The Dyslexic HealthCare Academic: Dyslexic-friendly teaching

Neuro Knowhow present an interpretation of Gardener's mulit intelligences - KP present an interpretation of Gardener’s multiple  intelligences – ed.

This guest blog is by Janice St John (@jstjohnmatthews) AHP CPD Lead, Senior Lecturer at University of the West of England and MRI/CT Radiographer and also happens to have dyslexia. Janice talks about 3 of the 7 core concepts of teaching learners who have dyslexia or other neurodiverse profiles such as dyspraxia, AD(H)D  mulitisensory teaching, opportunities for overlearning and relevance.

Multisensory teaching seeing something, saying something, doing something, hearing something strengthens memory and recall

Overlearningre-visiting the learning of the same material, process, practicing the skill in many different ways time after time to reinforce learning

Relevance teaching strategies in the context – helps show the big picture so tasks can be broken down into interrelated stages

The 7 underlying principles that underpin specialist support and were discussed in detail and in the context of healthcare in my presentation at the RCN education conference 2015 (page 8)

These are ADSHe core concepts  (Association of Dyslexia Specilaist in HE – @ADSHeDyslexia ) are often overlooked especially at University level and Janice’s blog shows some ways in which they can be incorporated into teaching. If like Janice you don’t have a name for what you do I’ve made it easier by adding italics to examples of these 3 core principles within the blog.

Over to Janice

A chance encounter in the twitter sphere has resulted in this guest blog for @DiverseLearners. Last month, I blogged about being a radiographer, specifically a radiographer in training and how to manage dyslexia. While writing this I realised that as a learner I had an excellent understanding of my learner coping strategies.  Yet since 2008 I have also been an educator and subsequently I started to think about how my dyslexia may influence my teaching practice. The following are some musings on how as a multi-modal learner this has infiltrated my day job and how this potentially enhances the learning experience for both dyslexic and non-dyslexic learners.

Use your brain to get learners to use theirs - KP

Use your brain to get learners to use theirs – ed.


Technology Enhanced Learning.

I use an array of technology and software on a daily basis as a dyslexia copying strategy. Subsequently using technology enhanced teaching is an extension of everyday life. My favourite piece of teaching technology is vodcasting. (I like this tool so much I have written a peer-reviewed paper on it. Feedback on this mode of delivery is always positive from learners.  These sessions have a written script and learners can approach learning at their own pace pausing the lecture as and when they need too.  There are also opportunities to visit links of related documents as they work through the session.  Some learners report that my voice should be used for satellite navigation- who knew an Irish/ Welsh accent would work? On the other hand, others appreciate the ability to mute me- I can’t understand why!

Paper, Scissors, Butterfly Clip.

Technology is great however sometimes you need to go back to basics. My area of expertise is Magnetic Resonance Imaging and I really enjoy teaching the instrumentation of these scanners.  Yet this isn’t the case for radiography learners who find the concepts difficult as MRI uses a magnet and not the x-rays they have spent the majority of their time learning. In year 2 I normally lose learners attention about 15 minutes into an instrumentation heavy lecture. Subsequently, I came up with the idea of getting the students to build their own scanners. Yes you heard me right- build a £1,000,000 scanner.


MRI scanner in pieces using Coloured card

MRI scanner in pieces using Coloured card


Scanners are basically constructed in layers- like a onion.  By using coloured card of increasing sizes and a butterfly clip I assign each layer a colour. As the lecture develops we name each layer and write information about the layer on the back of the card.  Eventually the layers add up to all the parts of an MRI scanner. With the aid of the butterfly clip learners can deconstruct/ reconstruct their “scanners” at their own pace.

Assembling the scanner is interactive and multisensory

Assembling the scanner is interactive and multisensory


Making a Song and Dance of it.

