Volume 7_Special Edition_2006.

Volume 7_Special Edition_2006.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Special Edition
Learning for All
Sapphire Vaivela
Tawhero School, Wanganui
The cover art is a crayon and dye picture by Sapphire Vaivela,
an eight-year-old in Year 4 at Tawhero School in Wanganui.
Walking in the rain was the theme of Sapphire’s work. The dye
was applied using a cotton bud to help her develop fine motor
skills, and the background dye wash gave her practice at using
long brush strokes.
h er
R e s o u r c io u
an d B e ha
ea a n d
rn i
Ze L
Tawhero School encourages parents, caregivers and whänau
to support their children in their learning. An open door policy
encourages parents and teachers to work together and encourage
students to achieve. Tawhero School maintains a positive learning
environment for all its stakeholders – students, teachers, support
staff and parents/caregivers.
N ew
Teachers provide programmes that specifically meet students’
learning needs, using learning intentions with success criteria
to assist students’ self assessment. The school took part in
the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE)
programme to give teachers more skills to enhance student
achievement. The focus was on peer and self-assessment to
improve students’ knowledge of how and what they need to
learn, and to give them more responsibility for their learning.
Tawhero School is a decile 1, suburban school with 204 pupils,
9 classrooms, an attached satellite class, and four attached
resource teachers: learning and behaviour and two supplementary
learning support teachers. Situated in the lovely river city of
Wanganui, the school focuses on improving students’ outcomes
through relationship based teaching.
Sapphire enjoys being part of her “cool class”, completes
lots of work at school, and says reading is her favourite
school activity.
Volume 7, Special Edition, 2006
Kairaranga is a New Zealand Journal of Educational Practice
Table of Contents
Editorial, Editorial Board and contact details...................................................................................................................................2
Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE)
In it together – Vijaya Dharan.
Practice paper........................................................................................................................................................................................3
Enhancing Effective Inclusive Practice
Knowing, doing and believing – Martyn Rouse.
Keynote address.....................................................................................................................................................................................8
Teaching Mäori Children with Special Education Needs
Getting rid of the too hard basket – Jill Bevan-Brown
Keynote address...................................................................................................................................................................................14
Teaching Strategies: For some or for all? – Lani Florian
Keynote address...................................................................................................................................................................................24
A Torrent of Change: Enhancing effective change in special education – one school’s journey
– Chris Morris and Shirley Katon.
Practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................................28
Within our Circle of Influence – Namratha Hiranniah and Bernadette Mahoney
Practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................................33
Reflections on an Action Research Project
An interview with staff at Mt Richmond Special School – Savi Bhupala, Gurjeet Toor and Kathy Dooley.
Personal experience.............................................................................................................................................................................39
Putting Enjoyment into the Lunch Break
Enhancing effective practice at Ferndale School – Dorothy Wilson and Stephen Evans.
Practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................................43
Raising the Bar in Reading – Taryn Naidoo and Roshilla Naicker
Practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................................48
Building Resiliency in Students with Special Education Needs
A journey of discovery – Alan Mears and Rosalie Stevenson.
Practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................................53
Motueka High School Storied Experience: Teaching and learning strategies
– Tracey Ellery and Jan Trafford
Practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................................56
What Does it Take to Facilitate? – Bruce Kent
Research/practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................59
Challenging Teachers’ Practice through Learning
Reflections on the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education programme of research and professional practice.
– Roseanna Bourke.
Research/practice paper......................................................................................................................................................................64
Kairaranga Book Reviews..................................................................................................................................................................69
Kairaranga goes Digital...................................................................................................................................................................... 71
Submission Guidelines.......................................................................................................................................................................72
This special edition of Kairaranga celebrates experiences
from the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education
(EEPiSE) programme. Coordinated by the Ministry of Education
and running from 2003 to 2006, the goal of EEPiSE was to
improve students’ learning, social, and cultural outcomes .
by supporting and enhancing teaching practice. Participants
included students, parents, whänau, classroom and specialist
teachers, principals and other school leaders, researchers,
facilitators and school communities. The accounts in this
special edition illustrate how research and effective use .
of evidence, when supported by professional learning and
development, led to enhanced teaching practice and
improved student outcomes.
Editorial Board
Alison Kearney
Bernie Holden
Learning for All was the title of the four regional symposia
which marked the end of the EEPiSE programme. Learning .
for (and by) all continues as a key theme throughout .
this special issue with many contributors sharing their
presentations from the symposia. Some schools made use .
of digital media to such powerful effect that any attempt .
to translate their presentations into prose would lose at .
least part of the impact. Marking a first for Kairaranga, .
three of these presentations are included on a DVD with .
this special issue.
Teachers who took part in EEPiSE have exemplified the
importance of their own learning and of sharing their
learning. This occurred in many ways and included leading
professional learning and development across their schools,
supporting their colleagues to reflect on and make changes
to their practice, presenting at the symposia and writing
articles for this journal.
The accounts from teachers are complemented by the
national and international keynote addresses from the
Learning for All symposia. They are joined by reflections .
from the EEPiSE project team. Together, the articles illustrate
the range and diversity of learning experiences and the
multiple levels at which learning occurs.
Just as children and young people have many different
starting points for learning, so did the learning communities
involved in EEPiSE. Participation was a challenge requiring .
all those involved to demonstrate a level of courage; courage
to start the learning journey but also the courage to present
at symposia and to develop the articles. This edition celebrates
that courage.
The reflections in this special issue of Kairaranga remind .
us that learning is about change, and that change occurs .
at both individual and systems levels. We hope that schools
and wider education systems support the continuation of the
learning journeys shared here, and that readers take the
opportunity to reflect on their own notions of teaching .
and learning.
Happy reading!
Alison, Bruce, Cath, Liz, Joanna, Valerie and Vijaya.
Senior Lecturer, Massey University
Senior Advisor, Ministry of Education,
Special Education (GSE)
Carol Watts
RTLB, Ngaruawahia/Raglan Cluster
Cath Steeghs
RTLB, Fairfield Cluster
Graeme Nobilo
RTLB, Fairfield Cluster
Dr Jean Annan
Senior Lecturer, Massey University
Dr Jill Bevan-Brown Associate Professor, Massey University
Jo Cunningham
Psychologist, Wellington GSE
Jo Davies
Project Manager, Early Intervention, GSE
Mere Berryman
Manager, Poutama Pounamu Research
Centre, GSE
Merrolee Penman Senior Lecturer, Otago Polytechnic
Michael Gaffney
Lecturer, Children’s Issues Centre, .
University of Otago
Paul Mitchell
RTLB Huntly/Te Kauwhata Cluster
Dr Roseanna Bourke Director, Centre for Educational
Development, Massey University,
College of Education
Sonja Bateman
Practice Advisor Mäori, GSE
Dr Valerie Margrain Coordinator, Kairaranga, GSE
Vanesse Geel
Lead Practitioner Psychologist,.
Pakuranga GSE
Editing Team
Alison Kearney*
Dr Bruce Kent
Cath Steeghs*
Liz Brady
Joanna Curzon
Dr Valerie Margrain*
Vijaya Dharan
Senior Advisor, GSE
Coordinator, Special Edition, Kairaranga
Team Leader – Research, GSE
Former Senior Advisor EEPiSE .
Project, GSE
*Denotes current Editorial Board member
Cultural Advisor
Dr Angus H Macfarlane
Typesetting and Design
Typeface, Wellington
Bryce Francis Graphics, Wellington
Two issues per year
Subscription Information
1. For RTLB:
PO Box 12-383, Chartwell.
Email: [email protected]
2. For all others: [email protected]
ISSN 1175-9232
The Kairaranga Editorial Board has made every effort to ensure
that all items in this journal are accurate and culturally appropriate.
Views expressed or implied in this journal are not necessarily
the views of the Editorial Board, Ministry of Education and the
New Zealand RTLB Association.
Enhancing Effective Practice in Special
Education (EEPiSE)
In it together
Vijaya Dharan
Psychologist, Ministry of Education, Special Education, Lower Hutt and former Senior Advisor – EEPiSE Project.
Steering Group
This article provides an overview of the process of EEPiSE
from conception to conclusion. It attempts to outline the
extent of cooperation and collaboration among educators
across sectors in identifying what works for children and
young people who require significant adaptation to the
curriculum. Outlined are the sequence of events, and the
people involved, in a project which was the first of its kind .
in the field of special education in New Zealand.
The steering group was made up mainly of cross-Ministry
staff from policy, curriculum, special education, and the
schooling improvement division. The steering group
contributed to the overall research questions addressed
through the different phases of the project. The key role .
of the steering group was to contribute towards the project
design and to ensure that the intent of the funding was
adhered to throughout the project.
Practice Paper
Advisory Group
Action research, collaboration, effective practices, professional
development, research project, teacher development.
The basis of this article was the numerous queries around
how the project came to be. As the longest serving project
team member on the scene, I felt compelled to share the
birth and growth of the EPPiSE project with you all in this
special edition. The project, as you will see by the articles .
in it, was a fine example of collaboration between researchers
and practitioners.
Where did it Begin?
The project was one of the initiatives of the Ministry of
Education aimed at supporting and enhancing teacher
capability to meet the growing diversity among students..
The main purpose of the project was to explore what works
and why for students who require significant adaptation .
to the curriculum, and to identify ways to sustain the
effectiveness of teachers that will result in improved outcomes
for these students in whatever settings they are educated.
Set up Phase
The project team led by Dr Roseanna Bourke, who was then
the Professional Practice Manager - Ministry of Education,
Special Education (GSE), worked on setting up the initial
infrastructure for this initiative, originally called “Building
Capability in Special Education”. However, the title caused
some confusion in some parts of the sector as it was mistakenly
linked to school property modifications. There were also
other reasons, as cited in a later article by Roseanna Bourke,
that led to a change of the project title to Enhancing Effective
Practice in Special Education or what is now fondly referred
to as EEPiSE. As one of their main tasks at the very beginning,
the project team set up an internal Ministry steering group
and an external advisory group, with both groups playing .
an important role in plotting and shaping the course of the
EEPiSE project.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
The advisory group comprised of principals from primary,
secondary and special schools, and representatives from
disability and parent advocacy groups, the New Zealand
Educational Institute (NZEI), and the Post Primary Teachers
Association (PPTA). The advisory group continued to inform
the project until its completion. The role of the advisory
group was to focus on and inform the project team on the
practical aspects of the project from their perspectives – .
a kind of reality check of sorts.
The First Phase
The first phase of the project involved the commissioning .
of a literature review to address three key issues:
• the learning and social outcomes for children and young
people with moderate to high needs requiring significant
curriculum and teaching adaptations
• features of effective interventions that improve student
learning and social outcomes
• building teacher and school capability.
In addressing these questions, the review also identified
some key features of effective professional development .
for teachers, particularly to improve the learning and .
social outcomes for students with special education needs.
The literature review identified that for professional
development of teachers to be effective it should be .
school-based and that it must be built into school-wide .
plans for improvement that supported teachers to work
collaboratively and implement new ideas.
Teachers needed professional learning and development .
that was practical, that addressed their issues and took
account of their learning context. They had to own the
process of their learning and be able to draw on one
another’s experiences and expertise. It was important .
that they were given time to share and plan together.
The Pilot Study
Research of this magnitude was the first of its kind in .
New Zealand in special education. The project team, .
in consultation with the steering group and advisory group,
decided to undertake a pilot study in 25 schools to explore
some methodological approaches. The task ahead was both
exciting and challenging. While schools were facing some
challenges owing to staff changes at various stages of the
project, the project team too had changes of personnel .
at different times. However, Roseanna Bourke provided .
continuity through her leadership.
How did Schools get Involved?
The advisory group strongly recommended that the
expressions of interest sought from schools to be part of the
pilot study had to be simple and brief. As a result, a one-page
Expression of Interest was mailed out to all schools in the
country. This was preceded by an advertisement in the
Education Gazette. There was a small technical glitch that
held up the mail-out of these forms to schools. Eventually
the mail-out reached schools on what was the last working
day for secondary schools in 2003, and arrived later still to
schools in remote areas. The lateness of information did not
seem to be a deterrent. The response was overwhelming.
More than 300 schools expressed an interest to be involved,
out of which 25 schools, including four kura kaupapa Mäori,
were selected to participate in the six-month pilot study.
Criteria for Selection of Schools
Members of the steering committee were involved in
establishing the selection criteria. Schools included primary,
intermediate and secondary, with a wide range of decile
rankings across the country. Four settings – regular schools,
special schools, kura kaupapa Mäori and school-based classes
for the focus group of students were chosen on the basis of
the number of students who were receiving additional
support to access the curriculum.
Researcher Collaboration
Auckland College of Education (which has since merged .
with Auckland University), was selected to lead the research.
They collaborated with three other colleges of education, .
two universities, GSE and a private researcher. While the
collaboration was highly desirable, the logistics of obtaining
ethical approval from the various ethics committees pushed
back the start time of the pilot study by a term in 2004.
Subsequently, schools were involved in Terms 2 and 3, 2004.
Overall around 96 focus groups were held in these schools
with school leaders, parents, teachers and students. The focus
groups were asked to: identify relevant learning, social and
cultural outcomes for all learners; how these outcomes were
currently being achieved, and what would be needed to
enhance these outcomes – particularly for those students who
required significant curriculum adaptations. The teachers in
these focus groups clearly expressed a need for school-based
professional development opportunities to enhance their
expertise to support the diverse range of students in their
classrooms. The result of the numerous focus groups and
findings from this pilot study can be accessed through the
Ministry of Education website (www.minedu.govt.nz).
The nature of professional development that teachers .
in the pilot study wanted mirrored the international trend.
They wanted the professional development to be situated
within the context of their schools in order to be meaningful
and sustainable.
Teachers, while categorically stating the need for ongoing
support for them to be able to meet the needs of the growing
diversity within their classrooms, also identified some key
features that would improve the effectiveness of the
professional development. They wanted the leadership
within schools to foster a culture of acceptance of diversity,
which they saw as a key to sustain effective teaching
practices. For the professional development and learning .
to be more effective they said that:
• teachers had to own and facilitate the process of their
professional learning and development
• professional learning opportunities should be based .
on teachers’ immediate needs and build upon their
existing knowledge
• collaborative planning and goal setting should be a
continuous process with ongoing monitoring, adaptation
and review
• supporting teachers in their professional development
and learning should be built into school-wide planning
for raising student achievement
• supporting teachers in working with families/whänau
was important for improving outcomes for all students.
Action Research and Action Learning
Informed by the pilot study, an advertisement was placed .
in the Education Gazette in August 2004 inviting schools to
participate in a year-long action research and action learning
programme of professional learning and development during
2005. Once again, a one-page format (see Appendix 1) was
used. Schools had the option to choose from either an action
research process or a professional development and learning
opportunity which was to be more aligned to action learning.
There were more than one hundred expressions of interest.
In probing the reason for the lower response to the year-long
study in comparison to the overwhelming interest for the
pilot study, it became clear that a number of schools across
the country were already involved in other Ministry of
Education initiatives such as numeracy, literacy, and
information and communication technologies (ICT), and .
did not want to add to their work programme for the year.
The Selection Process
Similar criteria to that of the pilot study were applied .
in selecting schools. Forty-nine schools were selected to
participate in the year-long professional learning cycle or the
“EEPiSE journey” as the schools refer to the learning process.
Researchers from the University of Auckland, Victoria
University of Wellington, Christchurch College of Education
and Poutama Pounamu research whänau (the Mäori research
arm of GSE) facilitated the action research in 25 schools. .
GSE districts were approached to identify facilitators who
could work in the other 24 schools which chose professional
development through an action learning process.
GSE district managers were asked to nominate staff who:
• had significant experience in working with students .
with moderate, high and very high needs who required
significant adaptation to the curriculum content
• had up-to-date curriculum knowledge and were able .
to link research to practice
• had the interest and skills to facilitate high quality
professional learning
• had the ability to use, adapt and develop resources .
as required
• could take the role of mentor and foster professional
growth in schools
• had the competency to gather and analyse data to
evaluate the impact of the professional learning process
in each setting particularly as it related to the learning,
social and cultural outcomes for students
• had the ability to support networking and the growth .
of communities of practice to enhance the effectiveness
of teaching and the quality of outcomes for students .
with moderate, high and very high needs who required
significant adaptation to the curriculum content
• had the ability to write a final report incorporating .
all aspects of professional learning of the schools
• could work to agreed timelines and present milestone
reports on time.
Managing a Virtual Team
Not surprisingly, facilitators and researchers were located
across the country. One of the most effective ways we used .
to communicate was through teleconferences. The facilitators
found these conversations useful in the initial stages and
reassuring during the later stages. Specific professional
development on action learning was provided to upskill .
GSE facilitators.
Meeting of Schools
From the outset, this project was conceptualised to be a
collaborative venture between educators. To further strengthen
this notion, the 25 schools involved in action research .
were invited to a day-long hui in Wellington to outline .
the intent of the project. At the meeting schools were given
an opportunity to probe what the notion of Learning for All
meant to their schools and communities, and how they
could enhance this notion through the project.
The 24 schools involved in the action learning had similar
opportunities in four regional meetings.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
These meetings proved to be a starting point for schools to
network with one another, which continued to grow in some
areas around the country throughout the project. The regional
symposia provided a further platform to strengthen the
connections between schools.
What the Schools Did
Although the goal for every participating school was to
maximise the outcomes for students who required additional
support to access the curriculum, schools took slightly
different routes in trying to achieve this goal. Although the
participating schools took different pathways, their learning
in terms of reflective and data-informed practices, seems .
to be a common outcome for all teachers. Their individual
narratives in this special issue of Kairaranga will no doubt
speak to this.
Building Learning Communities
The research, as mentioned earlier, was also aimed at
sustaining and supporting ongoing effective teaching practices.
To build networks among practitioners it was necessary that
teachers linked with their peers within their schools and also
fostered links between schools. Many schools in the project
have fostered professional links with their local schools, and
also reached out to other schools through specialist teachers,
workshops, school visits and an e-community.
The four regional symposia that showcased the learning of
schools, some of which have been captured in this special
issue, have provided further opportunities for schools to
extend their learning communities. The enthusiasm to
network among the symposia delegates was encouraging and
provided further impetus to the growth of this professional
learning community.
Resources for Teachers
Teachers were introduced to relevant literature and research
material throughout their involvement in the project. Even
reluctant teachers soon became avid consumers of current
research information on topics relevant to their professional
learning. The findings from the four kura kaupapa Mäori
during the initial pilot study has been developed into a
teacher-friendly resource. In addition, the information
contained in the literature review was extrapolated into .
an active resource material called Springboards to Practice
(Ministry of Education, 2005).
Seven key themes identified in the initial literature review
(bullying, teaching, learning, friendship, social, identity and
self-esteem) have been captured in a teacher-friendly resource.
The resource provides a strong basis for self-examination .
of teaching practices. This resource serves the dual purpose
of informing teachers of what is out there, while actively
engaging them to contribute to evidence from their settings
on what works for students who require additional support
for learning. We hope that teachers will be able to contribute
effective teaching and learning strategies from their own
practices to the existing richness of information in the
Springboards to Practice (Ministry of Education, 2005).
The EEPiSE project has demonstrated the power of
collaboration amongst teachers, and between facilitators .
and teachers, and schools and the Ministry. The participatory
nature (action research/action learning) of the professional
development provided the opportunity for teachers to build
trustworthy relationships with external facilitators that
allowed them to critically examine their existing teaching
theory and practices. Although the timeframe has been short
to reap the deeper benefits in terms of examining the impact
of this reflective practice on student outcomes, the experiences
that you are about to read will nevertheless capture the
extent of collaboration that has been established among
teachers, which is a necessary first step towards creating a
community of practitioners who will learn and grow together.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the EEPiSE
programme was one in which the Ministry and schools were
“in it together”. It is the relationship and mutual trust built
throughout the project in and among schools that will help
sustain ongoing exchange of ideas between all those involved
in teaching and learning. You will find the storied experiences
of schools in the following pages demonstrate the impact of
the EEPiSE project on students, teachers, school leaders and
school communities.
Happy reading!
Ministry of Education (2005). Springboards to Practice. .
Source: Donald Beasley Institute (Eds.), Building capability
in education for students with moderate and high needs.
Final draft report of a literature review commissioned by .
the Ministry of Education: Wellington, New Zealand.
Vijaya Dharan
Vijaya Dharan was a senior advisor with the Ministry .
of Education, Special Education for the EEPiSE project. .
She is both a teacher and psychologist by training. .
Optimism that all children and young people can learn .
given the right environment that supports their diversity, .
and belief in their resilience, are what sustain her in the
work she does.
[email protected]
Appendix 1.
Expression of Interest
Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education
Phase 2 Professional Development, Learning and Action Research
If your school is interested in being involved in this project please register your interest by completing the following details.
Name of school:
Contact details:
Name of contact person:
Please choose one of the following:
You wish to work alongside researchers and have access to professional development and learning specific to the needs .
of your school for students with moderate and high needs who require significant adaptations to the curriculum.
You wish to be involved in professional development and learning to meet the needs of students with moderate and .
high needs who require significant adaptations to the curriculum.
School type:
Kura Kaupapa Mäori
Please indicate the number of students currently receiving funding from the following sources:
Supplementary Learning Support
Enhanced Programme Funding
Moderate needs support
Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour
Other initiatives (Literacy, Numeracy, ICT etc.)
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Enhancing Effective Inclusive Practice
Knowing, doing and believing
Based on a keynote address delivered by Professor Martyn Rouse at the Learning for All: Enhancing Effective
Practice in Special Education Symposia, June 2006.
Action research, effective practices, educational policy,
evidence based practice, inclusion practices, inclusive
classrooms, student participation, teacher development.
This article attempts to locate recent developments in
inclusive practice and learning for all in a broader discussion
about the need to educate all children more effectively than
we may have done in the past. In particular it will explore
the ways in which teachers’ thinking, beliefs and actions
could be developed in ways that might enhance inclusive
practice. It is based in part on a keynote lecture given by .
the author at the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special
Education (EEPiSE) national workshops held in New Zealand
in June 2006. During the workshops, teachers, principals,
students and facilitators presented their accounts of their
school-based, action research and action learning projects
designed to develop inclusive practice. The EEPiSE project
has looked at different ways in which teachers and schools
can become more inclusive of children who may have found
learning and participation difficult in the past. Whilst listening
to the reports from the project schools, it was apparent that
the successes and difficulties encountered in the EEPiSE
project have clear links to the kinds of approaches that are
currently being undertaken in other places throughout the
world. The messages coming from the project schools were
not only about how to increase access to schooling, but also
about how to improve children’s participation in a relevant
and meaningful educational process. Central to this task .
is a focus on what teachers and other adults who work .
in schools might do to foster learning, achievement and
participation. It is suggested that new ways of thinking
about what teachers might need to know, do and believe,
are required.
A series of key questions will be addressed in this article:
• Why learning for all?
• What is the current international policy context?
• Why is inclusive practice difficult to develop?
• What are effective inclusive schools?
• How might teachers reconceptualise the inclusion task?
Education for All (EFA) is one of the Millennium Development
Goals, in part because education is seen as being a crucial
element in human development, but also because so many
children do not have access to education, UNESCO (2005). There are many reasons why some children do not attend
school, including social conflict, movement of populations,
child labour and exploitation, poverty, gender, and disability.
It is the world’s most vulnerable children who are at most
risk of not attending school, or of receiving a sub-standard
education. In some parts of the world, schooling is not
available because of a shortage of school places, a lack of
teachers, or because schools are too far from where children
live. Sometimes families choose not to send their children .
to school because of the poor quality of schooling or because
of the economic cost. Such costs might include school fees,
having to buy uniforms, books and materials, and so-called
“opportunity costs” that arise when young people are not
economically active because they are in school. Throughout the world there is an increased awareness .
of differences in education provision as well as a growing
understanding of the power of education to reduce poverty,
to improve the lives of individuals and to transform societies. It is acknowledged that children with disabilities and those who
find learning difficult are amongst the most disadvantaged .
in education. Where provision for such children is available,
it is often in separate, segregated facilities such as long-stay
institutions, special schools or units. The continued existence
of separate facilities means that significant human and material
resources are unavailable to help with the development of
inclusive practice. Therefore, the reconfiguration of separate
facilities and the inclusion of children described as having
special education needs is seen as an essential component
for achieving education for all. It is hardly surprising therefore
that inclusion is part of a worldwide agenda. As a result of
this interest, a series of national and international initiatives
intended to broaden participation for vulnerable groups .
of children have been enacted. These include the United
Nations Education for All initiative (EFA) which was launched
in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990, the Dakar Declaration (UNICEF,
2000) and the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994).
Differences in educational opportunities for children depend
not only on their individual circumstances, but also crucially
on the country in which they live. In highly developed
countries such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom,
with their long histories of compulsory school attendance,
such concerns may seem irrelevant, but even here, not all
children are in school. And even when they are in school,
they do not necessarily have positive experiences of education,
nor do some children have much to show for their time in
school. Most school systems have children who are excluded,
who do not participate in meaningful learning, or who
underachieve. The so-called “achievement gap” between those
who achieve most and those who achieve least, is a major
concern in many countries. Even successful school systems
find some children difficult to educate. Therefore, in many
countries the concern is not only about access to schooling,
but it is also about ensuring meaningful participation in a
system in which achievement and success is available to all.
But why is there such a long tail of underachievement in so
many countries? Why do so many educational systems have
chronic institutional barriers to participation and achievement?
And why do so many teachers and schools think that these
problems should not be their concern because they are
someone else’s responsibility?
Some would argue that the presence of segregated special
facilities is a barrier because it absolves the rest of the
education system from taking responsibility for all children’s
learning. Such beliefs are not surprising because the “classic”
special education view assumes that it is not desirable to
include children with learning difficulties in mainstream
settings because their needs are different. The assumption
that underpins this view is that it is possible, and indeed
desirable, to group children according to the nature of their
abilities, disabilities or difficulties. There are those who claim
that because children are different, there will be diversity .
of instructional needs. In turn this requires teaching groups
to be formed according to these perceived individual
characteristics. According to Kauffman, Landrum, Mock,
Sayeski, and Sayeski (2005), teaching children well requires that
they be grouped homogeneously for instructional purposes.
In spite of articulate challenges to deterministic beliefs about
ability (for example, Gould, 1997; Hart, Dixon, Drummond &
McIntyre, 2004), there is a widespread and persistent belief
that human abilities are distributed throughout the population
according to the rules of the “bell-curve”. In this view of the
world, those who are located at the bottom left hand end of
the curve are both qualitatively and quantitatively different
from the rest. Given these assumptions, it is not surprising
that many teachers and parents continue to believe that only
professionals who have undertaken specialist training have
the skills and knowledge to do the special needs task. In such a context, achieving inclusion is a daunting task..
The European Agency on the Development of Special Needs
Education (2006) reports that dealing with differences and
diversity is one of the biggest problems faced by schools
across Europe, with behaviour, social and/or emotional
problems presenting the biggest challenges for inclusion. .
It is suggested that difficulties in creating schools for all .
are often associated with intergenerational poverty and
underachievement, and a belief that education is a privilege
and not a right that should be available to all.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
In addition, barriers to participation arise from inflexible or
irrelevant curricula, inappropriate systems of assessment and
examinations, and inadequate preparation of and support
for teachers. In some countries schools are operating in a
hostile policy environment that results in insufficient “capacity”
because of restrictive school structures, a competitive ethos,
negative cultures and a lack of human and material resources.
In turn these views lead to negative attitudes, low expectations
and a belief that some children are “worthy” but others .
are “unworthy”.
In response to concerns about under-achievement and
global competitiveness, many countries have enacted
“standards-based” reforms such as No Child Left Behind .
in the United States, and the Education Reform Act (1998) .
in England (McLaughlin & Rouse, 2000). At the same time,
but mostly independent of the “mainstream” reform legislation,
many countries have enacted educational policies designed
to encourage greater inclusion of children considered to have
disabilities or difficulties. The process of education reform
began in many countries in the mid 1980s when concerns
about global economic competitiveness and the efficiency .
of school systems resulted in the adoption of marketplace
principles in education (Rouse & Florian, 1997). Such reforms
were underpinned by the idea that competition and choice
raise standards and accountability. It could be argued that
competitive environments result in winners and losers .
and that in such a climate some children may be seen as
more attractive to schools than others. Children who are
considered difficult to teach and those who find learning
difficult are at increased risk for exclusion when schools
operate in a competitive educational marketplace
(McLaughlin & Rouse, 2000). It is important to note that this broader policy context can
affect the development of inclusion. Educational reform .
can be both a facilitator and a barrier to the education of
children with special education needs. On the one hand it
can be argued that higher standards are good for all children
because schools are held accountable for the progress of .
all learners. On the other hand, it has been argued that the
difficulties children experience in learning are a consequence
of unresponsive education systems. “Special education
needs” are often the result of a discrepancy between what .
a system of schooling ordinarily provides and that which is
considered “additional” because it is more than that which .
is generally available (Florian, 2007).
The research literature suggests that the implementation .
of inclusion policies has been uneven (Evans & Lunt, 2002). Whilst there are many success stories to be told about inclusion
(Ainscow, 1991; Florian & Rouse, 2001), there have also been
failures and difficulties. Such difficulties have been blamed
on a variety of factors including competing policies that
stress competition and high standards, and a lack of funding
and resources. It has also been suggested that one of the
greatest barriers to the development of inclusion is because
teachers do not have the necessary knowledge, skills and
attitudes to carry out this work (Forlin 2001).
Nevertheless, developing schools for all is important .
because schooling is linked to human, economic and social
development goals. Dealing with exclusion, marginalisation
and underachievement is not only the right thing to do; .
it makes sound economic and social sense. Failure to develop
schools capable of educating all children not only leads to
the creation of an educational underclass, but also a social
and economic underclass which is likely to have serious
consequences for society now and in the future. Therefore,
the development of successful inclusive schools, “schools for
all” in which the learning and participation of all children .
is valued, whilst difficult, is an essential task for all countries.
Therefore, each of the features below may evolve differently
in various schools and it is important not to view these
characteristics as part of a checklist for improvement.
Nevertheless successful inclusive schools seem to have:
• support from inside and outside the school
• leadership from the principal and the local authority .
or school district
• cooperation with parents and the community
• multi-agency working and the sharing of expertise
• a positive ethos and supportive cultures
• flexible use of resources
Therefore, although inclusion is seen as important in most
countries, experience tells us that it is difficult to achieve .
for children with special education needs because of:
• long-term professional development for all adults
• deterministic beliefs about intelligence and fixed abilities
• involvement in action research development projects,
often involving outside partners
• a lack of resources
• the continuing existence of separate specialist facilities
and institutions
• the shame and stigma associated with disability .
and difference
• disagreements about the nature and viability .
of inclusive education
• uncertainty about professional roles and the status .
of specialist knowledge
• inadequate preparation of and support for teachers
• inflexible curricula and examination systems
• didactic “lecture style” whole class teaching
• other policies that impinge on the development .
of inclusive schools such as the competitive .
marketplace reforms. Clearly the development of inclusive practice is difficult, .
but how is it that some schools become more inclusive while
others struggle?
There is now sufficient evidence from around the world to
know what inclusive schools do and what they look like. .
A series of factors at various levels seem to facilitate inclusion. These factors include, the broader policy context, the features
of schools as organisations, the leadership of the school,
classroom processes, the quality of learning and teaching,
and the nature of relationships. Pro-inclusion policies that
value all learners, rather than just some, are an important
feature of schools for all. However, I am going to concentrate
on outlining the features of schools and classrooms, because
that is where most teachers have some professional
responsibility and power.
First it is important to remember that inclusive schools .
are created one at a time. All schools have their histories,
traditions, strengths and areas that need improvement.
• a range of outcomes that are valued, not only .
academic attainment
• a belief that becoming inclusive is not only about .
special educational needs, but is part of a broader .
school improvement agenda
• engagement with self-review and audit of policies .
and practices
• using approaches such as the Index for Inclusion.
The last factor on the list is important because it provides .
a foundation of evidence upon which other developments
can be built. The Index for Inclusion is more than a tool for
developing inclusion. It supports a process that encourages
the learning and participation of all learners. According to
Booth & Black-Hawkins:
It does not focus on a particular group of learners
who are disabled or categorised as having special
educational needs, although it is concerned with them
too. It encourages a critical examination of all aspects
of schools, including approaches to teaching and
learning, curricula, and relationships between and
amongst teachers and learners. It asks staff to build
on their own knowledge and experience and that of
learners, parents and other members of communities,
in identifying development priorities and implementing
them. In the process of working with the materials
schools adapt them to their own contexts (2005, p.5).
As can be seen there is an emphasis on using evidence .
as the basis for developments in learning and teaching, .
the curriculum and relationships. Schools cannot become
more inclusive unless there are changes in classroom
practices that enable children to learn successfully and .
help them to feel better about themselves as learners.
Therefore, inclusive classrooms should emphasise:
• a positive social and emotional climate by encouraging
positive behaviour
• learning as well as teaching
• classroom organisation and management
• an inclusive pedagogy and the use of a wide range .
of teaching strategies
• adults working together collaboratively
• cooperative learning
• building on children’s interests and what they already
know and can do
• the use of assessment practices that support learning.
And of course teachers are crucial in determining what
happens in classrooms. Many see the development of .
more inclusive classrooms as requiring teachers to cater for
different student learning needs through the modification or
differentiation of the curriculum (Forlin, 2004). For some, this
approach has been interpreted as requiring individualisation.
At its most extreme, this view can be seen in the call for oneto-one teaching of students with specific learning difficulties. Questions about the sustainability of such expensive provision
are rarely adequately answered. Further, there are those .
who argue (for example Kaufman, et al., 2005) that there .
are specialist teaching approaches for children with different
kinds of disabilities and that specialist training is required. An unintended consequence of these views is that most
mainstream teachers do not believe they have the skills and
knowledge to do this kind of work and that there is an army
of “experts” out there to deal with these students on a oneto-one basis or in small more manageable groups. Research
carried out in England for the Department for Education and
Skills challenges some of the traditional views about the
nature of a specialist pedagogy (Davis & Florian, 2004) and .
in this issue Lani Florian explores questions about special
knowledge and pedagogy in more detail.
Nevertheless, teachers do have concerns about inclusion and
many surveys have found that teachers’ attitudes towards
inclusion are not particularly positive (Ellins & Porter, 2005). Further, they express concerns about their lack of preparation
for inclusion and for teaching all learners (Forlin, 2001). .
But in settings where teachers are encouraged to try out a
range of teaching strategies, they report that they knew more
than they thought they knew and, for the most part, children
learn in similar ways. Although some children might need
extra support, teachers do not distinguish between “types” .
of special education need when planning this support
(Florian & Rouse, 2001). Many teachers reported they did not
think they could teach such children, but their confidence
and repertoire of teaching strategies developed over time.
This would suggest that by “just doing it” teachers are
capable of developing knowledge and positive attitudes .
to inclusion. By looking at the main findings from research that Lani Florian
and I have carried out over a period of 15 years or so, it would
seem that successful inclusive classroom practice depends .
on teachers’:
• attitudes to pupils with special education needs
• capacity to enhance social relations
• willingness to deal with differences effectively
• repertoire of skills, expertise, knowledge, pedagogical
approaches and confidence
It could be argued that developing effective teaching is about
extending teachers’ knowledge, encouraging them to do things
differently, getting them to reconsider their identities and
their attitudes and it is also about reviewing the kinds of
support they need. In other words, it is about “knowing”,
“doing”, “being”, “believing”, and “having”. But what does
this look like in practice?
For many years both initial teacher education and continuing
professional development focused on extending teachers’
knowledge. Courses would often focus on the characteristics
of different kinds of learners, how they should be identified,
and details of any specialist teaching strategies that were
considered appropriate. In other words these courses .
focused on:
Knowing about
• teaching strategies
• disability and special education needs
• how children learn
• what children need to learn
• classroom organisation and management
• where to get help when necessary
• the best ways to assess and monitor children’s learning
• the legislative and policy context.
It is important to point out that such content knowledge .
is important, but the evidence suggests that it is insufficient
because many teachers did not act upon this knowledge
when they returned to the classroom. It was clear there was .
a big gap between what teachers know as a result of being on
a course and what they do in their classrooms. In an attempt
to bridge this gap, initiatives have been designed to link
individual and institutional development. In other words
“doing” has become an essential element of professional
learning. In many cases this has involved action research-type
initiatives built around school or classroom-based development
projects and new ways of:
• turning knowledge into action
• using evidence to improve practice
• learning how to work with colleagues as well .
as with children
• using positive rewards and incentives.
Although many action research initiatives have had positive
outcomes and involved changes in practice, it became
apparent that some were “content-free” and only focused on
process. Others ran into barriers associated with negative and
deterministic attitudes about children’s abilities and “worth”.
Sadly there are those who believe that some children will
never be able to learn those things that are important to
their teachers. Further, there are teachers who do not believe
they have the skills to make a difference, perhaps because
they “have not been on the course”, and they lack confidence.
• beliefs that all children can learn
• willingness to work together with specialists and .
other colleagues.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Therefore, it is also important to consider how it might .
be possible for teachers to develop new ways of:
• that all children are worth educating
• that all children can all learn
• that they have the capacity to make a difference .
to children’s lives
• that such work is their responsibility and not only .
a task for specialists.
Changing attitudes is difficult, particularly for those teachers
whose professional identities are secure. If a teacher sees
themself as a teacher of, let’s say chemistry or French, .
it is likely that the subject they teach will play an important
part in the construction of their professional identity. Further,
if their subject is seen as intellectually demanding, then why
would they be expected to have to teach it to all learners? But it is not only subject specialist teachers in secondary
schools who have difficulty in redefining their professional
identities. Some teachers of young children with special
education needs see themselves as experts in dealing with
children’s difficulties in learning. It is an identity built upon
the belief about specialist knowledge and skills for the work.
Other teachers not only do not know how to do it, but they
wouldn’t want to do it if they did know how. Inclusion
threatens assumptions that teachers have about many things.
In particular it can threaten their identities. If responsibilities
are to be shared and teachers are to take on new roles and
responsibilities, then there have to be changes to teachers’
ways of:
• through exploring and extending their identity of .
what it means to be a teacher in inclusive settings.
And finally it is important to ensure that teachers not .
only have the knowledge, skills and attributes listed above, .
but also that they are provided with the conditions which
enable them to do the job. This entails:
• the materials, resources, space and place to do the work
• the time to consult with colleagues
• positive attitudes about self and others
• the confidence to try new things in the classroom.
The development of inclusive schools is not an easy task and
not all people are committed to the development of inclusion
because they have strong beliefs about where and how
different “kinds” of children should receive their schooling. In particular there are still unanswered questions about the
purpose and nature of specialist knowledge. In spite of these
difficulties there are sufficient examples of good practice
across the world, and particularly here in New Zealand, for us
to be optimistic that, if we so wish, we can create successful
inclusive schools for all. The examples given at the EEPiSE
workshops provide indicators of how this might be achieved. All of the examples involved teachers and principals
approaching inclusion with open minds. Many reported
difficulties and obstacles, but most reported about ways .
in which practice had changed over the life of the project..
In many schools things were being done differently and
teachers were trying out new ways of working. Over time,
“just doing it” will lead to changes in attitudes and the
development of new knowledge. It was clear from many .
of the project reports that there was new knowledge being
developed and more positive attitudes were becoming
apparent. As mentioned earlier in this article, becoming
more inclusive is not only the right thing to do, but it is .
also in everyone’s interest. It is essential that teachers and
schools play their part in the creation of a fairer, more stable
and more secure society in which everyone feels included.
Ainscow, M. (1997). Towards inclusive schooling. British Journal
of Special Education, 24(1), 3-6.
Booth, T., & Black-Hawkins, K. (2005). Developing learning
and participation in countries of the south: The role of
an Index for Inclusion. Unpublished manuscript.
Davis, P., & Florian, L. (2004). Teaching strategies and
approaches for pupils with special educational needs:
A scoping study (Research Report 516). London: .
Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (available via .
the ‘publications’ section of the DfES research website: .
Ellins, J., & Porter, J. (2005). Departmental differences .
in attitudes to special educational needs in the secondary
school. British Journal of Special Education, 32(4), 188-195.
European Agency for the Development of Special Needs
Education (2006). Inclusive education and classroom practice.
Available at http://www.european-agency.org/iecp/iecp_
Evans J., & Lunt I. (2002). Inclusive education: Are there limits?
European Journal of Special Needs Education, 17(1), 1-14.
Florian, L. (2007). Reimagining special education. In L. Florian,
(Ed.). The SAGE handbook of special education. London: Sage.
Florian, L., & Rouse, M. (2001). Inclusive practice in English
secondary schools: Lessons learned. Cambridge Journal
of Education, 31(3), 399-412.
Forlin, C. (2004). Promoting inclusivity in Western .
Australian schools. International Journal of Inclusive
Education, 8, 183-200.
Professor Martyn Rouse
Forlin, C. (2001). Inclusion: Identifying potential stressors for
regular class teachers. Educational Research, 43(3), 235-245.
Gould, S. J. (1997). The mismeasure of man, (2nd ed.).
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Hart, S., Dixon, A., Drummond, M. J., & McIntyre, D. (2004).
Learning without limits. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Kauffman, J. M., Landrum, T.J., Mock, D., Sayeski, B., .
& Sayeski, K.S. (2005). Diverse knowledge and skills require .
a diversity of instructional groups: A position statement.
Remedial and Special Education, 26(1), 2-6.
McLaughlin, M., & Rouse, M. (2000). Special education
and school reform in the United States and Britain. .
London: Routledge.
Rouse, M., & Florian, L. (1997). Inclusive education in the
marketplace. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1(4),
UNESCO (2005). Children out of school: Measuring exclusion
from primary education. Montreal: UNESCO Institute for
UNESCO (1994). The Salamanca Statement and framework
for action on special needs education. Paris: UNESCO.
UNICEF (2000). Dakar framework for action: Education for all:
Meeting Our Collective Commitments. UNICEF.
Martyn Rouse is Professor and Director of the Social and
Educational Inclusion Project at the University of Aberdeen.
Previously he was a senior lecturer in inclusion and special
educational needs at the University of Cambridge, Faculty .
of Education and Director of Studies for Education at .
St Catharine’s College Cambridge. He was a teacher for .
16 years in special and mainstream settings in London and
also worked for a local authority advisory service. He has
undertaken commissioned research and development work
on inclusive education for local authorities in the UK and .
for several national and international agencies, including
UNICEF, in Bosnia and Serbia in the former Yugoslavia, and
in the Republics of Georgia and Latvia. More recently he has
worked with the Kenyan Ministry of Education. Currently he
is working with colleagues from the Universities of Cambridge,
Edinburgh and Oxford on RECOUP, a five-year project looking
at the ways in which education can help to reduce poverty .
in Ghana, India, Kenya and Pakistan. Over the past decade,
he carried out research and has published widely on the
impact of school reform legislation on the education of
children with special education needs and is particularly
interested in inclusion and achievement, and the identity and
status of teachers who work with children in special education.
Author Contact
Professor Martyn Rouse.
Director of the Social and Educational Inclusion Project.
School of Education.
University of Aberdeen .
Scotland AB24 5UA .
[email protected]
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Teaching Mäori Children
with Special Education Needs
Getting rid of the too hard basket
Keynote address delivered by Dr Jill Bevan-Brown at the Learning for All: Enhancing Effective Practice
in Special Education Symposia, June 2006.
1. Teachers and special educators don’t care.
This paper examines research evidence, practitioners’
knowledge, skills and experiences and the voice of students,
parents and whänau to identify common messages in respect
to educating Mäori students both with and without special
education needs. The keys to effective practice identified
include: positive teacher-student relationships; interactive
teaching strategies that engage students in their own
learning; teaching that builds on students’ strengths and
interests; high teacher expectations of Mäori students; the
inclusion of cultural input; and the involvement of parents,
whänau and peers. Professionals are urged to take the
provision of culturally appropriate, effective education out .
of the “too hard basket” and to use the previous strategies
when working with Mäori students.
2. They believe that culture is not relevant to teaching
students with special education needs.
Culturally appropriate strategies, effective practices, .
evidence based practice, inclusive classrooms, Mäori culture,
Mäori students, parent school relationship, teaching strategies.
3. They believe their efforts won’t make a difference.
4. They are unsure of what to do or are so overwhelmed .
by the enormity of the challenge that they put improving
the teaching of Mäori students with special education
needs into the too hard basket.
I will return to these possibilities at the end of my presentation.
Sir Apirana Ngata once said, ‘There are two ways of tackling
problems. One is to explore the bad and feature it. The other
is to discover good and encourage it’ (Percy, 1989, pp. 6-7).
My previous presentation, in the main, took the former
approach. By giving statistics and examples showing how
Mäori students with special education needs were missing
out I had hoped to appeal to people’s sense of injustice. .
I don’t think it worked – well for the lady in the lift it didn’t!
So in this presentation I am going to take a positive approach.
When I was first asked to present this talk I declined the
invitation. What ensued was a flurry of emails giving excuses
and suggesting other people but finally after being wined,
dined and flattered, I agreed (it works every time). Chief
amongst my reasons for initially declining was a fear that .
I would disappoint people, be boring and waste everyone’s
time. Fresh in my mind was another talk I had given. The
topic was, “What is the research telling us about provisions
for Mäori students with special needs?” Briefly my message
was that these students were not faring well and that despite
the importance of their culture, cultural input into teaching
and special education programmes was inadequate. .
After the presentation I was in the lift with a woman who .
had attended my talk and she remarked, “Nothing you told
us was new, we’ve known that for years!” The lift door
opened and the woman promptly disappeared which was
probably a blessing for us both but what she said got me
thinking, “If people are already well aware of the situation,
why do many Mäori students with special education needs
remain inadequately provided for?” I came up with a
number of possible reasons.
Figure 1. Evidence-based practice diagram..
(Bourke, Holden and Curzon, 2005).
To place my talk in a context and outline what I intend to
cover, I refer you to this model of evidence-based practice
(Figure 1) which very effectively illustrates the sources of
evidence we should be drawing on to inform our practice.
This model represents three types of evidence: those of
research; practitioners’ knowledge, skills and experiences; .
and the individual and collective voices of children, young
people, whänau and families.
My talk is going to cover examples from all three evidence
sources in respect to teaching Mäori students in general, .
and Mäori students with special education needs in particular.
I will be highlighting effective practices identified in each area
and looking at common messages that emerge. However, .
I need to mention that this evidence-based practice model
was developed as a guide to practice in specific situations.
Because I am not dealing with a particular student, the
examples I will be giving in each area are drawn from relevant
research studies.
• using focused revision to link previous learning .
to new material
• “explicit teaching” of new concepts by presenting
material in small, manageable steps
• ongoing assessment of students’ learning
• using skilful questioning techniques to engage students
in paired, small group and whole class discussions
• making learning fun
• incorporating cooperative learning techniques
• providing clear, unhurried, easily understood
• rewarding learning
• giving regular and genuine individual, group and .
whole class praise and encouragement.
Indeed, research shows that these strategies are effective
with all students regardless of ethnicity. They are certainly
evident in the literature on teaching students with special
education needs.
Figure 2. Practitioner skills and experiences.
I will start with practitioners’ knowledge, skills and
experiences and share with you findings from the
Achievement in Multicultural High Schools (AIMHI) project.
This was a school support initiative to raise the achievement
of Mäori and Pasifika students in eight low decile secondary
schools with large Mäori and Pasifika rolls. It consisted of a
number of components and was conducted over a four-year
period. One aspect of the study focused on identifying teaching
and learning strategies used by effective teachers in the
AIMHI schools. Over a six-month period, 100 lessons involving
89 nominated teachers were observed. Following each
observation the teacher concerned was interviewed to
discuss the lesson. In addition, six students from each class
also participated in a discussion of the lesson, the strategies
used and the qualities of the teacher. Altogether 600
students participated in group discussions and 1645 were
present at the lessons observed. We will be hearing from
some of these students later when I talk about student voice.
What did this comprehensive study reveal? It showed that
successful teachers of Pasifika and Mäori students carefully
planned and structured their lessons. They knew how to
assess and accommodate their students’ learning needs and
had an armoury of effective and appropriate teaching
strategies they could draw on to facilitate their students’
learning. These included:
• outlining the purpose of lessons
• including a range of stimulating, meaningful and .
varied activities
• actively engaging students in their own learning
• differentiating teaching to accommodate different
learning abilities
• responding to “teachable moments”
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
In respect to culture, successful teachers were identified as
having ‘a good knowledge and understanding of and empathy
with the cultural worlds of their students’ (Hill & Hawk, 2000,
p. 15). They pronounced Mäori and Pasifika names and words
correctly and used Mäori and Pasifika words and concepts .
in their teaching. They also seated students who spoke the
same language together so they could help each other.
But perhaps the strongest message to emerge from the
AIMHI study was in relation to the affective qualities these
successful teachers possessed. They were positive, optimistic,
hardworking, motivated, reflective practitioners. In dealing
with students they were understanding, respectful, fair,
caring, giving of themselves, patient, humorous, persevered
and kept their word. They also consulted with parents .
and were involved in out-of-school activities.
The affective qualities these teachers possessed contributed
to the development of strong and positive teacher-student
relationships. It was these relationships that the researchers
identified as crucial to students’ learning. In fact they stated
that teachers’ age, gender, socio-economic status and/or
ethnicity did not matter to students; rather it was the teachers’
attitudes that the students considered most important .
(Hill & Hawk, 2000, p.15).
The data show these students have particular needs that
students in other schools do not have. The relationship that
students in these schools form with their teachers is crucial.
While the relationship that forms between a student and
teacher in any school is important, the data in this study
show that it is not only important to these students but
is a prerequisite for learning. If a teacher has not been
able to form a positive relationship of reciprocal respect
the students in the class will find it very, very, difficult
to be motivated to learn (Hill & Hawk, 2000, p. 3).
This finding concurs with other Aotearoa/New Zealand .
studies of Mäori and Pasifika students and with overseas
studies of minority group, at-risk and special education
students in general.
You may be wondering why positive student-teacher
relationships are more crucial to learning for these groups .
of students than to students in general. There are a number
of reasons for this but chief amongst them is the connection
between learning and the five “self-hyphens” that is, .
self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-identity, self-concept and .
self-assessment. Students from ethnic minorities and those
with special education needs have an increased risk of
developing negative self-concepts. If their disability results .
in them having to struggle to achieve tasks others can do
with ease, if it excludes them from participating in valued
activities, or if the media regularly highlights negative statistics
relating to their ethnic group, it is quite understandable .
that their self-concept and belief in what they can achieve .
is negatively affected. This in turn affects their ability to
learn, not only because their motivation is lowered but also
because cognitively they are not “operating on all pistons.” Gay (1994, p. 4) provides a good explanation of this in a
school context:
If students feel that the school environment is alien and
hostile towards them or does not affirm and value who they
are (as many students of colour believe), they will not be
able to concentrate as thoroughly as they might on academic
tasks. The stress and anxiety that accompany this lack of
support and affirmation cause their mental attention, energy
and efforts to be diffused between protecting their psyches
from attack and attending to academic tasks. This stress
‘adversely affects students’ daily academic performance
by reducing their willingness to persist at academic tasks
and interfering with the cognitive processes involved in
learning’ (Gougis, 1986, p.147).
