The Impact of Professionals’ Knowledge on Student Outcomes

teacher reading with student

One of the best ways to help children who are struggling to read, write, or spell is to help educate the adult clinicians, educators, and teachers who serve them.

We’ve known for some time that a teacher’s knowledge is a critical ingredient in his or her overall effectiveness. Check out any of the thousands of links exploring research on that topic here.

Specific to literacy, dyslexia, and other language-processing disorders, the latest research paints a similar picture: the relationship between clinician or teacher knowledge and student outcomes is strong.

While a professional’s knowledge about the structure of English is important, it also matters what professionals know and understand about how the brain processes language and reading and how to leverage that understanding to adjust treatment/education that meets the needs of each individual. If professionals don’t understand how dyslexia differs from other language-processing disorders, they likely will be unable to differentiate treatment and will be susceptible to marketing that over-sells the effectiveness of “one-size-fits-all” commercial programs for struggling readers and writers.

For those interested in digging deeper into the literature on this subject, here are four academic studies supporting these points:

  1. McCutchen, D., Abbott, R. D., & Green, L. B. (2002).Beginning literacy: Links among teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student learning. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 69–86.
  2. Cunningham, A.E., Perry, K.E., Stanovich, K.E., & Stanovich, P.J. (2004). Disciplinary knowledge of K-3 teachers and their knowledge calibration in the domain of early language. Annals of Dyslexia, 54 (1), 139-167.
  3. Moats, L. C. and Foorman, B. F. (2003). Measuring teachers’ content knowledge of language and reading. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 23-45.
  4. Mathes, P. G., Denton, C. A., Fletcher, J. M., Anthony, J. L., Francis, D. J., & Schatschneider, C. (2005). The effects of theoretically different instruction and student characteristics on the skills of struggling readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 40, 148–182.

Because professional knowledge is so important, we’ve created two online professional education courses covering: 1) the structure of written English and 2) the use of structured literacy intervention (aka, multi-component, Orton-Gillingham treatment). Our goal of this two-course sequence is to enable professionals to individualize treatment based on the student’s language processing patterns rather than just pushing the student through a boxed program that is unlikely to help. Interested professionals can learn more about these online professional education courses here.

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