children’s different and developing abilities during primary years? The review is about the curriculum rather than the whole of primary education. However, there are points where important aspects, such as pedagogy and assessment, intersect with the curriculum. See: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/http://education.gov.uk/publications/eorderingdownload/primary_curriculum_report.pdf


Running record
A cumulative written account of a student’s reading achievement, as noted by a teacher over time.  A method of assessing a student’s reading level by examining both accuracy and the types of errors made, (also a useful method of assessing spelling errors); it is often utilized in the first three years of primary schooling, as well as part of a Reading Recovery session.

A teaching strategy that firstly identifies the gap between what the student can perform or achieve independently and then what that student can perform or achieve with competent guided teacher / adult help or in collaboration with more capable peers. Independent levels of function are assessed and identified, and the child is then challenged by the curriculum and instruction to where he/she will be, as opposed to limiting instruction by just meeting the child where he/she is now. The teacher provides support, e.g. of modelling, prompts, direct explanations, and targeted questions — offering a teacher-guided approach at first. As students begin to acquire independent mastery of targeted objectives, direct supports are reduced and the learning becomes more student-guided.

Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome
Also known as Irlen Syndrome, Meares-Irlen Syndrome and Visual Stress Syndrome,
Scotopic sensitivity is based on the theory that some individuals have hypersensitive photoreceptors, visual pathways, and/or brain systems that react inappropriately to physical energy (wavelengths). Vision occurs when energy is received by the retina's photoreceptors, initiating a biochemical process affecting the visual pathways and deep structures of the brain. A growing number of researchers are taking an interest in the view that inappropriate biochemical processing has the potential to cause physiological and/or visual perceptual problems. Many of these problems are grouped together under the label "scotopic sensitivity syndrome".  

While scotopic sensitivity syndrome has been related to reading difficulties and other conditions, the association between scotopic sensitivity syndrome and dyslexia has been challenged by many authors in both the optometric and ophthalmologic communities.

For more information about Irlen research see: http://irlen.com/bibliography-of-research/   

And: http://auspeld.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Irlen-Lenses-and-Overlays-MUSEC-Briefing.pdf 


Self-esteem is a person’s evaluation or appraisal of their own worth. An assumption is that a student’s high self-esteem will cause many positive outcomes and benefits, and that a healthy ego should result in high academic achievement. However, policies that focus on teacher’s praise regardless of student achievement have been found to create a disconnection between perceived self-esteem and provable skill. There is strong evidence in the mainstream literature that enhanced self-esteem arises from accurate appraisals of a student's work, as well as realistic encouragement toward effort and actual achievement.

To self-monitor is the ability to observe yourself and know when you are achieving or according to a standard. For example, knowing if you do or do not understand what you are reading, or whether your voice tone is appropriate for the circumstances, such as too loud or too soft. 

Semantic Maps 
A semantic map is a strategy for graphically representing concepts. As a strategy, semantic maps involve expanding a student's vocabulary by encouraging new links to familiar concepts. Instructionally, semantic maps can be used as a prereading activity for charting what is known about a concept, theme, or individual word. They can also be used during reading as a way to assimilate new information learned from the text. 

Semantic Organizers 
Semantic (or Graphic) Organisers can take many forms and consist of visual diagrams that assist the presentation of information. They may be used to assist reading comprehension or to organise ideas in preparation for writing, and for both functions may be of assistance to students with learning difficulties. Graphic organisers include semantic webs or mind maps, Venn diagrams, story maps and story boards, retrieval charts and flow charts. See: http://www.esu1.org/SPED/RtI-readtextcomprehension.html  

Shared Reading
An early childhood instructional strategy in which the teacher involves a group of young children in the reading of a particular big book in order to help them learn aspects of beginning literacy, as print conventions and the concept of word, and develop reading strategies, as in decoding or the use of prediction. This approach is also known as ‘Big Book’ 

Simple View of Reading 
The simple view of reading, as proposed by Gough and Tunmer, maintains that Reading is the product of decoding and comprehension. This is expressed in the equation, R=DxC, where each variable is between zero and one. From this definition it can be inferred that reading is not generally an all-or-nothing attribute. Unless one cannot decode at all or cannot comprehend spoken language at all, one can read some. This definition also infers that effective reading instruction and assessment must address both decoding and comprehension skills.