This explains why positive student-teacher relationships are
so important for these groups of students, especially ethnic
minority students with special education needs who are
doubly at risk. If students know their teachers like and care
about them, if they are treated with respect and their culture
is valued, they can concentrate all their attention, energy
and effort on learning.
The AIMHI study identified a second important influence .
on students’ learning. This is the nature of the relationships
that exist between the learner and their peers. The findings
showed that where positive peer relationships were present,
students felt ‘safer to contribute, take risks with their learning
and learn from each other … group dynamics of the classroom
make a difference to student motivation and attitudes towards
learning’ (Hill & Hawk, 2000, p. 4.) Positive peer relationships
were not just left to chance. Teachers planned team-building
strategies, taught and modelled relationship skills and provided
situations where these could be used. In the special education
context, the importance of positive peer relationships can .
be gauged by the fact that Friendship, Belonging, Social and
Bullying constitute four of the seven major themes identified
in Springboards to Practice (Ministry of Education, 2005).
Figure 3. Child, young person,whänau and families. .
The individual and the collective voice.
What messages are parents, whänau and students giving
about effective education for Mäori students both with .
and without special education needs?
Throughout the last 18 years I have interviewed countless
numbers of parents and whänau of Mäori children with .
a wide range of special education needs. In preparing this
talk I went back to my interview data to find out what the
predominant messages were in respect to providing an
effective education. The messages clearly indicate that
parents and whänau:
• believe cultural input is important in the education .
of their child with special education needs
• want to be consulted, involved and empowered .
in their child’s education
• want teachers who care about their child and have .
high expectations of them
• want skilful teachers who can deliver a high quality
Parents and whänau believe cultural input is
important in the education of their child with
special education needs
A strong message that has come through from the majority
of parents I have interviewed is the importance of cultural
input in their child’s education. This cultural input is
important not only for the child’s cultural development .
but also to foster their self-esteem and to facilitate learning
in general. The previous quote from Gay (1994) explained
how children need to feel psychologically secure in order .
to learn effectively. Including cultural content contributes .
to their emotional and psychological well-being because .
it shows students that their culture is important and valued.
It also facilitates learning by providing, firstly, a means by
which new information can be related to prior knowledge
and experience, and secondly, an educational environment
that is culturally compatible with their home environment.
The cultural input mentioned by parents and whänau was
wide-ranging. It included the incorporation of Mäori content
and language into the curriculum; the use of culturally
appropriate identification and assessment measures,
procedures, teaching strategies and resources; and the
recognition and incorporation of Mäori values, perspectives
and perceptions of special education needs.
Parents provided some excellent suggestions and wonderful
examples of cultural input, ranging from the simple inclusion
of puha in a science lesson to involvement in kapahaka.
If every Mäori kid today could identify puha then that is
fantastic. If you can say, “Do you know what puha looks like?
Can you go and get me some? Magnificent!” Again it’s what
they can do. Now who talks about the recognition of puha
as a wonderful thing to have and yet you can live on that, you
can eat that, it sustains you and then you get the puha and
you say, “See that white thing coming out, what’s it made of?
Gee, it’s not just puha, it’s some chemical makeup of puha”
and can lead on. I remember when I was working in Parehau
[this parent was a social worker] we used to ask kids what
they had for breakfast and they would lie. They would talk
about pavlova, sponges and cream and that was all bullshit.
Samoan kids, Mäori kids, instead of saying they had the boil
up from the night before! They didn’t think it was acceptable
to say that. It’s actually valuing the things they do in their
lives and talking about that (Bevan-Brown, 1993, pp. 110-111).
One child with Asperger syndrome who loved music and
kapahaka but had difficulty coping with loud noises wore .
ear plugs at practices and performances. His mother noted
that he was usually a few beats behind everyone else but he
coped and in time was able to dispense with the ear plugs.
Parents and whänau want to be consulted,
involved and empowered in their child’s education
I definitely think that for a start for Mäori children, Mäori
people have to be involved in the decision-making about
what is going to happen to those children because when
they’re not, it doesn’t matter how good it is, they’ll never .
feel part of it and for it to be successful, Mäori people, .
they have to feel a part of it (Bevan-Brown, 1993, p. 112).
In addition to being involved in decision-making relating .
to their children, parents were also keen to support their
children’s learning. However, the point was made that some
parents were unsure of how to do this. A Mäori parent who
was also a teacher aide told of how she visited parents to
explain their child’s special education programme to them:
When the child goes home you are expecting that child to
communicate with the family if they want help. Sometimes
it is not that the parents don’t want to help, it’s that they
don’t know they can help or how they can help … I didn’t
learn [what to do] until I was a teacher aide. So you know
about getting the whänau involved, I’m really into that …
all your planning, all your programmes and everything like
that will go right down the poo hole if you haven’t got family
support (Bevan-Brown, 2002, p. 298).
At the other end of the spectrum I came across parents .
in my research who were experts on their child’s disability.
For example, six of the parents I interviewed in the Autism
Spectrum Disorder (ASD) study had an in-depth knowledge .
of ASD. They were well read, went to relevant conferences,
regularly searched the Internet for the latest research results
on the treatment of children with ASD and contacted
acknowledged world experts to discuss their children.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
We need to make the most of the knowledge and experience
of parents such as these. But even if parents are not experts
in their child’s disability, they know their children best and
we need to make the most of this knowledge. One parent
explained how this was happening with her son’s teachers:
We were aware of lots of little things that might trigger him
off. Even down to hitting kids and then we’d figure out with
Tipene … if a rule was you couldn’t wear your hat in the
classroom and he was aware of it and as soon as he saw
a kid who had a hat on, he’d go for them and try to take
it off them because that was the rule! But with him it wasn’t,
“Can you please take your hat off?” it was go up and grab
the hat and so that would lead to other things and fracases
and fighting because other kids wouldn’t realise what he’s
doing and teachers wouldn’t realise why he did it. Lots of
little things like that and it’s only because we’d see it happen
here or other places, we’d be around him when a similar
thing would happen so we’d know that’s what the problem
was … Once we’ve explained things to teachers and they’ve
seen it and understand it, then they’re usually pretty good …
Because of things we’ve said to the kids as well as to the
teachers, now everybody is trying to recognise these things
and understand why, so they tolerate it because they
understand (Bevan-Brown, 2004, pp. 48-49).
However, I need to include a caveat here about parent
involvement. While the desire to be involved in their child’s
education did emerge as a predominant theme in my
research studies, similar to the desire for cultural input, .
this did not apply to everyone. Parents and whänau should
be involved to the extent they choose, are comfortable .
with and are able to manage. Never make assumptions. .
The best way to find out what parents want is to ask! .
This consultation should not be a once only event. .
Because people’s circumstances and opinions can change .
over time, consultation should be ongoing.
Parents and whänau want teachers who cared about
their children and had high expectations of them
Parents described teachers and other personnel involved .
in educating their children as “having aroha,” “very helpful,”
“very open,” “supportive,” “knowledgeable,” “informative,”
“inclusive,” “valuing of family,” “great advocates,” “easy going,”
“non-judgemental,” “committed to their job,” “positive,”
“caring” and so forth.
I had so many quotes that give testament to caring and
dedicated teachers that it was difficult to choose just one .
to share with you. However, I decided on the following
because it shows just how powerful simple little gestures
from teachers can be. It is a story that one mother related
about her own childhood experience:
I think that if a child feels special with that teacher, then
she can draw out lots of things from the child, but if the child
feels that he is not special then he’ll just keep it in, it won’t
exhibit itself. Often kids need this drawing out, you know,
“this person thinks I’m special!” I remember when I was little,
when I was at primary, different teachers developed my
self-esteem. I had long hair and always wore it in plaits …
There was one teacher who used to flip my pigtail and smile
at the same time. I looked up to him and I thought, “this
chap likes me, this teacher thinks I’m neat.” So I thought I
was neat. This other teacher on my report wrote “cooperative.”
I looked at that and thought “gosh, that’s a big, long word,
it must mean that I’m brainy, I’m brainy!” That was in the
primers, so that false thing improved my self-esteem so that
I had this self-image of being brainy, and people liked me.
So that motivated me to do better and better (Bevan-Brown,
1993, p. 109).
Parents and whänau want skilful teachers who
can deliver a high quality programme
Invariably, parents and whänau made the point that cultural
input was not enough to ensure learning. For special education
to be effective it had to be of “a high quality”. This included:
appropriate, purposeful, timely assessment; ongoing
programme evaluation; comprehensive, regular, relevant
and sufficient interventions; teaching that was interesting,
pitched at the correct level and used effective strategies; .
and programmes that were well funded and well resourced.
In respect to teaching strategies, the most frequently mentioned
approach involved building on children’s strengths and
interests. This was seen to be especially effective for children
with ASD. One father explained how his son’s obsession with
chess was utilised by teachers who provided chess maths,
chess stories, chess PE and so on. He commented that even
when the lesson had nothing to do with chess his son was
able to find some tenuous link!
Another frequently mentioned strategy was the use of role
models. One father told of how his son had chosen Heremia
Ngata to study for a school project. He applauded this .
and explained:
It’s just affirming who you are … using images of successful
Ngati Porou people like Apirana Ngata and Whaea McClutchie
who are the successful images they can whakapapa in to …
So in terms of soccer there’s Heremia Ngata … Sean Fallen …
Winton Rufer … So I say to Tama, “Hey, look, three professional
Ngati Porou soccer players, one of them absolutely famous.”
It’s a creation of images, that you have role models that
you can say, “hey, that’s a cuzzy!” Te Ra is very interested,
he wants to find out exactly how Heremia is related to us.
I’ve got to work that out. I know he is but in the meantime
“doesn’t matter boy,” I say, “whether he is a first or second
cousin, he’s a cousin. We will work it out and I will show
you.” So that’s the modelling thing. You can say, “You are
me, your success is my success.” It’s that sort of thing
(Bevan-Brown, 1993, p. 103).
In my ASD study parents were asked about teaching
approaches that had been successful with their children. .
A wide range of approaches were described but the top .
seven were:
• preparation/transition activities
• visual strategies
• activities involving music and rhythm; firmness .
and perseverance
• computer use
• one-on-one assistance
• social stories.
Unfortunately I have not interviewed large numbers of.
Mäori students either with or without special education .
needs so I could not use my own research to identify
predominant messages. However, hundreds of Mäori and
Pasifika students have been interviewed in the AIMHI and .
Te Kotahitanga research (Bishop, Berryman, Tiakiwai & Richardson, 2003) so I looked to these studies for outstanding
messages related to learning. This is what I found:
Students emphasised the importance of caring teachers
who encourage and have high expectations of them:
They encourage us. They tell us about their lives and
about the experiences of past students. They challenge
you, they make comparisons that help you to understand.
(AIMHI Students)
They respect your views. They don’t make you feel stupid
and when you ask a question they don’t look at you like
you’re dumb. You feel more confident if you’re relaxed
with a teacher. (AIMHI Students)
Students want their culture valued and affirmed:
We don’t necessarily need PI and Mäori teachers but we
do need culturally sensitive teachers. (AIMHI Student)
I’m a Mäori, they should ask me about Mäori things …
I’ve got the goods on this but they never ask me. I’m a dumb
Mäori I suppose. Yeah they asked the Asian girl about her
culture. They never ask us about ours. (Te Kotahitanga Student)
Students want: well organised teachers who make
learning understandable, interesting and fun; to be
actively involved in their own learning; and a classroom
environment where it is OK to make mistakes:
It’s good when they explain so you can understand.
They break down the book information into little bits,
part by part. (AIMHI Student)
They have a laugh with you instead of just sitting there,
but still keeping us in line. Keep the class in order,
but still laughing with you … that helps you like the subject.
(Te Kotahitanga Student)
If you can join in and do things then it’s easier to learn.
(AIMHI Student)
Students want the support of their parents,
family and friends:
Your friends in your class, sometimes if you don’t understand,
they will help you out and put it in your words and then
you’ll understand. So that’s how if you get a friend like that
and they understand it, they can just tell you and you can
get to work. (Te Kotahitanga Students)
Having your family and friends to support you … cause
they’ve all been through school and stuff and have good jobs
and I want to be like that. (Te Kotahitanga Student)
However, it must be added that while students wanted their
parents and whänau to support their learning they were not
enthusiastic about them coming to school to do so! I suspect
the latter actually depends on the age of the student. My four
children loved me coming to kindy, kohanga reo and school
when they were young but as they grew older they became
embarrassed about my looks, my clothes, my bomb car, .
what I said, what I didn’t say – to the extent that one of my
daughters wouldn’t bring home notes from college asking .
for parent assistance just in case I volunteered!
Finally, the process of listening to students’ voices can .
be complemented and enhanced by becoming more
knowledgeable about youth culture in general. The authors
of a book called What successful teachers do in inclusive
classrooms. Sixty research-based teaching strategies that
help special learners succeed (McNary, Glasgow & Hicks,
2005) maintain that understanding where students are .
and what is important to them is essential to designing
instruction. They suggest that teachers:
Check literature, music, clothing trends and so on. Spend
time looking over popular magazines, check on students’
favourite films and television shows, and most importantly,
take time to talk and listen to them … Relating the curriculum
to the students in order to make it meaningful, relevant
and fun reduces classroom management issues as well
as contributes to student success (pp. 11 & 12).
Figure 4. Research – the last circle.
The diagram (Figure 5) illustrates some different types .
of research that can be drawn on to inform our teaching
practice. At the top are the multi-site studies that collect data
from large numbers of teachers and/or students. The middle
layer includes research which involves many teachers and/or
children but they are all from the same site. At the bottom .
is research that involves in-depth studies of one classroom,
centre, unit, teacher or child, and of course there are many
gradations in between these three research scenarios.
Large multi-site Research Studies
eg. AIMhI and Te Kotahitanga
Single-site Studies
eg. whole school Cultural Self Review Case Study
Indepth studies involving one
eg. Action Research study
investigating effective practices
for students with ASD
Figure 5. Looking beneath the surface.
Each type of research has its particular strengths and
weaknesses. For example, the numbers in the large studies
enable the identification of “statistically significant” findings
which can be generalised to similar populations or situations.
The smaller studies don’t have this capacity but they can give
“life” to the statistics of larger studies by showing in detail
what people do, think and feel. In drawing on research .
to inform our practice we need to consider studies across .
this whole spectrum so that we can get the best of all possible
worlds. I am going to present an example of research from
each level. AIMHI and Te Kotahitanga are both large multi-site research
projects. The AIMHI study was described earlier. I will now
very briefly explain the Kotahitanga project but strongly
recommend that you visit the Mäori research section on the
Ministry of Education website (www.minedu.govt.nz) and
read about these and other projects in detail.
In the Kotahitanga project researchers talked to Year 9 and
10 Mäori students in four mainstream schools about their
classroom experiences. They also talked to parents, principals
and teachers. The analysis of these interviews showed that
the students, parents and principals believed the most
important influence on the students’ achievement was the
quality of the classroom relationships and interactions
between the teachers and students. The majority of teachers,
however, believed that the major influence on students’
achievement was the students themselves and/or their
whänau circumstances or structural issues. The researchers
concluded that:
This deficit theorising by teachers is the major impediment
to Mäori students’ educational achievement for it results in
teachers having low expectations of Mäori students. This in
turn creates a downward spiralling, self-fulfilling prophecy
of Mäori student achievement and failure (Bishop, Berryman,
Tiakiwai & Richardson, 2003, p. 12).
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
The researchers developed an effective teacher profile from
the information shared by the students and others and then
delivered professional development based on this profile to
11 teachers in four schools. This professional development
included marae training and in-class observations and support.
Emphasis was placed on both improving teacher attitudes
and expectations of Mäori students and on introducing
interactive teaching strategies. These included giving feedback
and feed forward, co-construction, making use of prior learning,
cooperative learning, narrative pedagogy, formative assessment
approaches and student-generated questioning. The research
showed that when teacher-student relationships improved
and teaching became more interactive, Mäori students’ .
on-task engagement increased, their absenteeism reduced,
their work completion increased, the cognitive levels of the
classroom lessons increased and students’ short-term
achievements increased – in many cases quite dramatically
(Bishop, Berryman, Tiakiwai & Richardson, 2003, p. 12).
Since the initial Te Kotahitanga scoping study in 2001, .
phases two and three have been implemented and many more
schools and teachers have become involved. The measuring
of students’ achievement has been carefully documented
and analysed. Results continue to be positive including
improvements in students’ literacy skills as measured by .
the Essential Skills Assessment Literacy Test. The research .
is showing the many teachers who previously believed they
could not make a difference because Mäori underachievement
was the fault of the students and their home backgrounds,
have found in fact they can make a major difference simply
by changing their attitudes and introducing interactive
teaching techniques.
The second success story I want to share with you relates to
the Cultural Self Review (CSR) (Bevan-Brown, 2003), developed
as part of my PhD research. In brief, the CSR involves (hopefully)
all staff in a school or early childhood education centre
examining their own practices to see how well they are
providing for Mäori students in general and Mäori students
with special education needs in particular and then developing
an action plan to address any areas of weakness.
The Cultural Self-Review
. Introduction and preparation
. Information gathered
6. Action plan reviewed
. Data analysis
and planning
. Action plan
. Action plan
Figure 6. The cultural self-review process .
(Bevan-Brown, 2003, p. 27).
I have had many anecdotal reports about the CSR from
people who have conducted one in their centre or school.
These reports have been very positive. Not surprisingly, they
show that schools benefit from the self review in proportion
to the time, effort and commitment they put in.
The case study I wish to share with you was conducted in .
a decile 2 primary school with a 42% Mäori roll. The school
was experiencing major problems and requested assistance
from the local Ministry of Education, Special Education (GSE)
office. A Mäori behaviour specialist came into the school .
and assisted the staff to conduct a CSR. After explaining .
the process, she helped teachers to gather answers to the
questions posed in a cultural input checklist. (These questions
are based on culturally-relevant principles and cover all
areas of school/centre life). Staff were interviewed and kept
reflective notebooks. In addition, the GSE worker conducted
classroom and playground observations. The analysis of all
data collected identified strengths and gaps. This information
was shared in a staff meeting. People prioritised the areas
that needed to be worked on, brainstormed possible strategies
and developed a whole school action plan.
This included:
Environment – principal to make home visits to all whänau,
school to develop a whänau drop-in centre.
Content and Resources – kapahaka group to be re-established,
te reo Mäori tutor introduced and all classes to make a
marae visit.
Personnel – staff development in Mäori, establishment of a
school whänau committee and Mäori tutors to be employed.
Policy and Processes – te reo Mäori in classes, tuakana-teina
model, and Mäori protocols such as powhiri and koha to .
be introduced.
Assessment – a cultural profile to be developed for students
and a whänau committee to lead the next CSR. Reviews were
planned on a termly basis changing to an annual review .
at a later date.
This staff made a serious commitment to making their school
a culturally responsive environment and I am pleased to
report their efforts were rewarded. Both staff and children
increased their cultural knowledge; parents become more
involved in their children’s education; whänau and the wider
community became more involved in and supportive of the
school; relationships between staff and children improved;
absenteeism decreased and their Education Review Office
(ERO) report improved! Unfortunately, the GSE worker who
did this case study did not gather data around learning
outcomes so I am not sure if there were significant gains .
in this area but, given the connection between cultural
identity, self-esteem, psychological well-being and learning,
it is highly probable these gains were made. (If anyone is
interested in learning more about the CSR it is explained in
detail in The Cultural Self-Review. Providing culturally effective,
inclusive education for Mäori learners (Bevan-Brown, 2003).
Finally, I would like to share with you the story of a
participatory action research project centred around two
senior students with autism one of whom is Mäori (BevanBrown, Carroll-Lind, Kearney, Sperl, & Sutherland, 2005). .
This research was part of a larger Ministry of Education .
project to investigate effective practices for students with ASD.
Along with two colleagues I was involved as a research mentor.
The study was conducted in a large urban, co-educational,
secondary school. The two students concerned received part
of their education in regular classes and part in the school’s
special education facility. Staff were concerned that sometimes
when these students became anxious or stressed they exhibited
“inappropriate behaviours”. So the research was focused on
identifying stress factors, getting the students to recognise
and understand their personal stress levels and to use this
knowledge to manage their stress more appropriately.
Teachers, teacher aides and parents were the main researchers,
and using questionnaires, observations, reflective journals
and teaching activities, factors that both caused and reduced
stress for these students were identified. Parents and staff
were also involved in a number of professional development
activities to increase their knowledge of ASD and of how .
to manage it.
Action research is a cyclical process where various interventions
are introduced, evaluated, discarded, modified, continued as
is or perhaps built on in the next cycle. One of the interventions
trialed was unsuccessful for the two students involved but
ended up teaching us one of the most valuable lessons of .
the research. The intervention was Tony Attwood’s Exploring
Feelings programme (Attwood, 2004 a; 2004, b). There is
nothing wrong with the programme itself but the ongoing
evaluation showed that the two students did not have the
conceptual and emotional understanding needed to benefit
from it. This came as a surprise to staff especially in respect
to the student who was verbal.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
It was “assumed” because of her ability to verbalise, that she
was more able at recognising emotions than the non-verbal
student. Work with a “mood barometer” revealed that this
was not the case. Staff also discovered that this was not .
an isolated incident – too many assumptions were being
made when students’ programmes were initially developed.
As a result of this finding, instead of starting an organised
teaching programme as soon as the students enter the
special education centre, staff at this school now spend the
first few weeks just getting to know the students – their likes,
dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and so forth. This information
is then used to develop an appropriate programme. The
“getting to know you time” also allows space for the building
of positive student-teacher relationships which have been
previously highlighted as vital to successful learning. What interventions did work? Principally a variety of visual
strategies and social stories developed specifically to help the
students cope with stressful situations. For example, one of
the students identified for herself that visiting her mother
who had shifted to a new city would be stressful for her, .
so she asked her stepmother to write a social story about .
the upcoming visit. Together they prepared a story that
focused on stressful areas, for example, what food to avoid,
how to behave towards her siblings and what to do when .
she felt stressed.
Observations throughout the project showed that the two
students made slow but steady progress. Given the nature .
of their disabilities, dramatic changes were not expected.
However, there was a significant decrease in incidents of
stressed behaviour and an increase in the students’ abilities .
to recognise and deal with stressful situations. For example,
initial data showed one student’s usual mode of handling
stressful situations was to “throw himself on the ground and
become vocal and agitated or repeat actions and verbalisations
over and over again” (teacher’s observation journal). Towards
the end of the research such behaviour was very rare. Instead
the student would remove himself to a place of “sanctuary”
(the equipment room or foyer). Additionally, the parents .
of both students reported: improvements in stress-related
behaviours in the home environment; their children appeared
more happy and content; and they felt better equipped .
to meet their children’s needs.
Staff members’ knowledge about these two students and
about ASD in general was greatly increased. There were .
also very positive changes in attitudes and behaviour. .
This is illustrated in the following quote from a teacher aide:
The project has changed the way I relate to A and M and
other students with ASD in so many ways!! I feel I can
communicate at a much better level than before. Using visuals
has helped me no end such as stories, rules, signs and so on.
I have more confidence in my own ability and I have a much
better understanding of autism. I now speak to A and M not
at them. I try and think ahead of ways to make up-coming
tasks and events as easy as possible for them to accept
through social stories and simple instructions. I also see their
behaviours as a way of their communicating to us that things
aren’t going right instead of naughty behaviour. I’m not
scared of A and M any more!! I can “push” harder and end
up getting much better results (Teacher Aide Evaluation).
If anyone is wondering whether this action research included
any cultural input for the Mäori student involved, I should
mention that for this pupil the whänau class was her home
room. Her father was a staunch advocate for incorporating
Mäori content into his daughter’s programme and believed
the school was doing an excellent job in this respect. So cultural
input was not something that needed to be addressed for
this student.
In conclusion, I would like to return to the four possible
reasons I put forward for many teachers and special educators
not adequately providing for Mäori students with special
education needs. They were that:
1. Teachers and special educators don’t care.
2. They believe that culture is not relevant to teaching
students with special education needs.
3. They believe that their efforts won’t make a difference.
4. They are unsure of what to do or so overwhelmed .
by the challenge that they put improving the
teaching of Mäori students with special education
needs into the too hard basket.
1. Have you come across any teachers who couldn’t care less
about Mäori students? I haven’t and I have been teaching
for over 30 years. I know some teachers get tired and
burnt out – teaching is a very challenging and often
unappreciated profession but I don’t think this means
they stop caring, so I will cross number one off my list.
2. Hopefully I have provided enough evidence from all
sources to show that culture is indeed very relevant to
effectively teaching students with special education needs.
3. Again, all the research studies described and the parents
and students we have heard from are living testimony .
to the fact that teachers’ efforts can and are making a
real positive difference in schools all around Aotearoa/
New Zealand. So reason number three is discarded.
