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Education leads the way for Canadian research

By Heidi Wicks

Memorial is on the map for instigating the first Canadian-focused research consortium in the area of learning disabilities (LD).

Dr. David Philpott, Faculty of Education, spearheaded the movement along with some local and national colleagues.

“Two years ago the President’s Office awarded me a grant which was established from a private endowment (the Henry Collingwood estate) ear marked for local research in the area of LD,” said Dr. Philpott. “Dr. Mildred Cahill (Faculty of Education) and I conducted a national research project on the professional knowledge base of LD in Canada and that report was presented at the national conference for learning disabilities held in St. John’s last year. It has just been accepted for publication.”

Follow-up discussions with the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) resulted in a funding proposal to expand this work by securing SSHRC monies that would match the endowment dollar for dollar. With that, Dr. Philpott forged a research partnership with every regional LD association, the national body, four universities (Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and MUN) and a team of researchers.

The group that Dr. Philpott has organized was recently successful in the Letter of Intent phase for a one million dollar Community-University Research Alliance (CURA), in partnership with the LDAC. “

“What is particularly exciting,” said Dr. Philpott, “is that Mr. Collingwood’s endowment has been doubled and is now poised to increase many times over and create a real impact in this country. It was very important to us to use that money wisely, as it could typify how a one endowment to the university could have a profound impact nationally.”

Whether or not Dr. Philpott is awarded the CURA grant, the consortium has already been formed (Dr. Philpott will chair), and will continue to conduct research that is specifically Canadian focused.

“We are tired of reading statistics that are American, and seeing Canadian programs informed by American research, when there is so much excellent work being done here,” Dr. Philpott said. “Nationally, 60-70 per cent of students at university support centers have LD, and half of the students requiring support in the K-12 system have LD. Ten per cent of the population is affected by LD, and it is easily the most litigious area in special education.”

Hence, it seems fitting that a topic that is so prevalent in society be funded by CURA – whose purpose is to “support the creation of alliances between community organizations and postsecondary institutions which…will foster the creation of new knowledge in areas of importance for the social, cultural or economic development of Canadian communities.”

Lynn Green, president of the LDAC, stated, “We are optimistic that this team will grow quickly. The prioritization of shared research with community groups and families where we will not just provide data but actually be co-researchers with these academies – creating the research questions, designing methodologies, collecting and distributing knowledge that will inform our children’s programs.”

“MUN’s Faculty of Education has provided the leadership and will set the agenda for this,” said Dr. Philpott. “More importantly, with such a strong national team, the consortium will encourage, support, and profile Canadian research on Canadian practice.”