See: https://czone.eastsussex.gov.uk/sites/gtp/library/core/english/Documents/phonics/Simple-view-of-reading.pdf

Speed Test
A test in which performance is measured by the number of tasks accurately performed in a given time. Examples are tests of typing speed and reading speed. 

SQ3R Reading 
SQ3R is a reading comprehension strategy - standing for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review - to help students use a framework to better understand and retain information from reading assignments. 
For example, before reading, Survey the chapter to find out: 

  • the title, headings, and subheadings
  • captions under pictures, charts, graphs or maps
  • review questions or teacher-made study guides
  • introductory and concluding paragraphs
  • summary

For further information See: http://www.studygs.net/texred2.htm and http://www.collegeboard.com/student/plan/college-success/26666.html 

Statements that describe what students are expected to know and achieve in each year in school and subject area; include content standards, performance standards, and benchmarks.

Summative Assessment 
Summative assessment is generally carried out at the end of a course or project, and is designed to determine the extent to which the student has ‘learned’ the content of the course studied, and has acquired the knowledge and skills the course was intended to provide.  The term summative assessment is usually used to distinguish this form of assessment from formative assessment

Sustained Silent Reading (also known as SSR, Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading USSR, Drop Everything and Read DEAR, wide reading)
Students read, books, magazines and newspapers independently for fifteen to forty-five minutes each day in order to expose students to more words, increases word recognition and reading fluency, facilitate word learning and help expand students' knowledge base.

The Four Roles of the Reader (Freebody & Luke, 1990)
Allan Luke and Peter Freebody say that “Effective literacy draws on a repertoire of practices that allow learners, as they engage in reading and writing activities, to: 

  • break the code of texts: recognising and using the fundamental features and architecture of written texts including: alphabet, sounds in words, spelling, conventions and patterns of sentence structure and text
  • participate in the meanings of text: understanding and composing meaningful written, visual and spoken texts from within the meaning systems of particular cultures, institutions, families, communities, nation-states and so forth;
  • use texts functionally: traversing the social relations around texts; knowing about and acting on the different cultural and social functions that various texts perform both inside and outside school and knowing that these functions shape the way texts are structured, their tone, their degree of formality and their sequence of components;
  • critically analyse and transform texts: understanding and acting on the knowledge that texts are not neutral, that they represent particular views and silence other points of view, influence people’s ideas; and that their designs and discourses can be critiqued and redesigned, in novel and hybrid ways.”

The National (UK) Literacy Strategy 
(see also multi-cueing and balanced methods)

Thematic learning **
Holistic teaching of different subject matters across a common theme. (See also, active, cooperative, constructivist, discovery, hands-on, holistic, inquiry, learning by doing, project, thematic) 

VAK (Visual/Auditory/Kinaesthetic) **
A ‘learning styles’ model, the VAK model identifies only three learning styles, those who learn by seeing (V), those who learn by hearing (A) and those who learn by doing (K). The source of the VAK model has never been clearly identified. This is because its origins are in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which has been around since the 1970s and, despite quite a troubled history, has never completely died out even though it is not widely regarded as having a sound basis in psychological facts.

VAK is one of two main ‘learning style’ theories (the other being multiple intelligences) frequently encountered in schools, neither of which are backed by reputable research evidence.

Visual or visual-spatial processing
The way the brain interprets or makes use of visual information through perception, discrimination, memory and/or sequencing.

Vocabulary refers to the words for which a reader understand the meaning of. Listening vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when hearing them in oral speech. Speaking vocabulary refers to the words we use when we speak. Reading vocabulary refers to the words a person knows when seeing them in print. Writing vocabulary refers to the words we use in writing. 


Whole Language
Largely based on the work of Ken Goodman, Whole Language is a professional movement and theoretical perspective that embodies a set of applied beliefs governing learning and teaching, language development, curriculum, and the social community. Whole language teachers believe that all language systems are interwoven. They avoid the segmentation of language into component parts for specific skill instruction. The use of strategies taught in meaningful contexts is emphasized. Phonics is taught through writing and by focusing on the patterns of language in reading. Assessment focuses on authentic demonstrations of student work. The whole language movement has produced much interest, activity, and controversy and has had a major impact on how the reading education community thinks and talks about instruction. 

Word calling (also barking at print)
Word calling, or barking at print, is reading words without understanding their meaning.  It is indicative of good decoding skills but poor comprehension.

Working Memory – see Memory and Learning
The ability to process, manipulate and store information in one's mind for a short period of time. 

Written expression disorder
See Dysgraphia

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