Getting to know your learning strategies – part II

 

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I’m currently studying towards a Masters in Psychology. Having grown up believing in the label ‘stupid’ due to my dyslexia, I have since developed a thirst, if not addiction, towards learning and gaining academic recognition.

I was never stupid, but I can see why it would appear that way to others. Dyslexia wasn’t well understood in the 90s when I did my formative years of schooling and my college degree. My lack of ability to memorise facts or understand things after a first read-through and my myriads of spelling mistakes that never seemed to improve, seemed to tell a story to teachers about stupidity and laziness. Of course, I was anything but lazy, and studied longer and harder than my peers, but to no avail, so I started believing I was stupid too.

In my previous post ‘getting to know your learning strategies – part I’, I talked about the various ways I have now learned that I retain information. I need the element of storytelling to be able to hook new information into existing points of references in my brain.

This year, I’m back learning statistics – a subject I nearly failed last time I was at university. But I’ve since learned so much more about dyslexia (off my own back and thanks to Dyslexia Scotland who have great hand-outs), and I now know how to attack a problem better.

It’s harder to remember specifics from a boring policy than it is remembering details from colours, to names, to events in a fiction book. I have so many story-based reference points in my brain, but none for policies, so I now know that I need to make policies into stories to hook them into my memory.

I love non-fiction books by John Ronson, Will Storr and Johan Hari, as they apply engaging journalistic skills to non-fiction topics and, thereby, engage learning and remembering. It’s also easier to say to a friend ‘guess what I’ve just learned…’ and share an interesting story from real life, than simply regurgitate facts. These journalists use examples that are so out there and weird that you can’t help but want to share them with others, and then by rehearsing the knowledge, by repeating it to others, it becomes easier to remember facts for yourself.

The thing that frustrates me, is that humans are story tellers. We have a unique ability to tell and relate to stories – for our survival – as it was a way of sharing facts of which berries were poisonous to eat, which areas were dangerous to venture into, and which areas were great for hunting. Simply giving these facts to children, for them to pass on to their children, to ensure survival was not a great idea, so by telling imaginative stories, these facts lived on from generation to generation.

So, knowing this, and knowing our ancestors used other ways of telling and remembering a story like art, why do modern-day schools insist on teaching children (and university students alike) via memorising facts, via fact-regurgitating exams, by strict essay formats, and often by one learning strategy for all? I’m not suggesting schools have the time or resources to tailor their teaching after someone with dyslexia, per say, but wouldn’t all students enjoy learning facts via storytelling? By being able to apply creative means, like drawing, while listening? By being allowed to write more creative essays? Teaching, geared towards dyslexia, could often enhance the learning experience for all pupils… in my opinion. What do you think?

Terese Kansted, 

Dyslexia Scotland blogger

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Dyslexia and Recruitment: Square Pegs and a Round Circle

SquarePegRoundCircleDyslexiaWay back in the 13th Century a selection of artists were asked to demonstrate their competence for a job as a painter for Pope Benedict XI. Each provided an elaborate, detailed sketch to prove their abilities. Except for Giotto, who simply drew a single perfect circle.

Guess what? He got the job.

Dyslexia and Job Applications

This might be the earliest example of successfully taking a creative, unconventional approach to applying for a job. Since then, employers have set all kinds of different tasks, and applicants have considered the best way to respond to make them stand out. The evolution of the CV and application form through history has had challenging consequences for dyslexic applicants, and these, combined with interview struggles, are the things people approaching Dyslexia Scotland’s Career Development Service ask for help with most.

The recent report The Value of Dyslexia by Ernst and Young says “Standardised hiring processes can inhibit dyslexic individuals. Job descriptions and application processes can … play against dyslexic abilities.” Last year, the WAC report Opening Doors to Employment also highlighted how traditional recruitment processes are “significant barriers” to dyslexic people. These findings are no surprise to Dyslexia Scotland, but what hope and inspiration is there for the dyslexic job seeker who feels applications forms are more of a square peg to their Giotto-like circle?
In response to the challenges of recruitment processes, employers signed up to the UK Government’s Disability Confident scheme at level 2 are committed to accept job applications in a variety of formats”.

The open-ness of this commitment spells hope for applicants who find the traditional application form isn’t their style, particularly those gifted with dyslexic-thinking strengths of creativity and problem solving, who take daring and dynamic approaches to a challenge. But how open are employers to receiving truly alternative formats of applications?

Alternative Applications

Some of my favourite examples of out-there approaches to applying for jobs have resulted in great success for the applicants because they’ve approached things so very differently. Cole Warner, a young person in America showed he had all the right tools for an Internship job at American DIY chain store Home Depot with this ‘out of the box’ CV.

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In his blog, employer Phillip Newman said “When I took apart the toolbox, I was reminded by how much more there is to people beyond what a [CV] tells of them. [CVs] are ripe for disruption. So are job descriptions.”

Some creative approaches to getting a job are born of frustration at following the beaten track. Adam Pacitti from England turned the tables on employers, calling on them to approach him with a job in a stand-out way.

Dyslexia and Recruitment

And others have a more playful take on things, like Andy Morris, a designer from Wales whose Lego figure application is helping build his career.

Dyslexic Thinking Skills

Whilst dyslexic applicants can have difficulty with traditional recruitment processes, they can also be among the most creative thinkers, and like the examples above, able to see a different way to stand out to employers. With so much promotion around a need for dyslexic thinking skills in the world of business, employers could do well to apply the same principle to the way they recruit.

How alternative an approach would you be prepared to take to apply for a job?   If you thought a creative approach might catch an employer’s attention, how would you go about applying? Do you think employers should be more open to truly alternative applications?

Think differently about approaching recruitment; you might stand out for all the right reasons.  Men in Black – The Test Scene.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach