Dr. Gina Harrison

Dr. Gina Harrison
Associate Professor
Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies

Dr. Gina Harrison is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Victoria with a specialization in special education. Her research examines the cognitive and linguistic aspects of reading and writing in children and adults, as well as the effective assessment and identification of literacy-based learning difficulties. She has been a Research Fellow of the Centre for Youth & Society since 2008. 

Recently, Dr. Harrison has examined the literacy skills and executive functioning abilities of French immersion and English-only third-grade children. It has long been hypothesized that learning two languages simultaneously leads to an advantage in executive function skills including planning, working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. Early results indicate that the children in French immersion may rely on cognitive flexibility in a different manner than the monolingual children.

I consider myself an applied researcher. A lot of my research relates to students with learning disabilities and informs the work I do training special educators. I try to address how the teachers can be the most proactive in assisting students who are struggling to learn and be more aware of early markers of language and literacy difficulties. 

— Dr. Gina Harrison

Dr. Harrison is involved in adapting a previously validated reading intervention to be delivered online using COVID-19 Emergency Research Funding from the University of Victoria. Typically, community-based intervention supports for struggling readers can be innaccessible due to the cost. Adapting the program to be delivered online both allowed for children to continue to work on their reading skills from home during COVID-19, but the costs associated with delivering the program is reduced. The intervention is provided free of charge. 

It's important to identify children who are struggling early on, in Kindergarten or grade 1, not waiting for children to fail and get frustrated and then doing the full diagnostic assessment which can take a while. We would like to be able to train the teachers with the tools they need to possibly mitigate these issues before they arise. 

— Dr. Gina Harrison

Lead by her doctoral student, Shelby Pollitt, and in partnership with the Sooke School District, Dr. Harrison is piloting a program to to examine the effects of various instructional approaches, implemented at different points in the school year, on early reading outcomes, and risk for reading difficulties in kindergarteners. The research team hope to identify early markers of risk and timing of instructional response to better support all students.

Recent publications

Harrison, G. L. (2021). Error Analyses and the Cognitive or Linguistic Influences on Children’s Spelling: Comparisons Between First- and Second-Language Learners. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics24(3), 79–97. https://doi.org/10.37213/cjal.2021.31345 

Hodgins, H., & Harrison, G. L. (2021). Improving phonological awareness with Talking Tables in at-risk kindergarten readers. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 115, 103996. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2021.103996 

Pollitt, S., & Harrison, G. L. (2021). Does CBM maze assess reading comprehension in 8–9-year olds at-risk for dyslexia? Dyslexia, 27(2), 265-274. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1679 

More publications