Students’ Perception of their Reading and Writing Difficulties, School Experience and Future Aspirations : - A Cross-Cultural Qualitative Interview Study with Upper Secondary Students in Malta and Sweden
Abstract: The main purpose of this study was to increase knowledge on the views of students with reading and writing difficulties when it comes to their perception of their difficulties, school experiences and future aspirations. The second aim was to increase knowledge about some differences and similarities between Malta and Sweden in the subject field. The research questions concerned students’ descriptions of their diagnostic processes, perception of their difficulties, strengths and coping strategies, school experience and future aspirations. A qualitative interview study was conducted with five Swedish and six Maltese upper secondary school students. The Ecological systems theory and Didactic theory together with previous research were used to analyse the results. To summarise the results, almost all of the students diagnosed with dyslexia showed a positive attitude towards having the report. The Maltese students described the absolute necessity of a diagnosis to receive support. No student in the study described having received support and structured phonological training as recommended by previous research. The students described a wide range of difficulties, strengths and coping strategies mainly in line with previous research. The importance of concentration when learning and taking tests was accentuated. Listening to a skilled teacher was emphasised as one of the best ways of learning, and the importance of willpower was highlighted. The students showed the importance of communicating with teachers, finding own methods, and make the most of one’s strengths to close the gaps in the areas in which one experiences difficulties. For all the Maltese students, private lessons have been a source of support, while none of the Swedish mentioned any private training. For the majority, both parents and a hobby played an important role when it comes to support and well-being. All students described school as difficult, but students’ experiences of school ranged from humiliating to somehow supportive. Some of the Maltese students described that they were afraid of being judged for using dyslexia as an excuse, while some of the Swedish students described they felt the right to support and adjustments. All students but one described that they had lowered their future aspirations due to their difficulties. All students seem to rely on their own strategies for school success. In the light of the theoretical framework – the Ecological systems theory, Didactic theory and previous research – the results could imply both a need for improving teachers’ literacy and didactic skills within the existing systems as well as a need for curriculum development and change of examinations systems.
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