Case Study – Geography and Motivation

The following case study was taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , (information extracted and accessed September 2006).


Gareth is a level three student studying Landscape Architecture. Gareth has a specific learning difficulty, dyslexia. Gareth ‘s dyslexia was first assessed 3 months prior to his ‘A’ Levels.

Gareth states that his dyslexia was not a factor in deciding which University to attend. He does, however, believe that people with dyslexia have different strengths and weaknesses, and as such, one of his strengths lies in artistic drawing and planning holistic projects. He believes that his strengths in these areas were an influencing factor in his choice of which course to study. At the time of his decision to study Landscape Architecture, however, Gareth was unaware of his specific learning difficulty.

Gareth is quite clear that he prefers writing assignments to taking timed examinations. He feels that even with additional time he is rushing in exams and does not do himself justice. Gareth finds that without the time to think clearly about the subject, his work is not articulate and his handwriting becomes illegible. Gareth finds that rather than spend time re-reading his answers, “it’s better to just go with it”, as he feels re-reading would waste time that he could be using trying to answer the next question.

Despite his preference for written assignments, Gareth admits he’s “terrible at time management”. He often procrastinates and sometimes finds it necessary to work through the night to finish a piece of work on time. He does understand that as a student with dyslexia, he puts more effort into his studies than his peers, and he believes that was the reason his dyslexia remained unidentified for as long as it did. He didn’t realise he was putting more effort into his studies; “it’s just the way that it is”.

Gareth’s course involves a range of assessment methods; essays, exams, reports, computer-aided design work, freehand design, etc. Gareth feels that his best skills are his artistic abilities; “I’ve written fair enough essays, but it’s not what I’m good at”. Gareth is particularly grateful that his major project for level three was not a dissertation, but a design project. Gareth feels that he was better able to evidence his academic ability by working through an entire design project. He recognises that the design project included a high amount of hours for the complicated drawings, but as this is his strength, he finds this aspect of the course motivating. He finds that he uses visual cues to spark ideas for projects. He gets less attached to essays, being relieved when they are completed, rather than enjoying the process as he does with design pieces.

Gareth finds that when he is prioritising his workload, he tends to complete the design work first, leaving the written assignments to last. Whilst Gareth sometimes re-writes his assignments 3 or 4 times, he still makes punctuation and grammar errors. He finds it disheartening when comments on the assignment focus on these. He understands why they are included, but as he is already aware of his difficulties, but sometimes finds this discouraging.

Gareth does not feel that his dyslexia has any impact upon his field trips.

In lectures, Gareth takes sporadic notes to try and help him reinforce what is being said at the time. He rarely returns to study his notes later, and although he has a dictaphone, he only uses it on occasions when he knows there will be significant material he will need to remember (e.g., when there is a guest speaker) as he feels it is highly unlikely he would listen to the lecture again. Gareth tends to get most of the information he needs for essays from his textbooks. He finds the funding he receives from his Disabled Students’ Allowance allows him to maintain a good collection of the texts he needs.

Gareth finds that the support most useful to him comes from academic staff. He sometimes needs motivating to do the written pieces of his course, but finds staff who are more flexible in their approach, encouraging him rather than reprimanding him for not doing the work, are more effective. Gareth feels that the right motivation at the right time can be the most beneficial support offered.