Research in Learning Disorders
at Landmark College
Dr. Steve Fadden
In tandem with its mission of providing an effective and supportive college education for students with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (LD and/or AD/HD), Landmark College in Putney, Vermont has, since its inception twenty years ago, actively researched and disseminated knowledge and best practices about how to serve this special population. In 2001, the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training ((LCIRT) was established with ambitious goals and a first-rate staff. The Institute conducts research (major funding comes from state, federal, and foundation grants), offers courses for professionals on and off campus and online (graduate credit available), oversees teacher assessment and training, conducts topical non-credit workshops for teachers, parents, students, and interested others, makes conference presentations, and publishes teaching guides and monographs based on its findings. Its clients include public, private, and parochial schools, two and four-year colleges, and schools devoted to pupils with learning disabilities as well as schools with only some special education students. The Institute is committed to making its best practices available to all.
On-campus courses during the summer for those who work with students with LD and/or AD/HD in middle, high, or post-secondary schools include effective instruction, teaching math, biology, writing, reading, study skills, foreign languages, and technology, as well as helping schools meet students with disabilities standards. Educators can receive certification in Wilson Language Training, an evidence-based system of instruction for problem readers. In addition, many of these courses are given online throughout the year. Research Institute personnel also travel to high schools and colleges around the country with these offerings, customized as necessary, and will even design a new course, if required.
Research initiatives have included a Universal Design and Usability Lab that evaluates the effectiveness and usability of websites and software related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for people with learning disorders. Dr. Steve Fadden, director of the Institute, explains the goal is elimination of barriers that might stymie learning or career prospects. Another project specifically targets math, often key to other science disciplines, for evaluation of instructional tools because unusable math resources would keep individuals with learning problems out of science and math-related fields. Landmark is one of ten colleges belonging to the STARS Alliance, a National Science Foundation funded program to increase participation in computing careers for underrepresented populations, such as women, minorities, and people with learning disabilities. Explains Fadden, “Students can attain career goals if they learn the path to getting there, the basic building blocks.” ARIVE (Advancing Reading in Vermont) a state-funded program that will be disseminated nation-wide, tackles the subject of improving literacy for diverse learners from 4th to 12th grades. With a “Demo Disabilities” grant, Landmark is partnering with four other community colleges in Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Vermont to develop special materials to aid faculty and staff in educating students with learning problems. Landmark has acquired a new tool in its testing arsenal, an eye tracker that follows a reader’s eye movements, potentially indicating the different ways people access information. This way of “quantitatively showing what is going on in the brain,” can lead to changes in texts and websites designed for diverse learners, particularly good news for people with LD and AD/HD. It is a productive time for the Institute for Research and Training, and many more exciting projects are on the drawing board.#