Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

What is hard about learning for college students with learning disabilities

Mon, April 14, 2014 | LBJ Room (CMA 5.136)

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Communication Sciences and Disorders

The University of Texas at Austin


Elizabeth C. & Robert M. Woolfolk

Distinguished Lecture Series


 Karla McGregor, PhD Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Iowa


Language pathology is central to the definition of learning disability (LD) and deficits in word learning are highly symptomatic. In a series of studies, we are examining the nature of the word learning deficit in college students with LD. In the first study, 69 college students with or without LD took tests to measure learning of novel word forms and meanings immediately after training (encoding) and 12-hours, 24-hours, and 1-week later (consolidation).  The results confirmed deficits in the encoding of word forms. Similarities and differences in patterns of remembering in the LD and ND groups motivated the hypothesis that consolidation of memory for new words is a strength for affected adults. To test this hypothesis, 77 students with and without LD were trained on novel word forms. Immediately after training, encoding was measured via form recognition and recall. One week later, consolidation was measured via repetition of the recall task and integration via a visual world competition paradigm. At the immediate posttest, the LD group did not differ from peers on recognition of form but they were poorer at recall. The recall gap remained equivalent in size one week later; therefore, consolidation over time did not differ between groups. Their responses to the visual world paradigm suggested good integration of word forms into the lexicon. We conclude that encoding deficits make word learning hard for college students with LD.


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