4. This leaves us with number four which I believe is the
major reason for Mäori students with special education
needs not being adequately provided for. There is no
denying that teaching and providing for these students .
is often difficult and challenging. Teaching students in
general – whether they have special education needs or
otherwise – is not an easy task, however it is not a reason
to put these challenges into the “too hard basket”.
The predominant messages to come from the three sources
of evidence examined show that the keys to successfully
providing for Mäori students both with and without special
education needs are:
• building positive teacher-student relationships
• providing a “high quality” education which includes
interactive teaching strategies that engage students .
in their learning
• teaching that builds on students’ strengths and interests
• raising teacher expectations of Mäori students
• involving parents, whänau and peers
• incorporating widespread cultural input.
If we had time to delve into best evidence sources, in particular
the Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling:
Best Evidence Synthesis (Alton-Lee, 2003), we would find .
that these are also keys for successfully teaching all students
regardless of ethnicity or ability. Certainly the Education
Review Office (ERO) Report Mäori students: Schools making
a difference (2002), noted that Mäori do as well as non-Mäori
in schools that are effective for all students. Additionally, .
it should be noted that while I have concentrated on evidence
specifically related to teaching Mäori students with special
education needs, the keys to successful provision are equally
useful for psychologists, advisors, speech-language therapists,
physiotherapists, in fact all professionals who work with
these students.
I acknowledge that teaching Mäori students is more challenging
for teachers who do not have the cultural knowledge required.
But many teachers do have this knowledge and so do parents,
whänau and the students themselves – all valuable sources
to be tapped into – but to learn from not to abdicate
responsibility to! There are also many useful programmes
and resources available. For example, Poutama Pounamu,
an education, research and development centre located
within GSE, has developed many excellent programmes that
can be utilised. So, it is time to get rid of the “too hard basket”.
I will end with a little story from my research. It refers to .
a class trip to Mt Ruapehu:
I can remember when he was 11 … we did this big trip up
the mountain. It wasn’t until we were getting them down
and we had them all at the bottom and I remember turning
to Bernadette saying, “My God, look what we have just done.”
Four of them, and Ameria, lifting her out of her wheelchair,
Hone seizuring all over the show because he was so excited,
and each with an adult holding on tight, and Rawiri and
Hepa who at the time had two legs in plaster because
he had just had another operation for his club feet, and
is severely Down syndrome and deaf, they had a good time
… Well we know we are inclusive, we know we have made it
because we took a kid who is autistic, one who is intellectually
handicapped and two children in wheelchairs to the top
of the mountain. And it wasn’t till we got back down did
I think, we have done it! We never ever had a thought about
doing it. We just did it (Bevan-Brown, 2004).
So, take a risk – JUST DO IT!
Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality teaching for diverse students in
schooling: Best evidence synthesis. Wellington, New Zealand:
Ministry of Education.
Attwood. T. (2004a). Exploring feelings. Cognitive behaviour
therapy to manage anxiety. Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons.
Attwood. T. (2004b). Exploring feelings. Cognitive behaviour
therapy to manage anger. Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons.
Bevan-Brown, J. (1993). Special abilities: A Mäori perspective.
Unpublished master’s thesis, Massey University, Palmerston
North, Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Bevan-Brown, J. (2002). Culturally appropriate, effective
provision for Mäori learners with special needs: He waka
tino whakarawea. Unpublished PhD thesis, Massey
University, Palmerston North, Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Dr Jill Bevan-Brown
Bevan-Brown, J. (2003). The cultural self-review. Providing
culturally effective, inclusive education for Mäori learners.
Wellington, New Zealand: NZCER.
Bevan-Brown, J. (2004). Mäori perspectives of autistic spectrum
disorder. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education,
Research Division.
Bevan-Brown, J. (2006). Teaching Mäori students with
special education needs: Getting rid of the too hard basket.
Powerpoint presentation to the Learning for All: Enhancing
Effective Practice in Special Education Symposia, June 2006.
Bevan-Brown, J., Carroll-Lind, J., Kearney, A., Sperl, B., .
& Sutherland, M. (2005). Making assumptions vs building
relationships: Lessons from a participatory action research
project to identify effective practices for learners with ASD.
Unpublished article.
Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Tiakiwai, S., & Richardson, C.
(2003). Te Kotahitanga: The experiences of Year 9 and 10
Mäori students in mainstream classrooms. Report to the
Ministry of Education. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry .
of Education.
Dr Jill Bevan-Brown is Associate Professor and coordinator .
of the B.Ed (Special Education) at Massey University. Her iwi
affiliations are Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Wehiwehi, Ngati Awa
and Ngai Te Rangi. She has a long standing involvement in
research relating to Mäori children with special education
needs and has conducted studies into Mäori perspectives .
of intellectual disability, hearing impairment, giftedness,
autism spectrum disorder, and culturally appropriate services
for Mäori students.
[email protected]
Bourke, R., Holden, B., & Curzon, J. (2005). Using evidence to
challenge practice. A discussion paper. Ministry of Education,
New Zealand.
Education Review Office (2002). Mäori students: Schools making
a difference. Wellington, New Zealand: Author.
Gay, G. (1994). A synthesis of scholarship in multicultural
education. [Urban Education Monographs]. Oakbrook, IL:
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Available online: http//www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/educatrs/
Leadership/le Ogay.htm
Gougis, R. A. (1986). The effects of prejudice and stress .
on the academic performance of Black Americans. .
In U. Niesser (Ed.), The school achievement of minority
children: New perspectives (pp. 145–157). Hillside, .
NJ: Lawerance Erlbaum.
Hill, J. & Hawk, K. (2000). Making a difference in the classroom:
Effective teaching practice in low decile, multicultural
schools. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education,
Research Division.
McNary, S., Glasgow, N., & Hicks, C. (2005). What successful
teachers do in inclusive classrooms. Sixty research-based
teaching strategies that help special learners succeed.
California: Corwin Press.
Ministry of Education (2005). Springboards to Practice. Source:
Donald Beasley Institute (Eds.), Building capability in education
for students with moderate and high needs. Final draft
report of a literature review commissioned by the Ministry .
of Education: Wellington, New Zealand.
Percy, N. (1989). Bicultural issues. Crosslink, 3(5), 6–7.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Teaching Strategies
For some or for all?1
This article is based on a keynote address delivered by Dr Lani Florian at the .
Learning for All: Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education Symposia, June 2006.
This article is based on a keynote address to the Learning .
for All Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education
School-led Symposia, Palmerston North, Christchurch, .
Napier and Auckland, New Zealand, June 2006. It considers
“special education” teaching strategies, and the extent to
which they overlap with “mainstream practice”, in order to
answer the question of whether or not there is such a thing
as a specialist pedagogy. Selected research on this topic is
summarised, and the need to develop a notion of pedagogy
that is inclusive of all learners is suggested.
Effective practices, evidence based practice, inclusion, inclusive
schools, pedagogy, special education, teaching strategies.
Teaching strategies: for some or for all?
What we do for all doesn’t work for some but what
we do for some supports all.
Barbara Disley.
Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Education, Special Education
Learning for All symposia.
Palmerston North, June 1, 2006
The New Zealand Ministry of Education defines special
education as ‘the provision of extra help, adapted programmes,
learning environments, or specialised equipment or materials
to support children and young people with their learning
and help them participate in education’ 2. Other countries use
similar definitions. In the United States, special education is
‘specially designed instruction ... to meet the unique needs of
a child with a disability’ (USDOE, 1999, p.12, 425). In England,
it is defined as ‘educational provision which is additional to,
or otherwise different from, the educational provision made
generally for children of their age in schools maintained .
by the Local Education Authority, other than special schools, .
in the area’ (§312 Education Act, 1996). Whether we use words “extra help”, “adapted programmes”, “specially designed
instruction” or “additional” or “different” provision, there .
is a common understanding that special education involves
something different from that which is on offer in mainstream
schools. But what is special education and how do we know
if it works?
Parts of this article are adapted from Florian, L. (in press). Towards
inclusive pedagogy. In P. Hick, R. Kershner and P. Farrell (Eds.).
Towards a psychology of inclusion. London: Routledge Paul.
Ministry of Education (2003). Special Education Policy Guidelines.
Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.
This article focuses on “special education” teaching strategies,
and the extent to which they overlap with “mainstream”
strategies in order to answer questions about whether or not
the teaching strategies found to be effective when teaching
pupils with special educational needs are indeed different
from those of mainstream education. The sections that follow
briefly summarise some recent work on a range of relevant
issues including: questions about whether there is a specialist
pedagogy (for example, Lewis & Norwich, 2000; 2005), .
meta-analyses of research on meeting special educational
needs (Kavale, 2007), a literature review on teaching
strategies and approaches for pupils with special educational
needs (Davis and Florian, 2004), and a study of teaching .
in inclusive secondary schools (Florian & Rouse, 2001).
Researchers in England (Lewis & Norwich, 2000; 2005) have
been interested in whether they could identify differences
between learners by type of special educational need in order
to link them to differentiated teaching strategies. Lewis and
Norwich’s (2000) literature review was organised by types .
of learning difficulties (low attainment, specific learning
difficulties, moderate learning difficulties and severe,
profound and multiple learning difficulties) and found that
though the evidential base was problematic, owing in part .
to conflicting findings, the preponderance of the evidence
did not support the notion that differences between learners
could be matched to differentiated teaching. This finding was
consistent with earlier work in the USA that investigated
similar notions of aptitude-treatment interaction and
diagnostic-prescriptive teaching (Keogh & McMillan, 1996;
Ysseldyke, 2001).
As a result, Lewis and Norwich advanced the notion of a
continuum of teaching or pedagogic approaches to replace .
the concept of a distinctive special education pedagogy as
something “different from” that which is generally available. More recently (2005), they have updated this work by
reviewing the evidence on teaching strategies for 14 areas .
of special educational needs including speech and language
impairment, Down syndrome, specific learning difficulties
(such as dyslexia, dyspraxia), emotional and behaviour
difficulties, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism
spectrum disorder, sensory impairments (such as visual or
hearing impairment, and multi-sensory impairment), profound
and multiple learning difficulties, severe learning difficulties,
moderate learning difficulties and low attainers.
In addition, they elaborated on the notion of a continuum .
of teaching approaches by suggesting that teaching strategies
can be arranged along such a continuum from high to low
intensity relative to their application as interventions.
Where Lewis and Norwich found the state of existing research
problematic, Kavale (2007) argues that the problem of
equivocal evidence can be overcome by the use of metaanalysis, a statistical procedure that allows the results of many
studies to be combined by quantifying the results of individual
studies in a way that permits the results to be compared.
In recent years the efficacy of special education has been
subject to a series of meta-analyses generally undertaken
and based on research conducted in the USA. Kavale (2007)
has reviewed the use of meta-analysis in answering questions
about what works in special education. In his review Kavale
shows how early beliefs about the altered learning functions
or deficits of disabled children gave rise to a pedagogical
emphasis on cognitive processes or process training (such as
corrective perceptual-motor training and psycholinguistic
training) which proved to be very modest in their effectiveness.
He goes on to show how attempts to define what is special
about special education based on deficit views of learners,
have failed to show anything distinctive. Rather, it is only
when research which investigates the teaching-learning
process in general is ‘interpreted’ for special education .
‘by modifying the way in which instruction is delivered’ .
that we find significant effect sizes (p. 212). In addition, .
pre-referral activities (modifications to teaching approaches
and the use of alternative strategies) prior to referral for
assessment for special education were found to have positive
effects because, in Kavale’s words, ‘it is predicated in
modification of instructional activities’ (emphasis original, .
p. 214) as opposed to some presumed within-child deficit. Kavale argues that the efficacy of special education is owing .
to a change in emphasis from strategies that emphasised .
the remediation of learning deficits to those that focus .
on teaching and learning. When ‘instructional techniques
originating in general education were adapted to assist
students with disabilities in acquiring and assimilating new
knowledge, the efforts demonstrated significant success .
and much improved academic outcomes’ (p. 12).
Recently, I co-directed a scoping study commissioned by the
Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in England and
Wales as part of their agenda to raise the achievement of
pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The aim of the
study was to examine the relevant published literature in
order to ‘map out and assess the effectiveness of the different
approaches and strategies used to teach pupils with the full
range of special educational needs’ (Davis & Florian, 2004 p.7).
The review of literature that informed the scoping study .
was structured in terms of the four areas of need identified
in the SEN Code of Practice (DfES, 2001); language and
communication, cognition and learning, physical and
sensory, and emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Although there was concern that organising the review .
in this way would fragment the findings doing so led us .
to conclude that:
certain teaching strategies and approaches are associated
with, but not necessarily related directly to specific
categories of SEN (such as autism, learning difficulty).
However, the teaching strategies and approaches
identified in the review were not sufficiently differentiated
from those which are used to teach all children to justify
a distinctive SEN pedagogy. It was clear that sound
practices in teaching and learning in both mainstream
and special education literatures were often informed
by the same basic research, and that certain teaching
strategies developed for one purpose could be effectively
applied to other groups of children with different patterns
of educational need (for example co-operative learning).
This does not, however, diminish the importance of what
might be construed as special education knowledge as
an element of pedagogy applying to all learners.
In other words, although the scoping study was initially
structured in terms of areas of SEN it was clear from our
reading of the literature that there was a considerable
overlap between different areas of need in relation to
different teaching approaches. When we searched the
literature by teaching strategy we found many relevant
reviews that covered all areas of need leading us to suggest
that the areas of need are important elements of human
development for all learners. Our view was that these
elements interact in ways that produce individual differences
that make it difficult to prescribe a course of action to
remedy a particular problem. Thus, children with “complex
needs” often require support to a degree which is beyond
that typically required by their peer group. This support is
called “special education”. And while there is an important
role for special or additional education support, such support
does not depend on teaching strategies that are different
from those that are available to all children.
There is limited research that has been carried out on
pedagogy in inclusive classrooms and until recently much .
of this work tended to focus on the primary years. In an
extensive review of the research on inclusive practice, McGregor
and Vogelsberg (1998) reported only seven studies specifically
focused on secondary school practice. While more recent
work (for example Deshler, et. al., 2004) has begun to
address this gap, a concern often expressed in the literature
is that teachers in mainstream schools are not prepared or
trained to work with pupils with special educational needs.
This concern prompted our study of inclusive practice in
English secondary schools (Florian & Rouse 2001).
This study was designed to investigate what happens in
secondary schools when subject specialist teachers attempt
to create the conditions for inclusive learning in their
classrooms. We were interested in examining the extent .
to which classroom practice in the various subjects of the
English national curriculum was consistent with that which .
is promoted as effective by the literature on inclusion.
A questionnaire was developed containing a list of 44
teaching strategies derived from a review of the literature
carried out by Scott, Vitale & Masten (1998). The strategies
were organised under the following broad headings:
differentiation strategies; cooperative learning strategies;
classroom management strategies and social skills. Teachers
were asked to rate their familiarity with these strategies.
They were also asked to rate the strategy as appropriate .
or inappropriate to the teaching of their subject. If teachers
thought the strategy was appropriate they were asked to
indicate if it was a teaching technique that they typically
used or something additional that was used specifically .
to ensure the inclusion of pupils with special educational
needs. If they thought the strategy was inappropriate they
were asked if this was because it was unhelpful or too
difficult to manage. A glossary defining ambiguous terms .
was appended to the questionnaire. Schools from a network of secondary schools around England
that met regularly to share experiences and ideas about how
to develop more inclusive practice were invited to participate
in the study (further details of the network and the work .
of the schools can be found in Ainscow, 1999). Four schools
volunteered to participate in the full study and a fifth agreed
to administer the questionnaire. Nominations from senior
staff and the special education needs coordinator (SENCO) .
at the four case study schools were used to identify subject
specialist teachers considered skilled in including pupils
designated as Special Education Needs (SEN) in their classes.
Each teacher was observed for the equivalent of two full
teaching days and participating teachers also kept inclusion
journals for a period of five weeks. The journal guidelines
asked the teachers to make one entry each day paying
particular attention to their own thoughts and feelings about
the commitment to inclusive practice, how subject area
knowledge informs their teaching, how they account for
individual differences, and “what works”.
A total of 268 teachers completed the questionnaire for an
overall response rate of 66%. With few exceptions, teachers
overwhelmingly reported they were familiar with and used
all of the strategies listed in the questionnaire. The most
frequent response was that the teacher was very familiar
with the strategy and used it, typically, with all pupils. .
Only two strategies, consult with pupil on preferred learning
style and the use of learning support assistants for 1:1 teaching,
were identified as being used specifically because a pupil .
was designated as having SEN. Teachers were evenly divided
as to the use of team-teaching as a typical or additional
strategy. Importantly, a number of teachers noted in written
comments that they did not differentiate between teaching
strategy and whether a pupil had a special educational need. Overall, there were no apparent differences between .
schools with respect to teachers’ knowledge about practice
although teachers in schools with more experience in mixed
ability teaching made more suggestions about what works.
That they may not be able to engage in a practice is different
from not knowing how to do it, and some teachers made this
comment when filling out the questionnaire. Organisational
arrangements and resource constraints were factors that
determined whether certain strategies were used.
For instance, it would not be possible to make use of
information and communication technology if the hardware
was not available. Notably, teachers tended not to differentiate
between types of students. Though they found the support .
of colleagues with specialist knowledge invaluable they did
not view the pupil designation SEN as particularly helpful
when thinking about teaching strategies.
Whether or not these findings would be replicated in .
other schools is not clear. Indeed many subject teachers .
may not recognise themselves or their practice in the above
descriptions. What is important to note is that there were
differences between subjects that need to be considered
when thinking about how to include pupils who experience
difficulties in learning in those subjects. It is not simply a
matter of placement. Different subjects will make different
demands on learners and teachers of those subjects will .
use different strategies in teaching the various subjects .
of the curriculum.
Though it is often argued that lack of knowledge on the part .
of mainstream classroom teachers, attributed to lack of
training, is one of the main barriers to inclusion, careful
consideration of the evidence on teaching practice and
pedagogy in special education suggests that teachers do .
not lack knowledge of effective teaching stratgies. What they
may not know is that the label-treatment interaction or
prescriptive-teaching approach to individual differences in
learning has not shown that interventions are differentially
effective with different kinds of learners. Meta-analyses of
“what works” in special education show that the teaching
strategies used in mainstream education can be adapted .
to assist students identified as having SEN in learning. Moreover, while many who have attempted to articulate what
is “special” about special education often begin with a defence
of teaching practices that have been shown to work with
students identified as having disabilities (for example Cook .
& Schirmer, 2003), the strategies they identify also work with
students who are not identified as having special educational
needs. My own view is that it is the process of adaptation
that defines the special education knowledge needed by
teachers. This adaptation depends on a responsiveness .
to individual differences within the context of whole class
teaching (Jordan & Stanovich, 1998) but it does not depend .
on the identification of SEN (Florian & Rouse, 2001). Rather,
we need a notion of teaching theory that is inclusive of .
all learners. To this end, a growing number of researchers are now
suggesting that difficulties in learning might be reconceptualised
as dilemmas for teaching. In this way difficulties in learning
may be viewed not as problems within learners but as
problems for teachers to solve (Hart, 1996; Clark, Dyson,
Milward, & Robson, 1999; Ainscow, 1999). Such a view
discourages teachers from seeing themselves as unprepared
or not qualified to teach children who are identified as
having special or additional needs because they experience
difficulties in learning. Rather, teachers are empowered to
work with their colleagues on adaptations that address the
demands that different subjects, topics or tasks make on
different learners.
Ainscow, M. (1999). Understanding the development
of inclusive schools. London: Falmer Press.
Cook, B. G., & Schirmer, B. R. (2003). What is special about
special education? Overview and analysis. The Journal of
Special Education, 37(3), 200-204.
Clark, C., Dyson, A., Millward, A., & Robson, S. (1999).
Inclusive education and schools as organisations.
International Journal of Inclusive Education, 3(1) 37-51.
Davis, P., & Florian, L. (2004). Teaching strategies and
approaches for children with special educational needs:
A scoping study [Research Report 516]. London: Department
for Education and Skills.
Scott, B.J., Vitale, M.R., & Masten, W.G. (1998). Implementing
instructional adaptations for students with disabilities in
inclusive classrooms: A literature review. Remedial and
Special Education, 19(2), 106-119.
United States Department of Education (1999). The
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, p.12, 425.
Ysseldyke, J. E. (2001). Reflections on a research career:
Generalizations from 25 years of research on assessment and
instructional decision making. Exceptional Children, 67(3),
Dr. Lani Florian
Deshler, D. D., Lenz, B. K., Bulgren, J. A., Schmaker, J. B.,
Davis, B., Grossen, B., & Marquis, J. (2004). Adolescents with
disabilities in the high school setting: Student characteristics
and setting dynamics. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary
Journal, 2 (2), 30-48.
Department for Education and Skills (2001). Special
Educational Needs Code of Practices. London: Author.
Education Act 1981 (15 Statutes 300). United Kingdom.
Florian, L. (2007). Reimagining special education. In L. Florian
(Ed.), The SAGE handbook of special education. London: Sage.
Florian, L., & Rouse, M. (2001). Inclusive practice in secondary
schools. In: R. Rose and I. Grosvenor (Eds.), Doing research in
special education. London: David Fulton.
Hart, S., Dixon, A., Drummond, M. J., & McIntyre, D. (2004).
Learning without limits. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Jordan, A. & Stanovich P. (1998). Exemplary Teaching in
Inclusive Classrooms. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting
of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego,
California, April.
Kavale, K. (2007). Quantitative research synthesis: Meta-analysis
of research on meeting special educational needs. In L. Florian
(Ed.), The SAGE handbook of special education. London: Sage
Keogh, B. K., & MacMillan, D.L. (1996). Exceptionality. .
In D.C. Berliner and R.C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of
educational psychology. New York: Simon Shuster Macmillan.
Lewis, A., & Norwich, B. (2000). Mapping a special
educational needs pedagogy. Exeter: University of Exeter .
and University of Warwick.
Dr Lani Florian is Professor of Social and Educational Inclusion
at the University of Aberdeen. Previously she was Senior
Lecturer in Inclusive and Special Education in the Faculty .
of Education at the University of Cambridge. Her research
interests include models of provision for meeting special
educational needs, and teaching practice in inclusive schools.
She recently co-directed a research project on teaching
strategies and approaches for pupils with special educational
needs for the Department for Education and Skills in England
and Wales. She has written extensively on inclusive education
and conducted research on special education provision .
in the USA, England and Europe. She co-edited Promoting
Inclusive Practice, winner of the 1999 NASEN/TES academic
book award. Recently, she was commissioned by Sage
Publications to edit a new Handbook on Special Education,
which was published towards the end of 2006. She is founding
editor of The Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs
and current editor of the Cambridge Journal of Education.
[email protected]
Lewis, A., & Norwich, B. (Eds.) (2005). Special teaching for
special children? Pedagogies for inclusion. Maidenhead:
Open University Press.
Ministry of Education (2003). Special Education Policy
Guidelines. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.
McGregor, G., & Vogelsburg, R. (1998). Inclusive schooling
practices: Pedagogical and research foundations: A synthesis
of the literature that informs best practices about inclusive
schooling. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
A Torrent of Change:
Enhancing effective change in special education
– one school’s journey
Chris Morris – Principal, Rosebank School, Balclutha
Shirley Katon – Learning Support Teacher, Rosebank School, Balclutha
All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave
things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. .
If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change
(G.K Chesterton, English novelist and author, 1874 -1936).
This article is the story of a school’s journey from a deficit
model of special education needs programming to an inclusive
model of student learning support. The heart of this journey
was the identification and management of tensions and
complexities surrounding educational beliefs, school values,
and pedagogical practices. This article will describe the
ecology of change that this school undertook during a twoyear period, analyse the mechanisms of change during the
same period, and evaluate critically the extent to which .
the change achieved its intended outcome.
Practice Paper
Effective practices, inclusive schools, individualised education
plans, parent school relationship, professional development,
school effectiveness, school management, strategic planning.
During the period July 2004 - June 2006 the school looked .
to shift school systems away from the traditional “special
class” model to a more inclusive class-based one. This shift
was one that looked to change the ecology of how the school
perceived it should cater for students with needs and was
one that challenged deeply-rooted beliefs. To understand
this, one needs to understand the school’s history in special education needs teaching. Up until the implementation .
of the Special Education 2000 policy (SE2000), the school
contained a primary school special needs unit. This unit .
was viewed as a successful model of practice and for the
following seven years the school continued to replicate this
by funding a special education needs teacher. However,
during this time the learning needs of students who fell .
into the moderate special education needs category became
more difficult to address using this model. By 2004 the
school had only three students verified with the Ongoing .
and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS) compared .
to a growing number of students with moderate special
education needs. This change in student need showed that
the school needed to find another way of providing learning
support. The longer this programme was retained, the more .
it became out of step with the education environment
outside of the school.
There were two catalysts for change in the second half of
2004. Firstly, the board of trustees determined it needed .
to review the effectiveness of a range of school programmes
because of a fiscal deficit in the preceding financial year.
Secondly, the appointment of a new principal provided .
an opportunity to review the cost against benefits of all the
above-entitlement staffing. Such scrutiny included the role .
of the special education needs teacher.
The review process of this strategic change took nine months
to complete and had three distinct phases. These phases
involved redefining the values and beliefs of the stakeholders,
clarifying how the school would implement the mandate
defined by the National Education Goals (NEGs) and
responding to a number of opportunities and threats that
arose at this time. Bryson (1995), talks of the building of .
a series of agreements as part of initiating a strategic process.
The experience at Rosebank was that this occurred throughout
the entire project as different stakeholders came on board.
By the end of the process the school was working with the
aspirations of 12 distinct stakeholder groups.
