Literacy difficulties in higher education: Identifying students’ needs with a hybrid model

Georgia Niolaki, Laura Marie Taylor, Aris Terzopoulos, Rachael Davies

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Aims: Studies on literacy difficulties have mainly focused on children or adults who have a diagnosis of dyslexia. Some students enter university without such a diagnosis, but with literacy difficulties, and this may impact their ability to become independent learners and achieve academically. This exploratory study aims to employ a hybrid model for developing profiles for such individuals. The hybrid model encompasses the causal modelling framework (CMF; Morton & Frith, 1993), the proximal and distal causes of literacy difficulties (Jackson & Coltheart, 2001) and the conceptual framework for identification of dyslexia (Reid & Came, 2009). Method: In this multiple case study design, three young adults with literacy difficulties were interviewed. Using narrative analysis, we compared the cases’ responses with the responses of a matched control student without literacy difficulties. Findings: The main findings of the comparison suggested that the proposed hybrid model could be an effective way to highlighting potential obstacles to learning in those with literacy difficulties and would, therefore, be an invaluable tool for educational psychologists who work in adult educational settings. Limitations: This is an exploratory study based on multiple case studies. A group study with more individuals should be conducted in order to further validate the proposed hybrid model. Conclusions: The current study highlights the importance of understanding the psychosocial, as well as the cognitive and biological aspects of literacy difficulties, without claiming generalisability.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)80-92
    Number of pages13
    JournalEducational and Child Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 1 Jun 2020


    We are grateful to the students for their time. This paper was composed while Georgia Niolaki was supported by a Coventry University grant on staff professional development to complete a BDA accredited Level 7 course (FSDF 2015-2016).

    FundersFunder number
    Coventry UniversityFSDF 2015-2016


      • Higher education
      • Identification
      • Learning support
      • Literacy difficulties


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