42444 - Learning Processes and Disorders

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The main expected learning outcomes are the following: - to gain knowledge about learning processes in typical and atypical populations - to acquire competencies in the strategies, methods and instruments for the assessment of learning disabilities (reading, writing and math disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, developmental coordination disorder, etc).

Course contents

The course will take place during the second semester of 1°st year (Master in Cognitive Applied Psychology), from March until May 2022 in Bologna, Department Of Psychology, School of Psychology and Education (address: via Filippo Re n.10). Timetable: monday 14:00-16:00, Tuesday and Wednesday: 9:00-11:00. Aula Magna Viale Berti Pichat n.5. 

The course is organized in 2 teaching modules (Module 1: dott.ssa Paola Bonifacci; Module 2: Dott. Lorenzo Desideri). Contents of the 2 modules will be integrated and there will be a unique final exam.

In module 1 the following topics will be discussed: - Main learning paradigms (e.g. behaviorism, cognitivism, neurocontructivism) - Cognitive development in typical and atypical populations (intelligence, reading, writing, math, text comprehension, executive functions, motor coordination) - Learning disabilities in adulthood; –developmental trajectories of learning outcomes, from childhood to adulthood; - epigenesis and gene*environment interaction; –assessment of learning disabilities in bilingual language minority children.

In Module 2 applications of digital technologies (robotics, eye movements, software, speech based technologies) connected to the above described topics will be presented.


Main text: Zoccolotti, P. (2021). Disturbi Specifici dell'Apprendimento. Strumenti per la valutazione. Carocci Editore (Manuali).(Chapters 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, other chapters are useful fo a better understanding of evaluation tools).

Slides presented during lessons will be available on Virtuale.

  • For students attending regularly lessons it is possible to develop a GROUP WORK based on the discussion of 6 papers arranged in a power point presentation. Further details and bibliography will be given during lessons.

Other suggested books:

Hulme, Snowling (2008). Developmental Disorders of Language Learning and Cognition, Wiley-Blackwell

Teaching methods

Lessons will include the discussion of theoretical models of typical and atypical learning processes, behavioral outcomes and assessment guidelines. The course will be enriched by the discussion of clinical cases and presentation of assessment instruments. Slides will be available for students.

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Assessment methods

Acquired skills will be evaluated by means of a written exam with open questions. Evaluation is on a 30 point scale, with a minimum score of 18 for passing the exam. The task will be divided in two sections.

The first is made by 2 open questions on theoretical knowledge (causal models etc), for a maximum score of 10. Appropriate content, synthesis and usage of a specific lexicon will receive excellent scores. Intermediate to low scores will be given in the case of marginal inappropriateness or poor lexicon. Insufficient scores will be given in case of severe lack of knowledge.


In the second section (maximum score 20) the student will be given the description of the cognitive profile of an hypothetical case of learning disability, and the request is to briefly define a functional profile and an hypothesis about diagnostic profile and remedial intervention. Critical reasoning and knowledge of diagnostic criteria will be considered as main criteria of evaluation.

3 questions will be asked: 1) Indicate any diagnostic insights useful for a better understanding of the diagnostic profile, justifying the reasons why it is considered important to deepen that function / area. Indicate if possible the name of the tests that you would like to use or, alternatively, the method / characteristics of the tests / questionnaires / interviews proposed as an in-depth analysis. (6 points) 2) Summarize the functional profile, highlighting areas of strength and fragility. Hypothesize the diagnostic profile and indicate, if possible, the diagnostic codes. Support the diagnostic hypothesis with any references to the theoretical models. (8 points) 3) Explain proposals and suggestions for the intervention (indications for the family, indications for the school, proposal of courses with professionals, reference to regulations), specifying any assistive technologies that it is intended to propose. (6 points)

Teaching tools

PC and projector, speakers, videos, paper and pencil tools.

Office hours

See the website of Paola Bonifacci

See the website of Lorenzo Desideri