The review process initially looked to involve all teaching
staff in a consultative fashion, delegating the review authority
to a team of three teachers who had some expertise in this
area. This resulted in some inter-staff and inter-syndicate
conflict as the make-up of the team did not allow for the
representation of the sectional interests of the school’s three
syndicates. This consultative approach caused a strong reaction
amongst some staff members in that a number of individual
teachers had significant philosophical differences about how
special education needs should operate. The strength of this
strong reaction highlighted that there were issues that were
deeply embedded in the school’s culture of practice. For this
reason the review approaches used from this point onwards
were less formal and looked to identify strategic issues
through one-on-one discussion with teachers. The information
that emerged was broadly categorised into two areas: school
systems and teaching practices. From this information the
school looked to develop a flexible strategic approach based
on Mintzberg’s (1994) “ready-aim-fire-aim,” approach.
Table 1
Identified Strategic Issues
School Systems
Teaching Practices
Equity of resourcing .
across school levels.
Use of narrow assessment tools
for identifying student needs.
Lack of consistent
philosophy and policy
across the school.
A focus on the needs of “normal”
students rather than the needs .
of all students.
Lack of school-wide case
management systems.
Teacher burn-out .
(special education needs teachers).
No school-wide .
reporting system.
Low level of teacher knowledge .
of teaching practices that would
assist students with special
education needs.
No level of linkage between the special education needs
programmes and the regular class programmes.
These issues were identified on the basis that an issue .
for one teacher was an issue for all teachers. The intent in
identifying such issues was to resolve the tensions between
systems and practice by clarifying what was a fair and
reasonable role for teachers to play in this process. The
document used to do this was the National Administration
Guidelines (NAGs) which state:
• that all schools are to deliver teaching and learning
programmes that provide opportunities for all students
to “achieve for success” in all areas of the curriculum
At this point of the process the school had no concept of how
change could take place, only an understanding that some
change needed to begin. The opportunity to participate .
in the Ministry of Education’s Enhancing Effective Practice .
in Special Education (EEPiSE) project provided an impetus .
for change. This was done by resourcing for staffing and .
time to plan a change management strategy. Any strategic
programme would seek practical solutions to resolve the
identified strategic issues.
The strategic reform needed to be tested first with a small
group of students. Having seen the increase in the number of
students with moderate special education needs, the school
decided to focus on students who were not achieving at an
age-appropriate level. These students would have their
reading achievement assessed before and after an intervention
programme in order to ascertain whether the intervention
would improve their reading achievement. At the same time
the teachers would be involved in a professional development
programme that looked to develop a greater knowledge and
use of IEPS. Part of this project was to develop the ability .
of teachers to successfully case-manage and individualise
student learning. Behind this was the need to model new
practices referenced to appropriate pedagogical and ethical
beliefs. The hope was that the teachers would adopt new
practices because it was both the best model to use and the
right thing to do. To move the school forward the reform .
was based on four steps.
1. The school, based on the principles of self-management,
would engage in the project on their terms.
• that all schools are directed to “develop and implement
teaching and learning strategies to address the needs .
of students” (p. 2).
2. The school would bring parents and teachers together .
to develop shared goals and actions to support .
student learning.
These reference points reiterated that meeting the needs .
of all students was a mandatory part of every teacher’s job.
3. The school would add to the knowledge and skills .
of the teachers.
The third stage of review occurred when the school envisaged
what good practice looked like. Through discussion with .
staff from Ministry of Education, Special Education (GSE) .
we developed a set of success criteria:
• students being taught within their classroom environment
• classroom teachers taking responsibility for the learning
progress of their students
• greater involvement of parents through the use .
of Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
• the systematic monitoring of student achievement
• children being able to move in and out of the
programme as their needs changed
• a focus on giving students the support so they would .
be successful in a regular class
• the elimination of the term “special education needs” .
as a stigma, replacing it with a neutral term
• the use of a delivery model that matched all areas .
of learning support.
4. The school would identify a range of successful strategies
rather than the “one correct” model.
The strategic issues highlighted a need to develop effective
school-wide systems. In terms of successful implementation
the school cited Sarason’s (1991) opinion that piecemeal
reforms inevitably failed. For the school to be successful it
had to redefine the relationships between all the stakeholders
for the benefit of students with special education needs. As a
result of this definition it could articulate the following vision:
• to make a difference for children whose experience .
of school has been less than successful by the .
following actions:
- to stop seeing children as “special needs” and to .
start seeing them as unique and valuable individuals
to define for the school, the language and terms .
of support for these students, for example, taking
away the labelling of students
• to build success on what students can do rather than
what they cannot do
• to create quality choices for these students now and .
in their future.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
The success of the programme was to be measured both
qualitatively and quantitatively using:
• the improved level of success these students achieved
after an intervention programme
• the effectiveness of the relationship between home .
and school
• the improved level of individual self-esteem experienced
by students after participating in the project.
The weaving of this mix of beliefs, expectations and outcomes
into an action plan showed that the school saw a need for a
broad based implementation plan. This plan is detailed below:
Table 2
Action Plan
Action Phases
Teacher Task
In-service Training
1. Preparation for introduction
– building a momentum and
capacity for change to be
For each classroom, except .
new entrants, two children .
were to be provided with .
extra support.
Lead teacher model .
(Special education needs
coordinator (SENCO)/Principal/
GSE Facilitator).
2. Introduction of IEPs as a tool
to individualise and adapt
One criteria of selection was
that the intervention would
lead to the children succeeding
at their cohort’s expected level.
Whole school and management
3. Review of school practice.
The selected children were to
have an identified learning issue.
Parallel programmes – trial of
individualised programmes
using some children identified
as requiring IEPs and some from
the regular class programme.
This allowed a number of
teachers an opportunity to
experience and experiment .
with adaptive curriculum.
4. First meeting with parents.
Each child would have two IEPs;
one at mid-year and one at the
end of year.
• three staff meetings
Project Monitoring
Two students in each class
working in the project .
were identified.
• observations in three other
schools (reported back .
to staff).
Nominations with evidence
were received from syndicates
for individualised programmes
for children with identified
talents and abilities (working .
on systems with a control group).
IEPs held within the designated
5. Professional development
6. Parallel programming.
Parallel programmes
7. Final meeting with parents.
Final IEPs held with reporting
back against individualised goals.
Twenty-two students or six percent of the school roll
participated in the project. Fourteen percent of these .
students left before the completion of the project and 42 .
IEPs were held during the six-month implementation period.
The measure used was a comparison of reading achievement
before and after the project. It was assumed that each
student should increase their reading achievement by six
months during the project. For this reason any improvement
over six months could be seen as an indication of successful
intervention. The results for the period June 2005 - January
2006 showed that seventy percent of these students increased
their reading level by an average of 9.5 months. One student
increased their reading performance by 2.2 years during
their time of participation.
Fifty-nine percent of the parents surveyed responded, with
seventy percent stating that the relationship between the
school and the home had been beneficial and ninety percent
believing that their child had a high or very high level of .
self-esteem after participating in the project. On these data
the project could be described as successful. In addition the
parents surveyed also presented two broad messages
through this process:
1. Parents wanted the new style programmes to continue
because they found they better matched their children’s
learning needs.
2. Parents believed that if the relationship that they and
their child had with their teacher was positive, then .
it was beneficial to their child’s academic achievement
and self-esteem.
Throughout the implementation process, feedback from
teachers and parents helped modify aspects of school practice.
The school found it had to be flexible enough to change
small practices but focused enough to continue to move the
project forward to completion. The EEPiSE project changed
the initial focus on the effectiveness of the school’s special
education needs expenditure to an in-depth review of
philosophy and practice. However, at the end of the project,
it was still problematic to prove the programme’s effectiveness..
The evaluation of the project led to the identification of .
the following key learnings:
1. School-wide systems needed to be established so that
teachers focused on providing the appropriate programme
for each student. The role of systems was firstly to
demonstrate accountability for student achievement .
to class teachers, and secondly to allow teachers to .
seek innovative methods to address learning needs. .
The biggest motivator behind change of practices was
teachers seeing innovative programmes succeeding .
and discussing these with their peers.
3. Change such as this must be sponsored from the school
management. Leadership in change requires school
managers to be aware of the ethical role they need .
to play in ensuring that students receive appropriate
programmes. Partly this is reflecting and analysing
current practice. Partly it is developing a vision that .
a critical mass of staff members support.
The EEPiSE project delivered a new style of special education
needs programming within the school. The results from the
project were encouraging enough for the school to sustain it
beyond the conclusion of the study. The results suggest that
a more individualised and inclusive approach now needs .
to be extended across the school. With this comes the issue .
of managing those tensions identified as strategic issues.
Firstly, the school needs to look closely at how it ensures .
that all teachers have the pedagogical knowledge and
classroom management to successfully individualise
programmes for students with moderate special education
needs. This is an issue of successful systems and also of
professional development. Secondly, the school needs to
look carefully at how best it can assess the effectiveness of .
its programmes. Anecdotally the perceptions of the teachers
and the parents were that the project was very successful.
The next stage is to develop a model of measurement that
allows the impact of special education needs programmes .
to be evaluated. Thirdly, the school needs to find appropriate
funding mechanisms to ensure the individualised programmes
are sustained. The level of resourcing appears to be a major
determinant of success. The existence of a special education
needs teacher creates an environment where the coordination
of student information can take place, meaning less duplication
of effort and the ability to better manage teacher workload.
Finally, the project brought about a strategic capacity in
school management. The need to plan and manage the
change meant that school leaders became more adept at
understanding the cycle of change and the processes of
consultation and decision-making. School mangers are now
more comfortable at handling differences of philosophy .
and working through the resolution of such differences.
The journey through EEPiSE ultimately clarified the .
beliefs that the school had about special education needs
programmmes. The process of confronting and reconciling
tensions and complexities ultimately led to the school
determining what it believed in terms of philosophy,
pedagogy and practices.
2. The empowerment of students and parents as part of .
the programme made for a strong home-school alliance.
This working together provided a positive role model .
for the students and created support for the new-style
programmes that were run. The power of positive parent
discussion about individualised support for their children
has created an expectation and the school now has .
to consider how this will be delivered.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Bryson, J. (1995). Strategic planning for public and non-profit
organizations: A guide to strengthening and sustaining
organizations’ achievement. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Chris Morris
Charlesworth, R. (2001). The coach. Sydney: Pan Macmillan.
Chesterton, G. K. (1874 – 1936). Quote retrieved October 4,
2006, from http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/c.html
Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces. London: Falmer Press.
Holmes, M. (2002). Big hairy audacious stretch goals.
Presentation to the Wellington Rugby Board, (July), Wellington.
Ministry of Education (2005). National Administration
Guidelines. Wellington: Author.
Ministry of Education (2005). National Education Goals.
Wellington: Author.
Mintzberg, H. (1994). The rise and fall of strategic planning.
London: Prentice Hall.
Sarason, S. B. (1991). Predictable failure of educational
reform: Can we change course before it’s too late? .
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Weindling, D. (1997). Strategic planning in schools: Some
practical techniques. In M. Preedy, R. Glatter, & R. Levacic
(Eds.). Educational management: Strategy, quality and
resources. Bristol, PA: Open University Press.
Chris Morris is currently the principal of Rosebank School,
Balclutha. He has an interest in special education, particularly
in individualising curriculum and student coaching and
mentoring. Outside of education he has a background .
in sport coaching and looks to apply these principles .
into school-wide learning support systems.
[email protected]
Shirley Katon
Shirley Katon is the learning support teacher at Rosebank
School. Shirley is particularly interested in supporting
teachers in the development of effective classroom culture
that allows student success to take place.
[email protected]
Within our Circle of Influence
Namratha Hiranniah
Team Leader, Manurewa South School, Auckland
Bernadette Mahoney
Teacher, Manurewa South School, Auckland
Two teachers working in Year 0-1 classes at Manurewa South
School, a decile 2 school in the Manurewa area of Manukau
City, Auckland, share their voyage of exploration around .
their own circle of influence. In this article the research team
including Bronwyn Blair, a facilitator from the University .
of Auckland, worked through a cycle of needs analysis and
assessment, reflection, practice and reflection, and evaluation
of 12 students targeted from their classes. The five and .
six-year-old students were experiencing behaviour and/or
learning difficulties. The team explored teaching social .
skills while also focusing on raising literacy achievement.
Practice interventions included a mix of changed teacher
behaviours, practice, and planning in the areas of literacy
and social skills for the targeted children. Pre and post-data
were collected to guide and evaluate teacher planning.
Teachers later became involved in school-wide development
sharing their ideas and process.
Practice Paper
Classroom management, effective practices, emergent
literacy, professional development, reflection, social skills,
teaching strategies.
In approaching the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special
Education (EEPiSE) project, we decided to examine both the
learning and achievement of our students as well as factors
that could affect this. Initially, through taking a very wide
approach, all the factors that could influence students’
behaviour were of interest to us, and a circle of influence .
was drawn to represent our thoughts.
Expectations and
behaviour of:
• media
• state systems
• peers
• others
Expectations and
behaviour of:
• parents
• whänau/family
• other support people
• peers
Expectations and
behaviour of:
• school culture
• teacher
• teacher aide
• peers
Figure 1. The consultation process
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
As we worked through this process we identified that as
teachers we thought we had to assist our students in every
aspect of their lives, because all of these factors could influence
both their learning and their behaviour. This left us feeling
overwhelmed and wondering how to make a difference in
these students’ lives as in many of these situations it was
difficult to intervene. It was so easy to become reactive and
focus on every influence drawn within the circle. Through
the support of our facilitator, we began to see more clearly
that focusing on issues outside our realm of influence was
not only leaving us overwhelmed, but was affecting our
effectiveness as teachers. Many of these factors, although .
part of our students’ circle of influence, were beyond what
we as teachers had control over. How could students who
were affected by several influences, which in turn affected
their behaviour, be best supported in their learning? Like
every other student in our classes they had an equal right .
to learn. In exploring how these students could be helped,
Hattie (1999) suggested that quality classroom teaching has
the most influence on successful outcomes for students.
This made an enormous impact on us both and made .
us realise that in order to help these students learn:
Everything that happened within our classrooms was within
our circle of influence. We could leave other things alone and
try to make changes within ourselves as teachers and in our
classrooms, and this would make a difference for these
students at school.
Good classroom management implies not only that the teacher
has elicited the cooperation of the students in minimising
misconduct and can intervene effectively when misconduct
occurs, but also that worthwhile academic activities are
occurring more or less continuously and that the classroom
management as a whole is designed to maximise student
engagement in these activities not merely to minimise
misconduct (Brophy, 1988, p.3).
Brophy’s comments indicated that as teachers we needed .
to examine our own practice closely to look at our impact .
on student learning and behaviour.
Once we were clear about our focus for our 12 students, .
we not only wanted to collect data on each student’s learning,
behaviour, and social skills, but also on how our own teaching
practice and planning impacted on the learning and social
skills of those children. The data needed to be:
• valid
• purposeful
• from a variety of sources.
The following data was collected.
Data Collection
With the help of our facilitator, Bronwyn, a four-phase
programme was developed:
Raising Literacy
Social Skills
1. Needs analysis was carried out through assessment .
and evaluation.
• phonic knowledge
• time sampling of children’s
on-task behaviour
• running records
2. Reading the literature helped us identify possible ways .
of meeting these needs.
• writing sample
3. These strategies were incorporated into our teaching .
and learning practice.
• sight words
4. Further assessment and evaluation of our practice .
was carried out to measure changes.
The decision was made to target a group of six students .
from each class. The students were all experiencing learning
difficulties, having made very little progress over the year,
and several also experienced behavioural difficulties.
From our needs analysis it was decided that everything .
we did had to have a purpose.
Our purposes in teaching social skills were:
• to improve social outcomes
• to reduce undesirable behaviour
• to enhance learning.
Our purposes in literacy were:
• to raise learning achievement in reading
• to raise learning achievement in writing.
We were guided by Brophy’s (1988) ideas on good classroom
• concepts about print
• anecdotal recording of .
social skills and behaviour .
in the classroom
• observations of teaching
• observation of teacher
attention to student
• teacher planning for lessons
• observation of teacher
The data collected was analysed in order to find out the
strengths and areas of need for both the students and the
teachers. While it was easy to analyse and find out about .
the students’ needs and strengths, it was very challenging .
for us to analyse our own. This is when we had the facilitator
observe us teaching our classrooms. While it was quite
daunting to begin with, to have someone watch and note
every word and every action, in the end it was fruitful as .
we could now analyse through a reflective process, what
needed work in order to do what we had set out to achieve
for our students. Our planning procedures were also under
scrutiny. We went back to Ministry of Education (1996, 2003)
publications to guide us through the processes of guided
reading and writing.
We aimed to use effective practice research to guide data
collection, analysis, and to plan any changes to our teaching.
As teachers we worked collaboratively and reflectively with
Bronwyn to develop a package that covered both professional
development and changes to practice to support our classroom
programmes. We started from where our strengths were, .
for example taking guided reading lessons, and then moved
on to taking guided writing sessions, one of our weaknesses.
Prior to this we had reverted back to whole class writing as
we tended to put guided writing in the “too-hard basket”. .
To be able to link reading and writing was a learning curve
for both of us. We had very rigorous, intense sessions on how
to take running records, how to analyse them and plan for
students’ needs, and how to use the information to inform
both reading and writing. Language experiences were then
planned to provide the students with ideas for modelled
writing, shared/interactive writing, guided writing and
independent writing.
The information gathered on teacher responses to children
was studied carefully. What was apparent was how important
teacher modelling was for children. From discussions with
Bronwyn we knew that all behaviour had a purpose, so the
purpose behind each student’s behaviour was determined.
We developed ways of noticing little triggers before children
reacted to a situation, as it was easy to forget that preventing
challenging behaviours occurring in the first place is one .
of the most important parts of behaviour management. .
We referred back constantly to Bill Roger’s (1995) technique
of managing behaviour in the least intrusive way.
Goals were set for both teachers and the 12 students and
these were included as part of our daily work with the
students. By targeting particular aspects of learning we .
were able to specifically work with the students’ required
needs. Planning for both literacy and social skills now
became very specific including concentration on letter/.
sound associations, basic sight words and reading strategies;
we went “back to the basics”.
A balanced literacy programme was provided for the whole
class. Students wrote independently with the teachers, .
and the teachers in turn wrote with and to the students. .
High expectations were communicated to the targeted group
of students every day. These students were expected to
achieve in the same manner as all the students in the class.
We continuously told them we believed that they were capable
of doing it. The target group was given literacy input from
the teachers every day in order to give them maximum .
and focused attention. We consciously used instructional
strategies including modelling, prompting, questioning .
and giving feedback, which are ‘deliberate acts of teaching
that focus learning in order to meet a particular purpose’
(Ministry of Education, 2003, p.78) within a range of contexts
and approaches to teaching reading and writing.
Resources were developed specifically to meet the needs .
of the target students. These were included in regular small
group practice sessions. The resources were incorporated into
our task board activities and the students were encouraged at
every opportunity to use them either independently, in a pair
with another member in the group, or in a group with another
“expert” buddy in the class. Gradually, as the confidence in
these students began to grow, they were able to show other
students in the class how to work on these tasks, and so the
target students became the experts in the classroom.
Provision of opportunities for students to have a lot of
legitimate talk in pairs and in groups was another strategy
we consciously put into our classroom planning. Once student
talk was relevant, they were able to transfer it into their written
stories. Because the students were young, we held the
preconception that children had to do a new story every .
day and somehow we could not imagine children writing .
one story over a couple of sessions at this age. Our open
discussions with Bronwyn got rid of such fallacies and we
moved on to help students do what they could do best.
We decided to concentrate on one social skill every three
weeks and planned how this was going to happen for each .
of the three weeks. From the initial information collected .
a decision was made to teach social skills to the whole class,
as we wanted everyone to use the skills we chose for these
students. We saw that these students could be disadvantaged
if the others did not know of what became “our ways”. .
As a result of this the idea of “class rules” became “class ways”.
We developed the class ways with input from students, asking
them what they wanted in their classroom. The students,
therefore, had ownership of the class ways. We constantly
referred back to them and there were deliberate acts of
teaching, role plays, and constant reminders and positive
reinforcements of these desirable behaviour patterns. .
Thus we chose a model that relied on teaching skills rather
than a punishment model.
In both social skills and literacy, students were encouraged .
to evaluate themselves and others in the group. This made
children see what other children were doing and it also .
helped them develop the confidence to be able to .
evaluate themselves.
It was now time to collect data and analyse this to see the
shift in learning for our 12 students. We repeated the initial
observations, and data collection methods. The results we
saw were extremely positive. From our observations we
noticed that:
• students were more courteous to each other
• there was more tolerance and cooperation between
students which in turn enhanced their relationships
• on-task behaviour had improved markedly.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
An in-class observation by Bronwyn supported the change .
we saw in the language used by students, and indeed the
teachers. Pre-intervention observations on teacher attention .
to student behaviour showed that we had low levels of
attention to positive student behaviour. Post-intervention
observation data collected showed we were attending to
positive behaviour in our students between 80-85 percent .
of the time.
Sample 1: 25/10/05
With enhanced on-task behaviour, came enhanced learning.
We noticed that the reading levels of most of our children
had gone up. They had made considerable progress in terms
of their alphabet knowledge, and concepts about print.
Table 2
Student outcomes: Student instructional reading levels
from running record results
“I went to the flea market”
Instructional Level (using PM Benchmark)
Class A
Class B
Sample 2: 3/11/05 & 4/11/05
“I am not little. I have a big nose.”
Sample 3: 15-11-05
Pre-intervention data
Post-intervention data
Here are three writing samples of the same child taken over
a period of about a month. The shift in this student’s learning
has been from representing words with any letters to using
correctly spelt sight words and some correct letter/sound
associations in unknown words.
In post-intervention reflection we noted the following
changes in students:
They felt real pride and ownership in the stories they
had written. All of them wanted others to read their story.
I think the purpose – setting it up at the beginning –
has really worked. The students are now keen to write.
They are engaged in their work and are learning well.
“The girl had an umbrella.”
Figure 2: Writing samples from a class student.
Reflection and forward planning now took place on .
three levels:
• individual
• class
• school-wide.
We looked at our journey from both where we were at, .
and from where the students were at, and the progress
seemed immense. The students were keen learners with
boosted self-esteem, who felt success and believed that they
could learn. It was quite interesting to observe the shift we
had made from what we saw initially as positives and negatives
in our classrooms, to how we now saw this in the classroom.
The focus in the classroom is now more about the positive
behaviour choices students make, rather than annoying
small negative behaviours. For example the focus is less .
on how the students are sitting on the mat, and is instead .
on attending to those students who are ready to learn. .
By praising this behaviour the students follow quickly into .
the expected learning behaviour.
Planning is based on the analysed needs, strengths, and
interests of the students. We work with the students on
developing their strengths, and where they need to go next .
to enhance and extend their personal learning journeys.
We had developed confidence as teachers in making changes
within the classroom, our circle of influence, and hence .
we felt we had given both the students and ourselves a fair
chance. We wondered if we would have a chance to share
what we had learned with others.
It was timely when senior management approached us to
share our knowledge with the staff at our school. We were
very hesitant to do the professional development by ourselves
as we thought the staff may not be very receptive if professional
development came from colleagues. We asked Bronwyn to
assist us with this, as we thought that the staff might perceive
her as an “expert” and make shifts in their teaching practice.
However Bronwyn, while agreeing to support us in developing
the professional development, refused to present it herself,
as she thought it was better coming from practitioners
experiencing the everyday reality of the school, rather than
from someone who wasn’t part of this. Finally, we braced
ourselves for two sessions on writing and one on socials skills,
each one and a half hours long. Contrary to our beliefs, we
found that most staff members were very keen to hear of our
success story and have taken back to their classrooms some
of the strategies we presented. We have also had beginning
teachers observe our literacy sessions and they have
commented on how useful it has been.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Our principal Nola Hambleton commented:
This exercise has reinforced a belief, long held by the senior
management of this school, that sharing of expertise within
our own learning community, by staff members who know
and understand our students, is the most powerful tool
in effecting change. From my observation of the two staff
members involved in the project I noted an increased
understanding of the value of cooperatively interchanging
ideas and practice, an increased ability to clearly define
the outcomes they required and a subsequent growing
in confidence in their ability to move their students forward.
As a result they were then able to confidently share their
findings with the rest of the staff who themselves largely
adapted their own teaching and learning. This I see as a
beginning; the scaffold on which school-wide effective
practice can be built. Undoubtedly they enhanced their
teaching with new skills in engaging students in their learning
while trying to minimise distractions of behaviour and low
concentration spans. The pleasure of the students in their
progress, as outlined in this article, is evident.
We consider ourselves lucky to be a part of this involvement
with EEPiSE. Thanks to the patience of our facilitator we have
come out with the confidence that we can make a difference
in the learning of our students.
Brophy, J. E. (1988). Educating teachers about managing
classrooms and students. Teaching and Teacher Education,
4(1), 1-18.
Hattie, J. (1999). Influences on student learning. Paper
presented at his Inaugural Professorial Address, University .
of Auckland, Auckland.
Ministry of Education (1996). Dancing with the pen: The
learner as a writer. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.
Ministry of Education (2003). Effective literacy practice
in Years 1-4. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.
Rogers, B. (1995). Behaviour management: A whole school
approach. Sydney: Scholastic Australia Pty Ltd.
Namratha Hiranniah and Bernadette Mahoney
Namratha Hiranniah teaches Year 1-2 children at Manurewa
South School.
