Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In

Speech Pathology and Audiology

First Advisor

Karla K. McGregor


A learning disability (LD) is any disability resulting from a primary impairment in comprehending or expressing language. Many studies have looked at atypical language processes in children - particularly those with Specific Language Impairment and Dyslexia - but few have considered to how language demands, and therefore the impact of LD, change as children or adolescents transition into the postsecondary setting where auditory language abilities are often a necessary component for success.

In this study we posited that students with LD would have a more difficult time learning information from a typical lecture format, and that contributors such as extant vocabulary, short-term verbal memory, and attention would all predict outcomes for post-lecture test performance. Participants were 34 individuals with LD and 34 individuals who were typically developing (ND). Each participant watched a 30-minute lecture. Before the lecture, a baseline-test of general topic knowledge was given. Afterwards a post-test was given regarding specific information from the lecture. Additionally, multiple standardized tests and ratings were given to each participant to look at individual differences that contributed to outcomes on the post-test. We found that LD students learned less information from the lecture than did the ND students, as measured in both recall and recognition formats. Post-test performance for all students was predicted based on vocabulary and attention. Verbal memory was an additional predictor for LD participants.

Public Abstract

Individuals with learning disabilities make up an important demographic on college campuses. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (2004), learning disability is characterized by a difficulty with language. As such, typical college lectures are expected to be challenging for these students. We suggest that this difficulty involves an interaction of multiple factors, including attention and auditory memory – both of which affect word-learning. We predict that college students with learning disabilities will have more difficulty than typically-developing peers when learning from a lecture with minimal supports accompanying spoken language (like visual aids or note-taking).

Participants in this study included 34 college students with learning disabilities (LD) and 34 college students who were typically developing (ND). Each individual watched a 30-minute lecture over a common college topic. Before the lecture, a test of general topic knowledge was given, and afterwards a post-test was given regarding specific information from the lecture. LD students learned less information from the lecture than did the ND students. Student performance on vocabulary and attention measures predicted post-test performance. Additionally, verbal memory was a predictor for LD participants. These data suggest that there is a complex interaction between multiple cognitive processes, and our ability to learn new words and information from lectures. This interaction is particularly influential in students with LD, and should be further studied to find appropriate compensatory strategies and accommodations for college students with learning disabilities.


publicabstract, College, Learning Disability, Lecture, Word-Learning


vi, 45 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 32-37).


Copyright 2015 Toni C Becker