Perhaps the most fun session I have developed was with a colleague for a Year 1 session on joint movement. My colleague and I decided to make up a dance to the track “Let’s Get Physical”. Picture this- two lecturers teaching the movements to a lecture hall of 90 learners. Then 90 learners repeating the moves to us as I am shouting out: “Flexion, extension, abduction, adduction….” with our backing track on full volume. I believe there may be a recording of the session out there somewhere- hopefully it doesn’t surface any time soon… [Come on Social Media I am sure we can find it – Kerry]

This quote is accredited to Benjamin Franklin (a while back)- ed.

As I write this blog the academic is me is saying where is the evidence that being dyslexic enhances your teaching?  The teacher in me is saying that surely everything described above is what every good teacher does? 

While I have no evidence to prove this very tentative link [See the introduction – Kerry] my favourite feedback to date is: “Janice has the most bizarre ways of explaining things and teaches bonkers ways of remembering things- but they really do work (sic)!!”

In the words of Edward Vickerman (Winner of the SSAT Award for outstanding Teacher of the Year, 2009):

“It (dyslexia) forces me to think outside the box; to find new ways of using technology to teach. To include everyone in a way that didn’t happen to me”.



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9 Comments to “ The Dyslexic HealthCare Academic: Dyslexic-friendly teaching ”

  1. Viv says: Reply

    This is a fabulous post. Much of it seems a reflection of my own work – and not sure if I have dyslexia, but do struggle reading. As an academic therefore I have always avoided long written assignments like the plague. An essay will be replaced with a series of shorter tasks and incorporate peer-review. I replaced another essay – about clinical trials (yawn) with a Dragon’s Den where students bid for research money. A topic on health promotion was replaced by the creation of a video. Students loved it. Many found their own creativity.

  2. Mon says: Reply

    Absolutely splendid Janice. Viv, I understand you totally. I too struggle with reading and I am not certain of personal affiliation to dyslexia. As a teacher, I regularly disregard boring sessions and stimulate learners (adults and children) with appealing challenges. enhancing attention-grabbing entertainment: from adding technology to physical interaction. For example, performing role plays to punctuation and grammar use and adding a twist to researching Shakespeare managing technology. All my students (dyslexic and non-dyslexic) find pleasure in their learning and recollecting information.

  3. Leslie Robinson says: Reply

    Great blog, Janice. I’ve also tried using creative approaches such as getting the students to make their own video of how to carry out an adapter technique examination in the skills labs using photos and stitching them together using Microsoft photostory which is a brilliant piece of software. Memory and learning is enhanced when there’s an emotional attachment to a learning experience so anything that’s fun and taps in to personal beliefs and creativity has got to be good. Good on you!

  4. togel sgp says: Reply
    • Kerry says: Reply

      Thanks for the positive feedback and future shares.

  5. Angie says: Reply

    Great blog Janice I was just thinking today about which arts and craft materials I could use for students to assemble their own Linac in class. I’d like to flip the learning by giving them a previously captured lecture beforehand. I am not dyslexic (as far as I know) but I too think that students struggle to engage and learn fully when presented with PowerPoint after PowerPoint. I will start hoarding my recycling….

  6. Philip Cosson says: Reply

    Great blog Janice! As a fellow dyslexic radiography tutor I resonate (get it?) With all your techniques. I have taught anatomical planes using an areobics class for 15 years, shouting out ‘coronal’ for star jumps etc. As you know, I developed a computer simulator to teach positioning and physics – this replaces hours of lectures. I also video all my remaining lectures (but I don’t have your broadcasters voice I’m afraid). It’s amazing to see students often watch these up to 20 times! Our system allows them to speed up the video which I think is a useful review method. So, completely independently two dyslexic tutors at different ends of the country have developed similar aproaches. Love the dragons den approach to a research assessment Viv. I instigated a similar assignment where third year students had to pitch for the money for an imaging service improvement idea… Dissadvantages in the job include a loathing of timetabling, especially when refering across documents for important dates, my lack of short term memory makes this such a slow process. Marking fills me with dread, as I have to read in excess of quarter of a million words in a month… I’ve never volunteered as an external examiner for this reason. I have also never successfully produced an exam paper without a mistake of some sort on it! No matter how many times I proof them!

    • Kerry says: Reply

      Thanks for sharing your insight Philip!

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