She is a lead mathematics teacher, junior team and art
curriculum leader, a provisionally registered teacher coach .
and associate teacher. Last year she also participated in
EEPiSE with her class of Year 0-1 students.
[email protected]
Bernadette Mahoney is now teaching a composite class .
of Year 4, 5, and 6 children at Manurewa South School. .
She is also a provisionally registered teacher coach and
associate teacher. Last year she taught Years 0-1 and took
part in professional development with the EEiPSE project.
[email protected]
We would like to acknowledge the continuous support .
of Bronwyn Blair, whose support throughout facilitated .
our professional development. Her patience and in-depth
knowledge was invaluable for our professional growth.
Reflections on an Action Research Project
An interview with staff at Mt Richmond Special School
Savi Bhupala – Teacher, Mt Richmond Special School, Otahuhu, Auckland
Gurjeet Toor – Teacher, Mt Richmond Special School, Otahuhu, Auckland
Kathy Dooley – Principal, Mt Richmond Special School, Otahuhu, Auckland
Interviewer (I):
Two teachers and the principal of a special school reflect .
on their learning from participating in an action research
project focusing on the Individual Education Programme
(IEP) process in their school. Their reflections illustrate not
only practical applications of IEPs, but also the challenges
and rewards of engaging in action research. The principal’s
reflections help to locate the project in the wider vision of
the school.
What were your expectations from being involved in EEPiSE?
Personal Experience
Action research, effective practices, individualised education
plans, professional development, reflection, special
education teachers.
Mt Richmond Special School in Otahuhu, Auckland, has a
multi-ethnic population of 140 students ranging in age from
5 to 21 years. There are nine satellite classes attached to
other schools and about 65 students attend the base school.
The school’s involvement in the action research component
of the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE)
project focused on examining the existing IEP process and
how it could enhance the achievement of students.
A teacher of a Year 1-5 class and a teacher of a Year 8-15
class were directly involved in the project. One teacher had
been at the school for three years and the other for one .
year. The principal, who has been at the school for 29 years,
took a keen interest in the project activities. The project
considered the learning needs of seven students with autism.
The principal and teachers involved took part in the following
interview which provided an opportunity for the participants
to reflect on their practice and learning.
Teacher 1 (T1):
We were offered the opportunity to be involved with the
project and accepted the challenge even though we were
uncertain as to whether it was intended to provide the Ministry
with data or to contribute to our own practice. Initially we
felt vulnerable about being asked to provide information
about our students and our teaching practice to someone
we didn’t know. We were asked to speak honestly and frankly
about issues that concerned us but naturally in speaking
to an “outsider” we had to face the decision either to give
filtered information or to be really honest and therefore
expose ourselves. At that point we took a plunge into the
unknown in order to know and learn more.
Teacher 2 (T2):
I started the project thinking that this would be an opportunity
to refine the process of creating and using IEPs. I thought it
would provide information and skills about the “nuts and bolts”
of doing IEPs. When I came into the project I thought it was
going to be a project collecting data about the effectiveness
of IEPs catering for the needs of students. I wasn’t sure of
what exactly I was going to learn from it. Each session was
a learning experience in itself, in the sense that we looked
into assessments, reflective practice, classroom practice and
these were all learning moments for me.
Can you describe one of those learning moments?
We had a drama teacher come to work with the children.
She was trying to get them to pass balls. I noticed that J
struggled to even hold the ball and realised that before the
activity could take place a lot more teaching was needed.
We then redesigned the teaching goals by breaking them
down into smaller segments such as (a) holding a ball,
(b) carrying a ball to the teacher, (c) carrying a ball to another
student, (d) rolling a ball to one person, and (e) rolling a ball
to more than one person. Then we moved progressively to
developing ball throwing skills. We also used video to record
the progress of the children. After six months J had improved
his ball skills and could engage in simple interactive ball games.
The ball skills helped to achieve other IEP goals including
turn-taking, eye contact, and relating to other students.
That example showed me how much teaching can be
generated by reflecting on what I observe in the class.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
I developed more ideas about data collection such as who
could contribute information, and how the data could be
written into an IEP, which helped me to choose appropriate
goals. The data collection involved more than just recording
the frequency of particular behaviours for example, spitting;
what really helped was thinking about the purpose that might
lie behind the behaviours. There were messages for us in the
children’s behaviours. The range of data sources could be
observations, interview information, tests, or reports. Using
a task analysis form helped to break down the activities into
smaller achievable steps. I found it helpful when we were
doing data collection to discuss, evaluate and select the
appropriate emerging data and to reflect on choosing IEP goals.
When writing IEP goals we needed to pay attention to many
different aspects of the student and their environment, such
as the physical environment, emotional factors, the way the
staff approach children, routines and so on. Using this process
we hoped the information gathered would help us plan a
teaching and learning approach more suited to each student’s
needs and that this approach could then build more effective
programmes by helping us refine teaching strategies.
Your action research was particularly interested in addressing
the needs of children who could be challenging to teach. .
Can you explain how your IEP focus helped?
In my situation there were a number of non-verbal students
who had severe behaviour concerns. We trialled some
existing assessment tools but on reflection found that they
were inadequate. It was clear that we needed better ways to
gather useful information about what the behaviours meant.
We adapted the existing assessment procedures to get more
precise and purposeful data, particularly thinking of ways
that we could understand the behaviours that would motivate
students. The data provided me with better information to
develop IEP goals that were more useful for teaching and
were more meaningful for the students.
My teaching practice changed as a result, to working towards
attaining the IEP goals. I found I was providing different and
more motivating activities for the students. The classroom
atmosphere changed, even the physical environment was
altered. For instance, I used information about the students’
needs and capabilities in adjusting how I did shared reading
or structured physical activities. By being aware of the stimuli
and reinforcers that worked for each student, and that these
can change over time, I was able to improve their learning.
Now I am more conscious of what relevant and workable
behaviour goals can be applied with my students.
We reviewed previous IEPs and critiqued them against the
school handbook. This prompted us to brainstorm how we
could do IEPs in better ways. This has helped me to look
more critically at the data used in IEPs. I am aware of using
more suitable test information to set goals that are relevant
to the students’ needs. The IEP is only a starting point, the
learning goes on beyond the school.
The project helped me improve my skills in goal setting and
writing the IEP as well as implementation. It also showed the
importance of collaborative teamwork in developing the goals.
Working as a team helps you to consider more perspectives
on the student and it makes you feel less vulnerable. It is not
a question of who is doing what that matters, it is all of us,
caregivers, parents and teachers, working for the benefit
of the child.
Looking back on your involvement in EEPiSE what have .
you learned that helps your teaching practice?
My most important learning experience from the whole
project was developing my own IEPs for my students after
having reflected, studied and analysed assessments and
previous IEPs. Looking at different barriers to learning and
reflecting on current IEPs was very useful. It was a valuable
journey that began with my reflections as a teacher, my
strengths, weaknesses, hopes and barriers and moved on to
scaffolded professional development related to assessments
and the effectiveness of the IEP. I reflected on and used
existing school references to develop teaching strategies that
would support working towards the new IEP goals. I can now
confidently write down goals that take into consideration
learning barriers, assessment strategies and teaching strategies.
I firmly believe that in order to have a conducive and
challenging environment that maximises students’ learning,
it is very important to have an effective IEP.
I am seeing the IEPs working effectively with my students.
As principal how do you think the EEPiSE activities aligned
with the broader objectives of the school?
Principal (P):
In the past we relied on an assessment screening type of
tool with broad steps. The increase in roll and the verification
of students through the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing
Schemes (ORRS) meant that our staffing increased markedly
and we employed more than 16 new teachers from overseas
who had less experience with the type of students we have
at Mt Richmond. The assessment tool that we were using to
guide us in the development of our IEPs was not adequate
for teachers new to the school and we have been developing
more precise assessment tools and a more structured and
systematic process for assessing our students. Initially, staff
may have felt overwhelmed but are now finding these tools
give them a much clearer picture of their students’ levels
of functioning.
Our assessments showed the teachers the skills that the
students had, but then the teachers were unclear about how
to prioritise goals and write short-term learning objectives.
They also needed development in selecting teaching strategies
that would enable the learning objectives to be taught.
Many of our students operate developmentally below three
years. Teachers have to become proficient at understanding
students’ behaviours and how they respond in class.
While students’ skill levels can be assessed easily, other
observations help teachers develop strategies to overcome
barriers to learning skills. Judgements of the function of
students’ behaviours sometimes tended to be based on
perception rather than reality. It helps if teachers understand
that the behaviour can be a demonstration of student needs.
Effective IEP writing is an important task for our “Positive
Behaviour Support” approach to teaching and learning
across the school. Gathering and reflecting on assessment
data from a variety of sources can inform teaching decisions.
By seeing the purpose of gathering data it becomes more
exciting and meaningful for teachers. This has been particularly
relevant to the students who have been involved with
the project because of their extreme sensitivity to stimuli
including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
It is difficult for teachers to select learning goals for these
very complex students.
The project gave these two teachers an opportunity to
understand more about the importance of writing IEPs
and the selection of appropriate teaching strategies,
greater confidence in selecting and using various forms
of assessment, and guided opportunities to reflect on their
teaching and learning programmes. The outcomes also
provided the school with useful recommendations for
managers about teacher induction, school-wide assessment
systems, and further training for staff, including teacher
aides, in assessing and monitoring student achievement.
Gurjeet Toor
Gurjeet Toor has been a teacher at Mt Richmond School for
the past two years. Previously from India, she has an MA in
education, and has also worked with students with ASD.
[email protected]
Kathy Dooley
Savi Bhupala
Kathy Dooley has been the principal of Mt Richmond Special
School for 29 years. She was an Inspector supervising special
education for a short period in the 1980s, and was formerly
Organiser of Special Classes with the Psychological Service
prior to the establishment of the Ministry of Education and
Special Education Services, now part of the Ministry.
Savi Bhupala has been a teacher at Mt Richmond Special
School for four years. She has previously worked with
teenage students who have ASD. She has a BA in education
from her home country, India.
[email protected]
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
[email protected]
The authors would like to acknowledge the support of Jo
Govender, acting deputy principal and Bruce Kent, Ministry
of Education, Special Education, for support in writing this
article. They would also like to acknowledge the support of
Bronwyn Blair the EEPiSE project facilitator for guiding the
two teachers on their journey towards effective practice.
Page from Teacher 1 Reflective Diary
(Child A)
(Child A)
(Child B)
(Child A)
(Child A)
(Child C)
(Child A)
(Adult A)
Putting Enjoyment into the Lunch Break
Enhancing effective practice at Ferndale School
Dorothy Wilson – Deputy Principal, Ferndale School, Christchurch
Stephen Evans – Play Skills and Sports Coordinator, Ferndale School, Christchurch
Ferndale School is a special school catering for students .
in the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS). .
We sought to explore how a sense of well-being and
belonging for students could be fostered during the .
lunch break at the base school.
Students’ need for close supervision during lunch hour
meant that staff found it hard to successfully engage the
students in activities during this time. Parent and staff
surveys and video footage were used to identify the changes
to be made, and allowed the research team to monitor .
the resulting changes in the area of student participation.
Worthwhile outcomes were identified for children, teachers,
and the whole school.
Practice Paper
Action research, effective practices, physical activity,
playgrounds, social interaction, student participation,
teacher development, teacher roles.
Historically the lunch hour had been regarded as an area .
for improvement by teachers, teacher aides and therapists. .
A number of changes had been attempted, for example,
splitting the lunch hour into two separate blocks and
employing a specialist games coordinator. There was general
agreement, however, that the students’ experiences at lunch
times still fell short of the following goal identified in the
school’s charter:
The school is committed to ensuring that all students are
given an education that will enhance their learning, respect
their dignity and meet their special needs.
Students have a full hour in the playground as they complete
their lunch routines in the classroom prior to the break
period. All classroom teachers and teacher aides are on a
roster for playground supervision duties with four on duty .
in the playground at any time. The playground is comprised
of a large climbing and activity structure, a grass area, a large
open hard surface area as well as an enclosed area for riding
bicycles. Students have a particularly diverse range of abilities
and physical competence.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
The research team’s motivation for implementing an .
action research project to investigate practices and student
outcomes around lunch time experiences was underpinned
by the following five issues:
1. The need for close supervision meant that staff could .
not successfully engage in activity with students, and
social interaction or play between students occurred
more frequently in the company of an adult.
2. A number of students were frequently observed
wandering without purpose, or sitting without .
engaging in any activities.
3. Incidents of inappropriate or aggressive behaviour .
had been reported and the school provided one-to-one
supervision for those students identified as being unable
to operate in the playground on their own – this placed .
a strain on the school’s overall funding.
4. Staff had raised concerns about student well-being
particularly in the winter when lack of physical activity
resulted in students becoming cold and uncomfortable.
The school makes the decision to keep students inside .
at break times with extra staff supervision if the weather
is too cold.
5. Student relationships were strong within individual
classes but not across classes.
Members of the research team (two classroom teachers, .
the deputy principal, one occupational therapist and the
research associate) wanted the lunch time experiences to
meet the school’s goal of providing a supportive and caring
environment for all students. Better use of this hour of the
day at school could provide students with more positive
experiences that would support them in viewing themselves
as members of the school community.
We began with a parent and staff survey to gauge the extent
of concern and to elicit ideas for improvements. The survey
was distributed to 23 staff (teachers and teacher aides) and
33 parents. 16 staff and 16 parents responded. Responses
were collated and the following four outcomes were discussed
by the research team.
1. Parent and teacher groups’ primary concern was student
safety, while a secondary concern was that students
would have opportunity to socialise and enjoy time
outside of the regular classroom.
2. Both groups believed the level of supervision was
satisfactory, but that social interaction among students
could be better.
3. Both groups held similar ideas regarding the types of
activities that could be offered; ball games, music and
moveable equipment featured strongly in the survey.
4. Some staff did not particularly enjoy lunch time
supervision duties, and words such as child minder,
prison guard, trouble-shooter and babysitter were used
by some to describe their role. Teachers felt that their
time was consumed by the need for constant supervision,
which restricted their ability to engage in interactions
with students.
Video footage of three lunch times was used as a basis for
analysis of what students were doing in the playground and
to identify areas that could be improved. Findings from the
survey and the video footage were considered by the research
team as they put together the next step in their action
research process.
Action Cycle 1: Plan for Change
The research team began by grouping students according .
to their level of social participation. The decision was made
to focus on developing opportunities for social participation
with one of the groups. Six students were chosen as case
studies. These students were to be a focus for staff to monitor
and identify changes in participation. This decision later
became less helpful in terms of our research.
A key teacher was assigned to begin implementing additional
lunch time activity for students on four days a week over the
period of one school term. This suggestion had been made
by both teacher and parent groups in the survey. This teacher
was to be responsible for developing and adapting a variety
of games and activities that students could participate in.
Other staff continued the lunch time supervision duties as .
set out on the regular school roster. The deputy principal
assumed overall responsibility for supporting the key teacher
and any other administrative requirements as they arose
during implementation of the research.
Action Cycle 2: Making a Difference
The key teacher met with the researcher and deputy principal
weekly to reflect on what was happening for students. Data
that formed the basis for reflective discussion included:
• the key teacher’s journal documentation of daily .
activity, his reflections about student participation .
and comments made by other teaching staff that were
considered important
• the researcher’s video of lunch times, once change .
had begun to occur.
Further meetings between the key teacher, researcher and
deputy principal occurred at regular intervals over the course
of the research project. The key teacher reported on the
research progress at weekly school staff meetings, and
teacher feedback from these meetings was documented.
In the first two weeks of implementing change the key teacher
focused on developing a repertoire of social games for the
“player” or case study group of students. Following early
reflections this focus shifted as students other than the
defined list of “players” were observed to display interest .
in becoming involved. The continued focus became one .
of looking for ways to provide a sociable setting in which
students could select to participate from a range of .
adaptive activities.
Aspects of the playground were physically changed to
encourage more social participation, for example, seating
was arranged in a grouping layout, and accessibility to
resources and equipment designed for individual and group
play was increased. Resources were developed and introduced
to the playground. Both were designed to allow students to
participate in ball activity on their own or with and alongside
others. These students were able to participate without
reliance on adult support.
The research team accessed relevant literature to gain more
understanding about social involvement and participation in
relation to children with special education needs. Of particular
interest was the work by Fergus Hughes and Daniel Hollinger .
on the role of play with special education needs children. .
Both acknowledge the important role of adults in giving
reinforcement and feedback to students to encourage play.
Concepts such as social exclusion and peer tutoring were
discussed, and peer tutoring was trialled among a selection
of students. The “tutors” were asked if they could help
another student to play for short periods during the lunch
break. The pairing of tutor and peer involved careful selection
based on observation and knowledge the key teacher had
gained about student preference and participation.
External expertise was accessed. Sport Canterbury provided
teachers with a series of three half-hour workshops on
adaptive physical activity. This external input contributed to
heightening teacher awareness of adaptive physical activity
for students. However, the teaching team also reflected on
how much of the information shared appeared to be more
relevant in a mainstream context. A health and physical
education (PE) curriculum advisor then met with the key
teacher to assist in this essential learning area. The discussion
affirmed that there was a direct correlation between what
students were experiencing and learning in the playground,
and the intentions of the curriculum document. It was at .
this time that a reflection was made, “It would be great if
everybody could view this as increasing children’s curriculum
by one hour everyday”.
Changes in student participation formed the main area .
of discussion at weekly meetings. The video footage proved
to be instrumental in identifying change in individual
participation. The footage also showed observations of student
participation that may not have otherwise been viewed.
Notice was taken of the type of activity individual students
selected and how they participated socially. Weekly findings
influenced ongoing provision of lunch time activity as .
careful consideration was made to foster peer interactions
and play friendships.
Early findings highlighted the fact that increased
participation was evident from a wide range of students.
Some of the biggest and most interesting shifts were
occurring in the other students.
A key finding has been the recognition of students as more
capable than previously acknowledged in three key areas:
As the project progressed informal contact between the key
teacher and individual classroom teachers increased. Staff
became interested in the developments and began to share
their observations about individual students. As one stated, .
“I have never seen (student) so enthusiastic about participating
in physical activity.” Staff began taking responsibility for
preparing and supervising playground activity on occasions
when the key teacher was absent. The changes occurring in
the playground were seen to be valued by the whole school.
1. Physical – students engaged in more physical activity
than previously observed.
2. Social – cross-class relationships, sharing and turn-taking
and having fun together were observed as a result of .
peer tutoring and playful interactions during student
choice activities.
3. Participation level – students were drawn together
physically by the equipment/resource and environment
layout; the location of the activity or resource became
the focus for interaction rather than staff relying on the
students to initiate social contact.
Table 1
Change identified in selected students.
Prior knowledge/observation
Changes identified
Chose to sit near classroom, active participation
seldom observed.
Moved to main activity area alongside others. Regularly played with .
ball games, displayed enjoyment.
Typically stayed near one corner of playground,
few interactions, not particularly active.
Responded to peer tutor and joined cooperative games. Began to initiate
own participation.
Remained sitting on verandah by classroom .
during lunch. No physical or social interactions.
Responded to peer tutor. Became physically active, enjoying running, .
and initiated play with peer tutor.
Intense play with bark, water puddles, dirt.
Required lots of supervision.
Choice of play material changed to use of PE equipment. Observed playing
nearer to others as if more comfortable in the social situation. Less
intervention by staff.
Sociable with at least one other regular peer.
Physically active using most of the playground .
at various times.
Took on responsibility of peer tutor. Relationships developed with peers
from other classes.
Constant one-to-one teacher supervision required
owing to behaviour. Wanders about with little
engagement in play.
Calm, playful periods observed using the crash mat. Did not aggressively
respond to close proximity of others. Supervising teacher relaxed and was
able to interact with other students. Eventually one-on-one supervision
was no longer needed.
The initial categories the research team used to describe
student levels of participation became less easy to define.
Students no longer easily fitted into the groupings.
The original idea of following case study children became
unnecessary as different students came to the fore in our
research at different times. We found that we were taking
notice of all students. It was beneficial to the research .
to continue in this way rather than limit our view to six
selected students.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
The role of the key teacher shifted from one of initiating
activity to that of observing and responding to student choice
of play following the provision of appropriate resources. .
As one of the research team commented, ‘We were following
the child’s lead now, not the adult’s.’ The resources offered in
the playground became the “magnet” for student participation.
The resource itself appeared to provide the initial focus for
students, which in some way took away the need to initiate
social interaction through making eye contact or verbal
interaction. Through participating with the resource, students
naturally interacted with peers as their activity became one
of playfulness and enjoyment. Results for students, teachers
and the school are summarised on the following page.
Student experiences, learning and development included:
• students self-selecting from more “user-friendly”
playground environment
Where to from here?
• students being drawn in from the perimeter by the
“busyness” of their peers
• student play becoming more purposeful and appropriate
• students’ peer interactions and friendships developing
through more playful interactions
• new (and old) equipment/resources being introduced
into the playground and thought being given to the type .
of equipment/resource that would encourage or forestall .
a particular behaviour; previously we would have
provided equipment from a different perspective – .
our own rather than the students’
• friendships were developing within and between
classrooms through a peer mentoring programme
• changes in the audible tone of the playground becoming
apparent from comparisons of video footage and
providing confirmation of the increase in enjoyment .
for students and teachers’.
Teachers found:
• the changes in playground activity improved their .
lives as well as those of the children
• they felt happier and more comfortable in their role .
on playground duty, and although a supervisory role .
was still essential there was less of the “prison guard”
mentality, and staff were able to interact more freely
with students
• they had increased awareness of the diversity of need
amongst students in the playground environment
• a one-on-one supervision roster for a particular child
with behavioural concerns became obsolete as his
participation in activities increased, and this reduced
pressure on staff across the whole school.
For the school as a whole:
• through staff development in PE there has been an
increased awareness across all sites of the need for
students to be engaged in meaningful play experiences
• staff acknowledge that appropriate play needs to be
planned for and that it doesn’t just happen.
Examples of change in student participation can be viewed
on the short video we have produced in support of this final
research report. The video brings to life the improvements
made in playground experiences and the resulting shifts .
in student participation.
The impact of teacher learning during this research project
precipitated lots of discussion within the school. Two main
issues were identified as requiring continued attention:
1. The sustainability of the lunch break activity. Could this
now become a part of regular school practice without
reliance on a key teacher?
2. The transference of experiences to satellite schools. .
The school has six satellite classes situated in
neighbouring schools. There was a sense that what .
has been learnt at the base school could be transferred
to benefit students at other sites.
Early in the new school year teachers and management .
met to discuss these ideas. A number of decisions were made
as a result of this meeting. The key teacher involved in this
project has been assigned a new position as a play therapist/
sports coordinator. This role involves moving around the
base school and satellite schools to support teachers and
children to create sociable play environments during the
lunch break. Early observations at the schools hosting
satellite classes showed similarities with what had been
occurring at Ferndale School. As the key teacher commented,
“I’m seeing a similar attitude among the staff.” Provision .
of accessible resources and equipment in a socially
interactive area, peer tutoring, and adult modelling and
facilitation, form the basis for future developments within
the satellite schools.
Changes have continued in the organisation of the lunch
hour at Ferndale. The research project reinforced the fact
that students benefit from some form of structure during .
the lunch break. The previous unstructured hour had been
too long for students to cope with. The project highlighted
the need for consistency of adult facilitation throughout the
lunch break activity. Employing an extra teacher over the
long term to take on this role was not financially sustainable.
To provide continuity of play activity and also meet staff
need for lunch breaks, the lunch hour has been divided .
into two. The base school looked to experiences in satellite
units and found a model that worked well in one of the
units. The first half-hour is used flexibly at the discretion .
of the classroom teacher. The playground can be used under
class teacher or teacher aide supervision.
During the second half-hour all students will have use of the
playground at which time the social play environment will
be provided with one staff member assuming responsibility
each day. Students will now be involved in setting up the
resources and equipment on a daily basis with support from
teacher aides. Pictorial lists have been developed to support
them with selecting and organising the equipment.
Although this is a school for students with special education
needs, those needs cover a wide range of abilities and
interests. The provision of playground resources needs to .
be carefully thought out. It is not a case of one size fits all.
Assigning a key teacher to explore possibilities and implement
change during the lunch break proved to be beneficial to the
school as a whole in the long term. Having a “fresh pair of
eyes” was useful in terms of questioning and then improving
the layout of the existing playground. The key teacher and
researcher’s weekly analysis enabled a clear focus to be
maintained. They were not confined in their knowledge .
of students (as a classroom teacher may be) or constrained
by other school commitments. The developments provided
the school with an effective model of what was possible.
Evidence of the value of this is the way the school is now
transferring what has been learnt to the satellite classes.
Reflections on participating in research
As participants, the staff involved in this project viewed
themselves as novices in the action research process.
Flexibility in the process proved to be one of the main
advantages for the research team. For example, the team
were able to deviate from the initial plans in direct response
to the emerging nature of the data. Rather than restrict
developments by focusing on six case study students it
proved to be more beneficial to retain a view of the whole
student group. The flexibility of action research allowed the
team to make changes to their plan. The use of video footage
as a data-gathering tool provided the team with the ability .
to do this. This aspect of the use of video was something .
that was not recognised in the initial planning of the research.
It emerged as the process unfolded.
Dorothy Wilson
Dorothy Wilson has been involved in special education .
for more than 20 years. She started her career in special
education at Ruru Special School in Invercargill before
moving to Christchurch and Ferndale School. She is now .
the deputy principal of Ferndale School.
[email protected]
Stephen Evans
1. Hughes, F. P. (1998). Play in Special Populations. .
In O. N. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Multiple perspectives
on play in early childhood education (pp. 171-193). .
New York: State University of New York Press.
2. Ramsey, E., & Gresham, F. (2003). Antisocial Youths. .
In H. Walker (Ed.) Assessment and classification of
social competence deficits among antisocial youths, .
(pp. 178-201). Oregon: Wadsworth.
3. Hollinger, J. D. (1987). Social skills for behaviourally
disordered children as preparation for mainstreaming:
Theory, practice, and new directions. Remedial and
Special Education, 8(4), 17-27.
4. Smith, M. J. (2001). Teaching play skills to children
with autism spectrum disorder. New York: DRL Books.
Stephen Evans has taught at a range of primary schools and
worked as part of a behaviour team in the United Kingdom.
More recently he has taught special education needs classes .
in two Christchurch schools, and is now developing social,
cooperative and physical education skills through play and
sports activities at Ferndale School. He is also a trustee for
TRACKS, an organisation which mentors young men.
[email protected]
5. Website: http://www.tracks.net.nz/moreinfo.htm#rop
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Raising the Bar in Reading
Taryn Naidoo
Year 3 Classroom Teacher, Papatoetoe Central School, Auckland
Roshilla Naicker
Senior Teacher, Papatoetoe Central School, Auckland
This article aims to present strategies and discussion about
how teachers can adapt the curriculum in order to provide
authentic needs-based programmes. Identifying students’
strengths and needs gave us clear directions as to what we
needed to teach. In this article, the research team discuss
how they successfully raised the reading achievement of
target students by attending to classroom practices such as
guided reading and taking running records, as well as giving
specific focus to targeted assessment, goal setting and
inclusive support programming.
Practice Paper
Differentiated instruction, effective practices, inclusive
classrooms, needs assessment, professional development,
reading achievement, school effectiveness, teaching strategies.
The rationale for our professional development was to
embark on an action research project which focused on
teaching and learning, more specifically directed towards
changes in practice. Using the techniques of action research,
we drafted questions, collected data, analysed data, and
acted upon it. The key focus of our involvement with our
facilitator in the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special
Education (EEPiSE) project was to develop an understanding
of and build confidence in adapting the curriculum to
provide authentic needs-based programmes that enhanced
student learning. The main context was literacy. A secondary
context was afternoon topics where it was harder to
accommodate the struggling students.
The suggested objectives were to:
• increase teacher effectiveness in collecting and analysing
data, in particular, running records
• increase effectiveness in using data to inform programming
and provide appropriate instruction at the instructional
curriculum level
• increase effectiveness in using strategies to accommodate
diversity in the classroom
• become involved in the process of reflection, and
consider our own attitudes, beliefs, and expectations
about our students and our own practice.
The suggested intervention programme involved workshops
and learning conversations around the process of:
• needs assessment/data gathering
• providing students with literacy experiences at their
instructional level
• using strategies to accommodate diversity in the classroom
• inclusive classroom support programmes
• ongoing monitoring and adjustment of programmes
• reviewing and reflecting on our practice.
The action research project required us to work
collaboratively with the facilitator and was carried out .
in three phases.
Phase 1: Needs Analysis
Pre-intervention data were collected in order to identify .
the target students. This information was gathered from .
the school’s reading profile cards which contain children’s
chronological reading ages. The data revealed that two
students, one aged eight in Year 3, and the other aged nine
in Year 4, had reading ages of 5.5-6 years, and 6.5 years
respectively. These students were reading at least two years
below their chronological reading ages. Other assessments,
such as the ability to recognise and sound alphabet names,
read high frequency sight words commonly used by students
of the same age, and spelling ability were then tested. .
Our professional development was aimed at these two
students. However, to monitor the broader effects of the
programme, we also included an additional 3-4 children
from a non-English speaking background in each class.
Table 1
Initial literacy assessment data for target student of Year 3 adapted from the pre-intervention programme
Letter ID sounds
1st 100
2nd 100
3rd 100
Student A
Student B
Once the initial assessments were completed and collated,
the results were analysed with the help of the facilitator. .
We identified the common errors and difficulties that
children experienced when reading and writing. The analysis
revealed that:
• children were grouped at incorrect instructional levels
and therefore some texts were too easy or too difficult
• children needed an understanding of strategies they .
can use to assist them in the learning programme
With this assessment information at hand, the next step .
was to identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses. .
The strengths were tasks the students accomplished
independently and the weaknesses were areas where .
they were experiencing difficulties. We then progressed .
to drawing up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for .
each student. These plans focused on what the student
needed to learn and related directly to their specific needs.
These plans guided our teaching for the next five weeks.
• teachers needed to monitor effectiveness by using .
data to inform programming and provide appropriate
instruction at the curriculum instructional level
• teachers needed to provide more opportunities for practise.
Table 2
An example of a Strengths/Needs profile
Strengths/Needs profile
Student: A
Subject: Reading
Term 4: Week 1-5
• records 26/26 letter sounds
• records 14/21 blends
to write letter blends for example fl, gl, pr
• recognises 75 out of 100 first sight words
to attend to short vowels when reading 2-4 letter words .
(often misreads)
to consolidate knowledge of first 100 sight words
Table 3
An example of an IEP
Short-term IEP
Student: A
Subject: Reading
Teaching target
Term: Week 1-5
Process objective: Indicate letter sound relationships
1. To give the sounds for these written letters/blends
Week 1: a, u.
Week 2: y, i.
Week 3: c, s, sk, sc.
Week 4: sm, sn, st.
Week 5: ch, th
2. To recognise and read words: Game: Bingo
Week 1: away, after, as, up, under.
Week 2: yes , with, him, yesterday.
Week 3: came, some, school, skate, sky.
Week 4: smoke, smell, smile, snip, snow
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Achieved some. Can give sounds for
sm, sn, st.
ch, th
achieved: smoke, some
Activities included in these IEPs were:
Phase 2: Action
• matching games, which helped children to develop an
understanding of word patterns and improve spelling
This phase required us to put our plans into action both in
planning and teaching. We incorporated these IEPs into our
daily teaching programme. We discussed and explained the
set goals with the target children. Sharing these intentions
meant that students knew exactly what they needed to learn.
During our student/teacher talk time, one student remarked:
• spelling games such as bingo and snap
• the repeated reading programme which increased
reading speed and fluency
• tracing over letters and numbers such as d and b, p and
b, 5 and 3, to consolidate alphabet names and numbers,
and to reduce confusion
I know more about what I’m supposed to be doing.
The teacher tells us more now.
Another student remarked:
• a four-minute writing graph where the aim is to write as
many words as they can in four minutes with the teacher
dictating the story, usually from a text at the writer’s
instructional reading level.
Before I didn’t know that well (what to do) … the teacher
is asking me more questions and I get to learn more.
They continued to work on the set targets independently,
with peers or sometimes with a teacher aide. Both teacher
and teacher aide monitored progress through the use .
of a tracking sheet.
Table 4
An example of a tracking sheet with tasks
Support programme recording chart
Term: 4
Short vowel
Date: 29.8-2.9
computer suite
We reviewed the goals after a five-week period in order .
to assess whether they had been achieved. Students built
confidence and self-esteem through regular practice and
were given opportunities to reflect on their learning on .
a regular basis. Student A said:
This process of assessment, analysis and planning continued
until the student reached the goals.
Number of Words
I didn’t like reading because it was a bit too difficult… you
had to copy all these big words out of books and it took ages
to write it…now we have more fun activities. They help us
learn spelling words and you can have fun as well as learn.
Phase 3: Results and Discussion
The repeated reading programme proved to be the most
effective. This process required the children to read at their
instructional level twice a day for one minute. The listener .
(a more able reader) was responsible for time-keeping,
assisting with difficult words, and counting and graphing .
the number of words read correctly. Once the student read .
a total of 120 words per minute they moved onto a new .
text. The repeated reading programme enhanced student
participation. Students also became more competitive .
by comparing graphs and took greater responsibility .
for their learning.
Figure 1. A repeated reading graph showing reading progress
In establishing the students’ correct instructional level .
we realised that it was necessary for teachers to take more
than one running record at any given time. This may seem
daunting and time-consuming but it is absolutely essential .
if it is to inform planning. As regular practice throughout .
the professional development activities, we continued to
analyse strategies which students were using during reading.
In doing so we were able to make more informed decisions
and general statements about student reading behaviour. .
In response to taking running records student B said:
I was feeling a bit excited about getting a bit higher.
I went up quite a lot. It was cool. I felt a bit proud.
Table 5
Running record data showing pre and post-intervention reading levels for target student
Reading Age
PM level
Self Correction
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Intervention plan
Our participation in the action research project has enabled
us to reflect and question our decisions about best practice.
As mainstream classroom teachers one of the greatest
challenges we face is to cater for the diverse needs of the
students we teach. In this journey we learned that it is possible,
irrespective of the range of student ability, to cater for all
students. We adapted our practice by:
Taryn Naidoo
• examining the way we teach
• lessening written reading tasks
• carefully selecting tasks that match the learning goals
• examining the guided reading lesson structure and
student involvement
• planning for diversity
• developing supportive classroom practices.
If we expect our students to succeed it is imperative that .
all teachers understand the critical factors for effectiveness .
in teaching literacy, which include teacher expectations,
teachers’ knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, effective
use of instructional strategies, and the quality of interaction
between students and teachers. Children enjoy challenge;
teachers can set higher goals and therefore have children
achieve at higher levels. Teachers can raise the bar!
Taryn Naidoo is a Year 3 mainstream classroom teacher .
at Papatoetoe Central School. She has been teaching in .
New Zealand for five years, and has had previous experience
teaching as a junior primary teacher in South Africa.
[email protected]
Roshilla Naicker
Frager, A. M. (1993). Affective dimensions of content .
area reading. Journal of Reading, 36(8), 616-622.
Ministry of Education (1996). The Learner as a reader.
Wellington: Author.
Roshilla Naicker is a senior teacher teaching Year 4 at
Papatoetoe Central School. She also has previous teaching
experience teaching primary school children in South Africa.
[email protected]
Building Resiliency in Students
with Special Education Needs
A journey of discovery
Alan Mears – Learning Team Leader, Disability Resource Centre, Mairehau High School, Christchurch
Rosalie Stevenson – Coordinator, Learning Support Centre, Burnside High School, Christchurch
This article describes an action research project, based within
a school, to develop and increase the social resiliency of
students with special education needs in both school and
community settings. The programme included role-plays,
scenarios and problem solving. An assessment tool was
developed to measure self-esteem amongst the students .
and this tool became a learning resource for the students.
Resources were gathered from similar projects and the
health and physical education (PE) curriculum. Outcomes
included increases in students’ resiliency and were reported
by the students themselves, teachers, teacher aides and
parents. Reflections from the researchers about students’
outcomes and the action research process are included.
Practice Paper
Action research, adolescents, assessment tool, .
effective practices, life skills, resilience, self concept.
This project was initiated by the head of Learning Support,
who encouraged the head of the Physical Disability Resource
Centre to be a co-researcher. Mairehau High School is a .
co-educational, decile 5 school located in the north-east .
of Christchurch. It draws a wide range of students from a
diverse community, and has a high proportion of students
with special education needs, including a large number who
are funded through the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing
Schemes (ORRS). A number of years ago a senior life skills
class was established to meet the needs of ORRS students
ready for transition. However, over time the numbers grew .
to include vulnerable at-risk students who were not ORRS
funded. The school became involved in the Enhancing
Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE) project at the
end of 2004. We suddenly found ourselves in the role of
action researchers.
The project itself was slow to begin. We felt there was a lack
of clarity and purpose. Real progress was not made until the
beginning of Term 2, 2005.
Action Research: Reconnaissance Plan
At this stage the two Mairehau High School researchers began
to work with the research team leader at the Christchurch
College of Education (CCE), and we were rather alarmed
because time seemed to be slipping away. Things were so
unclear, we didn’t really know our focus, we didn’t know .
how to go about undertaking the research, and the end of
year deadline was looming even closer.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
However, the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other
meant we very quickly began to focus in on the key needs of
our students and one factor in particular kept coming to the
fore. This need was highlighted by the naivety of some of the
students, which were illustrated by the following examples:
• student S asked by a “friend” if he could borrow his
brand new walkman for a couple of days and naively
gave it up without being able to identify who the friend
was, with the result it was never seen again
• student T reported their vulnerability around hopping
into cars with drunken drivers and being “used” for .
their access to money through their disability allowance.
Students, families, educators and staff at Mairehau High
School reported that the group of students of interest in the
EEPiSE project may have low resiliency, and that this had an
adverse impact on their abilities or opportunities to participate,.
take risks, “bounce back” from set-backs, gain enjoyment and
a sense of achievement, contribute to local networks, and
have a realistic look at future options. This led the researchers
to focus on the concept of trying to build resiliency in these
students. We began our research by exploring resources .
at the CCE.
We discovered some very user-friendly publications, which
were easily adapted to meet the needs of our students. .
We also worked closely with a secondary advisor for health
and PE from teachers’ support services who alerted us to .
the link with the health and PE curriculum. She was also .
able to provide us with a framework of lessons that she had
developed for use with a Year 9 at-risk class. In addition the
advisor provided us with professional readings and research
articles and Ministry of Education curriculum documents that
we were able to incorporate into the teaching programme.
We focused on resiliency because one of the researchers .
had previously completed some research in Australia
focusing on minimising the harm caused by illicit drugs, .
and had found the emphasis was increasingly being placed
on building student resiliency. In our opinion resiliency .
is the ability of people to handle bad experiences, set-backs .
and disappointments in life, to learn from these difficult
experiences, but to still maintain self-confidence, self-esteem
and feeling of self-worth.
Once the focus had been decided, this sparked a heated and
excited discussion about the need to develop resiliency in the
students with special education needs as they were seen as
particularly vulnerable.
Both school-based researchers were able to note numerous
stories where these students had been manipulated or were
very vulnerable and where their resilience was battered.
Many of them had bought into an “experience of misery” .
by the time they reached the senior levels of high school,
where their lack of success had undermined their sense of
self-worth and resilience. They were no longer prepared to
try new things for fear of failure. We sought to address this
concern. Both researchers had worked in this area for a long
time in many guises and felt a programme of this nature .
was long overdue.
Working with experts from the CCE and having the opportunity
to bounce ideas and adapt existing resources meant we
didn’t have to “reinvent the wheel”. We were surprised how
quickly we were able to put together an appropriate teaching
programme using the expertise we had available. We realised
it was really important not to work in isolation but to
connect with those who had some expertise in the area .
we were interested in.
Action Research: Action Plan
Prior to teaching the programme in Term 3 we decided to
develop a tool for assessing the student’s self-concept. This was
based on a series of 20 questions, each with a scale ranging
from 1-5, which students completed (several with the help .
of teacher aides). This gave us a baseline from which to try and
measure whether our programme had made any difference
to students’ self-confidence and resilience. Over a three-week
period students were exposed to a teaching programme with
a heavy focus on role-plays, scenarios and problem-solving
situations. These involved real-life examples where students
were asked to anticipate how and why they would react in
risky situations.
At the end of the programme the same assessment tool .
was used and the results were analysed. We were pleasantly
surprised by the overall improvement in student resiliency .
as measured by this tool. The findings were supported .
by reports from teachers, teacher aides and parents of the
students involved, many of whom noticed a perceptible
increase in the students’ self-confidence, self-esteem and
assertiveness. While this tool is subjective, and student
perception of what it means is variable, the tool itself became .
a learning resource because students began to question what
others understood or meant by their responses. For example,
one student said:
Now I know what you’ve been doing for the last three weeks,
you’ve been trying to get us to stand up for ourselves more.
During Term 4 students watched a video that featured
dangerous scenarios prepared by drama students from .
the CCE in consultation with the researchers. The students
were shown the clips and then asked to respond by showing
what they would do in the given situation. There was a
noticeable reduction in naivety and an increase in positive
and assertive behaviour. At the end of the programme
students were asked what they had learned from the
programme, and how they felt about the programme.
Overall, they were positive about what they had learned
from the programme and many were able to come up with
several strategies they could use to protect themselves during
dangerous situations.
In reviewing the programme the researchers agreed it was a
worthwhile project for the students and it will be continued
with future classes. We also found that working collaboratively
and tapping into outside expertise was a really worthwhile
experience and brought a sense of achievement and discovery
that was quite exciting. As one researcher stated, “If I had
tried to do this on my own … I would have given up”.
The students were positively engaged in the programme, .
and in phase two of the action research project they had
clearly retained the resilience strategies that had been taught
in phase one. In discussion and role-plays, they showed .
more resilience to resisting dangerous situations, for example,
declining drinks offered at a party. As a group, they were able
to clearly identify risk situations and were able to generate .
a variety of responses that allowed them to avoid risk-taking
behaviour. One of the surprises for us was that the programme
we implemented was at level 5 of the curriculum, we had
expected the students to be operating at around level 2.
Within this project our research facilitator helped us to learn
how to gather and analyse data. We learned a lot about
action research, about using data as a basis for informing
teaching, targeting particular students, and finding out if our
teaching was making a difference. We felt that it was important
to have an outside research facilitator to keep us focused .
on the project. A member of our school’s research team said
that the process allowed her to continually review what she
had learned as the project progressed. She said:
I think also coming back to it a few times, numerous times,
you’ve actually got that space to clarify a few things in your
head and ask yourself a bit more … to move on. Even though
I found it frustrating at times because it felt like we were not
getting anywhere. But it has helped.
We also believed that our action research project was
important, that it did bring changes to the school, and most
importantly, the students benefited.
One of the research team stated:
What I’ve found out about it is that it is incredibly important
and what we’re doing is only a small part of what is happening
to these students. A small part, but I do think that it is
incredibly important. The feedback from the students is
that they think that it is important. They see it as important.
They recognise the value of it, but there are so many things
going in their lives.
Like overseas travel, the planning and preparation can seem
overwhelming, but travelling as a close-knit, supported group
is mind-expanding, challenging, and really worthwhile.
Alan Mears
Rosalie Stevenson
Alan Mears is the learning team leader of the Disability
Resource Centre at Mairehau High School. He continues to
teach the senior life skills class. Alan has worked in special
education for nearly 30 years across a range of settings.
Rosalie Stevenson was working at Mairehau High School
during the EEPiSE project, but left at the end of 2005 to take
up a position at Burnside High School as coordinator of the
Learning Support Centre. She has worked in special education
in a variety of settings over the past 20 years.
[email protected]
[email protected]
The authors Alan Mears and Rosalie Stevenson would like to
acknowledge the guidance and input of Missy Morton and
Sally Unwin from the Christchurch College of Education.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Motueka High School Storied Experience:
Teaching and learning strategies
Tracey Ellery
Literacy Coordinator, Motueka High School, Motueka
Jan Trafford
Head of Department, Learners’ Support, Motueka High School, Motueka
In 2005 Motueka High School became involved in the Ministry
of Education’s Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education
(EEPiSE) project. The following is the story of how we integrated
this action research project into our existing Enhanced
Programme Funding (EPF). The project was supported by
researcher Don Brown and led by our head of department
(HoD), Learners’ Support, Jan Trafford. A range of teachers
across the school, including the literacy coordinator, .
Tracey Ellery, were involved in the project. Both initiatives
aimed at upskilling all teachers, enhancing literacy across .
the school and were based around students with moderate
special teaching needs. We collated quantitative and qualitative
data mainly in the area of literacy but also in numeracy and
behaviour. These two programmes have made an impact .
on the school’s efforts to increase learning outcomes.
Practice Paper
Action research, effective practices, learning strategies,
literacy programmes, professional development, teacher
development, teaching strategies.
In the beginning … our principal Rex Smith was noticing that
our (then) school certificate results were below average. After
investigating possible reasons for this, he found that Motueka
High School programmes were up-to-date, relevant, and he
believed that the teachers were hard working. This lead to two
thoughts: what were the students’ abilities and skills at the
time of the Year 9 intake, and were the teachers adequately
equipped to meet the needs of the incoming students?
The primary assessment used at Motueka High School for
Year 9 students is the Supplementary Test of Achievement .
in Reading (STAR). In 2003, 26% of Year 9 students arrived .
at high school with a stanine 1 or 2 on their STAR, and in the
2004 intake there were 35.5 %. We concluded that students
with high literacy learning needs were enrolling at our school
and we needed to do something to address the problem.
The low STAR results along with Progress and Achievement
Test (PAT) scores led to the school applying for the Ministry .
of Education EPF programme. Our learning programme was .
to focus on students with moderate literacy needs and began
in 2004.
A Year 9 literacy class was set up. The target students for .
this class were a group of students who we hoped would
achieve the National Certificate of Educational Achievement
(NCEA) level 1 if they were given some extra literacy support.
Approximately 16 students were selected for the initial class
and most had achieved stanine 1 or 2. The targeted students
received the same curriculum programme and assessments
as their Year 9 peers, however, they were supported in class
through lesson adaptation and delivery by two teachers, one
of them specialising in literacy. The supported students were
expected to write less, to talk and discuss their ideas and
learning more, and there was a focus on individual reading.
To encourage successful learning, subject-specific vocabulary
and the relevance of the lesson to the students’ life experiences
were stressed. A close liaison was maintained with the
parents and caregivers of these students.
A second part of the programme focused on professional
development for all staff in literacy strategies. Experiences
from using these strategies were shared and discussed at
regular professional development meetings. Surveys regarding
this professional development found over 90% of the staff
were using the literacy strategies in their classrooms and .
over 75% believed these strategies had helped their students.
One of the key outcomes is student success at level 1 of NCEA.
Thus, when our school was accepted for the EEPiSE project, .
we were able to explore in more depth the needs of our
targeted students, and the methods we used to sustain .
and enhance their ongoing learning. At the same time as .
we started this project, we received feedback from many
parents that their children were able to read well but that
their spelling was very poor. This was something we needed
to consider as well.
Cooperative learning was a strong focus of our action
research. Brown and Thompson (2000), state that cooperative
learning has the goal of ‘improving the academic skill of all
team members enabling them to face the world with more
confidence and with improved levels of skill’ (p.13).
With this in mind, and in consideration of parent feedback,
we were encouraged by our researcher Don Brown to
implement a spelling programme across all Year 9 English
classes, in effect increasing our target population to all Year
9 students. The following is a brief outline of the programme
we implemented in Term 3, 2005.
Year 9 spelling programme
1. All students are pre-tested on level 1 words.
Both the spelling programme and the literacy professional
development have had some very positive outcomes in other
curriculum areas. Many teachers have adopted a whiteboard
format that includes topic-specific key words and lesson aims.
An initially reluctant teacher has now realised that with the
introduction of NCEA, subject-specific language and literacy
has become very important to his subject, and has spent
considerable time creating process charts with key words .
and definitions for display in classrooms. Similar things have
occurred with other teachers. There has also been a great
deal of sharing of resources and ideas from department to
department and we are beginning to see a change in junior
school curriculum delivery.
2. Students are paired with a partner they work with .
each spelling session.
3. Partners test each other on unknown words from .
the pre-test, using groups of 10 words at a time.
4. Students then complete a variety of spelling activities .
on unknown words.
5. Students are retested by their partners and then go
through the same process with the next set of words.
6. Once the students have learnt all the level 1 words, .
a post-test of 50 words is given.
7. Students will then move on to level 2.
Teachers were asked to support the spelling programme .
in other curriculum areas by introducing curriculum key
words for each lesson and using flash cards. The flash card
programme developed by Don Brown reinforced new
curriculum vocabulary and concepts. The programme was
supported by staff-wide professional development and was
left up to individual teachers. There were varying degrees .
of programme utilisation by staff but the comments were
positive from those who did implement the strategies.
What grew from this?
The next stage of our action research project involved our
resource teacher of learning and behaviour (RTLB) working
with the Year 10 literacy class. This class had been supported .
in 2005 as the Year 9 literacy class. Under the guidance of
Don Brown the RTLB introduced a paired writing programme
to the class to make spelling relevant, to increase confidence
in using words, and to improve cooperative work skills. .
The programme involved the RTLB working with four pairs .
of students. He taught them how to praise one another, how
to expand on ideas and encourage writing, and how to correct
their peers in a non-threatening manner. A consequence of
this particular programme was a small paired maths project.
This involved some Year 13 students working with some
identified Year 11 students who were requiring help to
enable them to achieve NCEA level 1. This programme only
ran for four one-hour sessions but all four Year 11 students
went on to achieve in their Term 1 assessments.
Both of these programmes, while small, were successful in
that all the students involved in them enjoyed the experience.
The main comment was that students found it easier to ask .
a fellow student for help than their teacher. The tutors also
gained from the experience. They recognised that in order to
teach a skill they had to synthesise that skill first themselves.
The Year 10 students in particular experienced a high degree
of increased confidence. These were students, who despite
some intensive literacy input throughout their schooling,
(reading recovery, RTLB intervention, teacher aide support)
were still at stanine 1 and 2 on STAR, and reading at a .
5-7-year-old level. For most of them it was the first time .
they were in a position of skill and knowledge at school.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
The second part of cooperative learning was to improve .
the way in which students engaged with each other while
completing tasks. An important aspect of this was group .
or class identity: ‘We do best as individuals when we have
learned within a supportive group’ (Brown & Thompson,
2000 p.16).
For our literacy class this was something that happened .
quite quickly over the course of the year. The students .
saw themselves as a cohesive and supportive group as .
the following quotes testify:
… because you are not shy and you are confident and you
can stand up in front of them and say a speech or something.
… because then you know the people in your class and
you can work with them better.
… there is no bullying.
Many parents have said that this is the first time their child
has enjoyed school:
… he grew in confidence and as he was in a class with other
students with learning needs he was free to be himself
(parent of a child in our literacy class).
The questions we asked ourselves at the end of our project
were these: What has been challenging? What have we
learnt? What would we do differently next time?
The challenging parts were starting and finding the time .
to coordinate and carry out the research. It took time to
select a topic that was relevant, purposeful and fitted into
what we were already involved in. Then, part-way through .
the project we had major staff changes which impacted on
the continuity of the research. Working with already busy
teachers was also difficult at times. A lot of different teachers
were involved in the research and they all had to find time .
to do the extra work. When we ask what have we learnt, .
it is important to point out that our action research is really
still at the beginning stage. The action research model is a
cyclical one and for us at the moment our research is posing
more questions than it is answering. We are now ready .
to move into the next cycle.
What we can report to date, is that there has been a move
from technocratic teaching to a manner more encompassing
of the teacher as a professional, a teacher who while guided
by documentation, works reflectively and makes curriculum
judgements according to individual class and student needs.
Education is a powerful tool and curriculum is a key
component. At school, we have in our hands the ability .
to not only reproduce life as it exists outside of school, .
but to produce life chances for our students. School should
not be a mirror of society at large; it should be an agent of
change. EEPiSE has enabled us to enhance our journey of
change and for us that has been one of the most positive
aspects of this project. We are opening the eyes of our
teachers to new teaching methods, and opening the doors .
of success for our students.
And next time? Firstly, we hope there will be a next time.
Secondly, we have learnt that we need to have very clear
objectives and outcomes at the start of our project. Although
we realise that this doesn’t mean the initial objectives will
remain the same, it does give us purpose and direction .
at the start. Such is the nature of action research.
Brown, D., & Thompson, C. (2000). Cooperative learning
in New Zealand schools. Palmerston North, New Zealand:
Dunmore Press.
Tracey Ellery
Tracey Ellery has a background in special education teaching
and is currently the literacy coordinator at Motueka High School
where she has worked for the past seven years. She has two
young children one of whom who started school this year, .
an event that enabled her to see education as both parent
and teacher. She is studying for her Master of Teaching and
Learning focusing on students with high literacy needs.
[email protected]
Jan Trafford
Jan Trafford is currently the HoD of Learners’ Support at
Motueka High School. She is a primary trained teacher and
has also worked as a relieving RTLB and as Motueka High
School literacy coordinator. Jan writes for Learning Media Ltd,
the Australian School Journal, and has had books published
by both Reed Publishing and Rainbow Reading Ltd.
[email protected]
What Does it Take to Facilitate?
Dr Bruce Kent
Senior Advisor, Ministry of Education, Special Education, Manukau
The purpose of this study was to capture a sense of the
experience of facilitators working with schools and teachers
on the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education
(EEPiSE) project. Facilitation skills are often used in educational
contexts in a variety of forms and for a variety of purposes. .
A considerable body of literature provides detailed information
about the skills and procedures that can be applied in
facilitation. It is also of value to attend to the learning .
that facilitators have gained from experiencing the role. Nine participants (including two Mäori and two male) .
were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format.
The interviews were transcribed and the data analysed using
content analysis to identify themes.
Four themes emerged from the interviews: these were (a)
working together, (b) teacher self-discovery, (c) working .
and learning in context, and (d) useful skills for enhancing
outcomes. These themes reflect a strong emphasis on the
necessity for facilitators to develop quality relationships. .
This is consistent with current literature which recognises
“being” as the fundamental skill of facilitation. The contribution
of those involved in the action learning project is recognised.
Practice Paper
Action research, collaboration, facilitation, professional
development, reflection, research project, teacher
Effective facilitation may indeed equate to expertise in using
masking tape (Epps, 2004) but the profundity of the simple
task of “making it easy” for groups to function is challenging
and far-reaching in its effect. The Ministry of Education,
Special Education (GSE) supported teachers and schools
involved in the EEPiSE project by providing facilitators to
assist them in their action learning activities. The role of .
the facilitator has emerged from the project reports as one .
of the key elements in promoting constructive reflection .
and action in teaching practice.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Groups meet to make decisions, share information, plan
work, learn together, create “buy-in”, and solve problems
(American Society for Quality [ASQ], 2002). However, simply
gathering people together in a particular forum does not
necessarily mean that there will be constructive progress
towards attaining those objectives; in fact it may generate
additional challenges. A facilitator uses knowledge and skills
to assist the group accomplish its goals (McNamara, 1999).
The objective of participants in EEPiSE included critical
engagement in reflective practice in order to identify where
and how to make adaptations to the teaching and learning
context. This is consistent with the concept of action learning
which seeks to develop learning from the interactions that
occur while problem-solving in real work contexts (Revans,
1982). The depth and quality of this reflective process was .
at the heart of the facilitation role regardless of the diversity
of teaching strategies that subsequently may have been
affected. As Bacal (2004) comments, ‘the facilitator’s
responsibility is to address the journey, rather than the
destination’ (p.1).
A vast number of resources are available to provide detailed
information regarding skills and strategies for facilitation .
(for example ASQ, 2002; Justice & Jamieson, 1998; Rees, 1998)..
These skills can be complemented constructively by sharing
the lived experience of those who have engaged in the process
(McNamara, 1999). The purpose of this article is to explore
the experience of being a facilitator in the EEPiSE project.
A convenience sample of nine facilitators was invited to
participate in the study. They had worked in 10 of the 24
schools that were involved in the action learning activities of
EEPiSE. Two of the participants were Mäori and two were male.
The locations of the schools (spread across New Zealand) .
in which they worked ranged from large urban schools to
remote rural schools and included one kura kaupapa Mäori.
Both secondary and primary schools were represented. .
The participants were informed of the nature of the study
and consented to participate. Most of the interviews were
conducted at the symposia where the schools the facilitators
were involved with were presenting summaries of their work.
One interview was conducted electronically owing to the
personal circumstances of a facilitator but was followed .
up with a face-to-face interview prior to drafting this article.
Data were collected through semi-structured interviews using
the schedule provided in Appendix 1. The interview schedule
was sufficiently flexible to allow participants to introduce
experiences and insights that were of importance to them.
The transcribed interviews were checked by the participants
and any amendments were incorporated in the final
transcriptions. Analysis
Content analysis was used to examine the collected data. .
This is an inductive ‘qualitative data reduction and sensemaking effort that takes a volume of qualitative material .
and attempts to identify core consistencies and meanings’
(Patton, 2002, p. 453). The “sense-making” includes organising
the data around themes or patterns that are supported by
the weight of the evidence. The transcripts of the interviews
were coded to account for the full interview. Through an
iterative process the common themes and distinctive individual
variations were identified. The themes were grouped and
subjected to peer review by a Ministry of Education senior
advisor not involved in the EEPiSE project. The draft material
was shared with all the participants to ensure their expressed
views were adequately represented (where used) and that
their anonymity was preserved. Their permission to use .
the quotes was confirmed. In keeping with recommended
qualitative methodology (Patton, 2002; Smith, 1996), the use
of verbatim evidence allows the reader to assess the validity
of the interpretation provided.
The themes that emerged from the interview data were .
(a) working together, (b) teacher self-discovery, (c) working
and learning in context, (d) useful skills for generating
(a) Working together
Common to all the facilitators was a perception that building
and maintaining constructive relationships was critical for
effective facilitation.
In some ways I think that facilitation almost came down
to the personality of the person … because it came back
to relationships so if you didn’t develop a relationship then
it probably would have gone to custard …
Included in developing the relationship with the project
participants was the approach that “we are all learning
together” and “understanding that we are all in a different
place on the inclusive practice continuum”. This required
both patience and time to develop credibility. Where a
positive relationship already existed or time had been spent
establishing one, the project was more easily activated. Participating schools as well as facilitators appear to have
valued the working relationship.
I think that they saw that it was valuable to have the
relationship. It really wasn’t … but may have been an
outside goal, it sort of wasn’t the goal of the project but
it certainly was really nice to have the process, definitely.
Where the relationship developed constructively the facilitator
and the school were able to adopt interdependent roles that
could be a catalyst for change. Additionally, if schools had .
a sense of ownership of their goals, their expectations were
more commonly aligned with those of the facilitator.
The actual leadership came from the school and that is
where the ownership has been, so really my role has been
more as a critical friend … The most important thing here
is the reminder that the school has to have full ownership.
We might be a catalyst for some things but it’s the school
that’s doing it, it has to be their vision – all we do is be
a critical friend – at times clarify.
Working relationships among educators are not always easy,
but even when faced with challenges, a constructive and
open relationship enabled facilitators and school personnel
to benefit.
The things that knocked me for a six when I was doing
this were when I was in a meeting with people that I didn’t
know, that is staff members, who were just wanting to
knock the stuffing out of me for whatever reason, whether
it be … we were moving too fast, or I was from GSE, or that
… the special ed sort of scenario where “we’ve got 30 kids
in our class and how can you expect us to do this?” and
I at times I suppose, had the stuffing knocked out of me,
but then after a meeting like that, the principal and I would
sit down and debrief and he and I were able to find good
things that came out of it so it wasn’t so bad after all.
… even though I did feel flat at times, it was easy to pick
up again and keep going. Again, it was that partnership.
Mutually supportive relationships between facilitators and
schools were demonstrated at the symposia presentations.
They reported that they appreciated my being there, and
some advice and directions, the confidence factor even at
symposia, symposium presentation … they wanted me up on
the stage there, so that sort of being alongside, that relationship
and confidence building … is useful.
(b) Teachers’ self-discovery
A notable outcome from facilitators and teachers engaging .
in a professional learning dialogue was the evidence that
teachers became more aware of their ability to confront .
and cope with teaching challenges. This is a particularly
important outcome as ‘effective teachers [reflect] on their
own thinking and children’s thinking as learners. They engage
in reflection and planning with colleagues and use a range .
of methods to help to identify how pedagogical practices can
be improved to benefit children and further increase their
effectiveness’ (Farquhar, 2003, p. 3).
I think the fact that teachers have begun to realise that what
they do actually makes a difference to the outcomes that
children achieve …
And I think one of the other key outcomes for teachers was,
um, a development in confidence about what they could
actually do themselves, and confidence in their colleagues
because there was often hidden talent in both schools
which hadn’t had the opportunity to come out until this
type of project was in place, so many teachers found it quite
validating … and surprising and they realised they had
a lot of expertise themselves …
One characteristic of this increased teacher awareness of
capability was a demystification of the myth around teaching
“students with special needs” which led to teachers feeling
more confident about meeting the needs of these students
within their regular classroom programmes and actively
seeking the input of the students in developing programmes.
Experiences during EEPiSE led to teachers realising the value
of seeking student feedback and determining to make this
a regular part of their interaction with students.
(c) Working and learning in context
A feature of the EEPiSE project was that the professional
development or professional learning (PD/PL) was inherently
related to the needs identified by each participating school
and linked to their respective context. Effective professional
development for educators has been described as collaborative,
site-based, involving peer engagement, and involving teachers
as “experimenters” (Centre for the Use of Research and
Evidence in Education, 2005). Reflecting on practice within
the teaching/learning context appears to have been valuable
for a number of the participants in the EEPiSE project.
What was reported to me was having the theory separately
and uncontextualised wasn’t that helpful, but when it was
brought in alongside the actual work and interpreted in the
context of the actual children they were working with and
in their school and community it was far more meaningful
and powerful.
Not only was this approach meaningful, but it appears to
have generated practical benefits for students and teachers.
The principal has been reporting some of the progress that
some of the children have been making as a result of that
focus, shared focus on planning for better outcomes for
children. The teachers have taken ownership of their
professional learning and they are looking at ‘what do we
need?’ and they’re developing and driving it and it’s a huge
difference to when PD used to be something where you went
out there, attended a course which may or may not have
been relevant, so they’re really looking at what do we need
as a staff? And taken ownership.
It was further observed by some facilitators that the ability .
of some team leaders to apply the action learning model
within their school structure was a characteristic of those
sites that achieved notable outcomes.
(d) Useful skills for enhancing outcomes
The predominant skill of facilitators in generating useful
outcomes with participating schools was the early establishment
of a positive relationship with the school. This included being
available, being present and being involved.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
I think, first of all, the relationship building, and that was
one of the things that came from both schools, that they
really appreciated the opportunity to get to know me and
me to get to know them over the year that I was there.
They had my phone number, my email, I was coming in and
out regulary, all the staff got used to seeing my face around,
they had a good understanding of my role in that, I wasn’t
there to tell them what to do but to help them find what
they wanted to do and then help them plan it and implement
it so … they saw it as a supportive … yeah, a very supportive
role, but also challenging.
A productive relationship included a deliberate sharing .
of responsibilities and roles. Sometimes the facilitator .
had to accept that others did not currently share the same
understandings and accommodate that in their work.
In my particular facility it was built on a good relationship,
but that relationship was developed and continued to be
developed over time. I think that I needed to be willing
to take, to let the school have a part in the process … it was
necessary to … you know, in a collaborative sort of thing
for us each to have a part in it. I found that hard at times.
The feedback I got from teachers was the ability to provide
safe feedback to them – they didn’t feel threatened; they
quite happily sought feedback on what they were doing
and the effect of it.
One facilitator noted that the effectiveness of an outside
facilitator “is largely influenced by the effectiveness of the .
in-school coordination”. This may be enhanced through open
communication between the school coordinator, principal,
deputy principal and the facilitator (for example, setting .
up a group email and modelling “keeping everyone in the
loop”). The modelling by the facilitator of the valued skills
(whether communication, consultation, questioning, listening,
or teaching) was often reported as useful for facilitation. .
But perhaps the most effective elements in producing .
change in teaching practice are fully comprehending the
needs of the students and seeing the possibility of making
positive outcomes happen for them.
Hugely powerful for all those teachers was recognition
of that … intimate connection with the students that
often the sector is failing for whatever reasons, building
their understanding of those students’ needs and, from
that impact, quite an emotional impact for most of them
(but not all of them), a commitment to making things
happen differently in their classrooms.
Facilitation occurs in diverse and dynamic contexts and
involves the art of creatively using a variety of techniques .
(for example, Bacal, 2004; Rees, 1998; Schwarz, 2002). .
Where the purpose of facilitation is focused on learning .
and improving practice rather than accomplishing a task,
simply applying techniques is unlikely to achieve the desired
outcomes. Moreover, the nature and extent of how such
techniques were applied by the facilitators at their respective
sites over the time of the EEPiSE project are far beyond the
limits of this study.
However, a sense of the “artistry” involved emerges from the
interview data. All the interviewees emphasised the necessity
of developing relationships and these provided the foundation
for working together, supported teacher self-discovery, and
allowed the possibility of working and learning in real contexts.
The skill of “being” ‘is central and pervasive, cutting across .
all other skills, for it represents the facilitator’s presence .
and vulnerability in creating a reflective climate in the group’
(Raelin, 2006, p. 92). The emphasis on relationships is woven
through the interviews and appears to have influenced .
the nature of the role taken by facilitators whether as a
catalyst, a critical friend, providing feedback, or as a source
of confidence. To some extent (although how much cannot be
assessed from the interview data) the project team relationships
supported teachers discovering capabilities within and among
themselves. This appears to have been related to providing .
a focus on the real teaching/learning practice as illustrated .
in the observation that:
They are looking at “what do we need?”
The teachers’ reflection on what was needed in their
particular contexts promoted constructive dialogue about
change in practice.
In addition to the core skill of “being”, Raelin (2006) identifies
four other skills that characterise advanced facilitation praxis:
(1) speaking to express the collective voice, (2) disclosing
doubts or passions, (3) testing ideas to uncover new ways .
of practice, (4) probing assumptions and consequences.
Elements of the facilitators’ reported experience indicate the
use of techniques that are consistent with these four skills. The current study only reports on the perceptions of the
facilitators. The emphasis on the importance of relationships
with participating teachers clearly indicates that they were
also very significant in the facilitation relationship. The reports
of positive change suggests that the teachers must also have
demonstrated high levels of facilitation skills to bring about
real change in their practice. Not least of the characteristics
of the teachers was the courage to share themselves and
their practice with others. CONCLUSION
The interviews reported in this paper offer some insights into
the experience of the facilitation role. It is very clear that the
skill of “being” is fundamental in effective facilitation and the
experiences of those involved are consistent with the literature.
For the purpose of enhancing effective teaching practice a
facilitator (together with participating teachers) may contribute
to the creation of a learning team that provides an environment
that is compatible with open reflection on practice and
encourages change. The interviews suggest that facilitators
performed a variety of roles and applied a range of techniques
but did so as members of a learning team with a keen interest
in the development of that team.
The service orientation of facilitation becomes .
paramount when:
• the focus of the entity is on praxis, namely, on learning
from reflection on practice
• the facilitator is not just a guide to increase the .
efficiency of the operation or to remove the obstacles .
to task accomplishment
• the facilitator is committed to the learning of each
member within the group, as well as of the group .
itself (Raelin, 2006, p. 94).
American Society for Quality. (2002). Basic facilitation skills.
Retrieved June 1, 2006, from http://asq.org
Bacal, R. (2004). The role of the facilitator: Understanding
what facilitators really DO! International Association .
of Facilitators. Retrieved 1 June, 2006, from .
Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education
(2005). The impact of collaborative continuing professional
development (CPD) on classroom teaching and learning.
London: EPPI-Centre.
Epps, J. (2004). Facilitation from the inside out. International
Association of Facilitators. Retrieved June 1, 2006, from
Farquhar, S. (2003). Quality teaching: Early foundations
best evidence synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education,
New Zealand.
Justice, T., & Jamieson, D. (1998). The facilitator’s field book.
New York: AMACOM
MacNamara, C. (1999). Facilitation (face to face and on-line).
Retrieved June 1, 2006, from http://www.managementhelp.org/
Patton, M. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation
methods, (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Raelin, J. (2006). The role of facilitation in praxis. Organizational Dynamics, 35, 83-95.
Rees, F. (1998). The facilitator excellence handbook. .
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Revans, R. (1982). The origin and growth of action learning.
Brickley, UK: Chartwell-Bratt.
Schwarz, R. (2002). The skilled facilitator. San Francisco:
Smith, J. (1996). Evolving issues for qualitative psychology. .
In T. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of qualitative research
method (pp. 189-201). Leicester: BPS Books.
Dr Bruce Kent
Appendix 1
Interview Questions/Prompts
You have worked with school staff to provide support
for professional learning …
1. Describe the outcomes that had the most impact
on the school/project.
2. What skills were most useful in generating .
those outcomes?
3. What does PD/PL mean to you?
4. What experiences/attributes that you have were
most useful for you to work with schools?
5. What did you learn about facilitation?
Dr Bruce Kent is a Senior Advisor, Professional Practice, with
GSE. In this role he has been the project manager for some
national research projects including a portion of the EEPiSE
project. He has previously been a teacher and an educational
psychologist, and has just completed a PhD in health science.
6. What were the main inhibiting factors to effective
7. What were the main enabling factors to effective
[email protected]
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Challenging Teachers’ Practice through Learning
Reflections on the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special
Education programme of research and professional practice
Dr Roseanna Bourke
Director, Centre for Educational Development, Massey University, Palmerston North
When teachers participate in professional development and
learning opportunities it enables them to reconceptualise
their assessment and teaching practices with the support .
of facilitators and researchers. National programmes of
professional development and research, such as the three
year Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE)
programme led by the Ministry of Education, also created
opportunities for researchers, professional development
facilitators and Ministry personnel to reconceptualise their
ideas, beliefs, values, and understandings of what it means to
learn, and acknowledge the diversity of learners and learning.
This paper highlights some of these learnings and explores
ideas around supporting and challenging teacher practice
through their own learning. It signals the need for both action
research and action learning models of support to teachers,
and highlights how “simple things” such as change in teacher
talk and small adaptations to teaching practice lead to .
more complex changes within the classrooms and schools.
Within the project an interplay between Ministry, researchers,
facilitators and teachers enabled a richer indepth exploration
within each school setting about the intent of EEPiSE and
inclusive practices for all learners. The outcomes for teachers
and schools was often portrayed through the increased learning
achievements of their students; however, the realities of
teacher daily practice often blur the correlation. The significant
achievement of EEPiSE is the celebration that teachers,
researchers, facilitators and Ministry combined efforts to
continue to tackle and enjoy the challenge of learning for us all.
Practice/Research paper
Action research, effective practices, learning, professional
development, professional practice, research, teaching.
Teachers are active learners through the very art and science
of their day-to-day teaching in the classroom. As a result .
of being continually confronted with unique and changing
situations, teachers question their own learning about their
teaching. Working with an increasingly diverse range of
learners, teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, values and knowledge
about learners, challenges their notions about “what it
means to learn” and “what it means to teach”.
It is not surprising then, that the most effective models of
professional development and learning utilise a range of
authentic environmental factors to best support teachers.
These include (1) specific and unique situations that arise for
teachers that challenge their practice, (2) authentic teaching
contexts that have meaning for teachers and (3) support .
from an in-class or in-school facilitator or researcher working
alongside the teachers to support their inquiry-into-practice.
Systematic professional development in the environment
where the teacher works and learns, enables change within
the school to take place at two levels: systems, and
professional teaching practice.
Creating opportunities for teachers to systematically examine
the impact of their teaching on student learning is a valuable
and powerful way to support teachers. If we are to understand
what change in teacher practice is most effective for both
teachers and learners, professional development cannot be
separated from day-to-day professional practice. In order to
bring about a desired and positive shift in student learning,
teachers require the support to examine their own practice,
and trial different ways of thinking and working, followed .
by an examination of any influences these have had on the
way learners think about their own learning.
This paper outlines some of the findings of a Governmentfunded project (2003–2006) that aimed to support classroombased teachers’ pedagogical practices in relation to learners
identified as requiring significant adaptation to the curriculum
content. The project aimed to identify, develop and share
effective pedagogical practices in primary and secondary
schools for students who required significant adaptation .
When the New Zealand Government funded and initiated the
Building Capability in Special Education project (introduced
in 2003), it was intended that the project would target learners
who had the most significant needs, irrespective of their
educational setting, and to support teachers to develop .
their teaching practice. The unintended consequences of the
initial project title highlighted the significance of the way .
we use language, and the meaning people attribute to it.
First, teachers had made it clear they felt that “building
capability” signalled an assumption that there was little .
or minimal capability already in the sector; yet within .
New Zealand we already had many examples of very strong
teaching and inclusive practices for learners with diverse
needs. Second, the notion of “special education” suggested
that there was an education apart from, and different to, .
the types of education that other learners in schools received.
This created divisions within the educational sector, where
ideology, politics, funding and intentions were conceptualised
and practiced in different ways. A change in the name of the
project to Enhancing Effective Practice better reflected the
intended focus on effective practice and signalled a move
away from developing capable teachers to enhancing
effective practice.
The criteria for involvement in the project were that schools
would self-nominate, had a number of learners who required
significant adaptation to the curriculum, and were able to
release teachers to take part in either the action research .
or action learning. Over the next 18 months, the principals,
teachers and teacher aides were quick to realise that this was
not an “easy option” for additional funding or teacher time.
It was a time of challenge and change, created largely by
facilitators and researchers supporting a teacher inquiry
model into the classrooms and schools. The teachers were
able to focus on their practice through asking questions and
to examine their practice in relation both to themselves as
teachers, and the achievements and learning of their learners.
Examples of this inquiry are given throughout this special
edition of Kairaranga.
One of the project’s specific aims was to facilitate the .
ongoing development of teacher expertise and confidence .
in teaching all learners. This meant that irrespective of
placement, learners who required significant adaptation .
to the curriculum would have access to a supportive,
inspiring and knowledgeable teacher – about teaching. .
Such teachers are already visible within the New Zealand
context in primary and secondary schools, and in designated
special schools. However, less is known about how a teacher
in any given educational context develops and builds their
expertise in supporting all learners.
Teachers and other educators are more likely to change
when challenged by their own evidence (Ainscow, 2005). .
In fact, Ainscow (2005) goes further and argues that when
teachers are faced with their own discrepant data (that is,
they believe one thing about their practice but the data they
collect tells a different story), they are more likely to find
meaning in their own practice and therefore change it. .
He states that ‘new meanings are only likely to emerge .
when evidence creates “surprises”’ (p.146).
While the focus of the project was on student outcomes,
these were broadened and identified as incorporating
students’ social, cultural and learning achievements. These
achievements were used by the teachers in the project to
think about their own practice and to reflect on the impact
their teaching had on student learning.
It was a different focus from a deficit orientation towards .
a learner that was premised on impairment or disability. .
This subtle change in focus caused many teachers to describe
this project as ‘one of the hardest I have been involved in’;
simply because there was no standard response or textbook
answer to the difficulties or dilemmas they faced in examining
their teaching practice.
The children and young people who were the focus of .
this initiative were those learners who had been identified .
as requiring significant adaptation to the curriculum .
content. To reach that level of specificity, a reference group
consisting of Ministry personnel, principals, teachers, union
members, People First representatives and Parent-to-Parent
representatives, deliberated on how to identify the focus
students without labelling them. This challenged the way
Ministry personnel and, later, teachers identified the learners
they sought to support. While on paper, the learners could
be carefully described in words that described their learning
difficulties, there was not a shared understanding about .
the identification of these learners as the project began. .
Nor did it become a focus.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
This project adapted the related approaches to supporting
teachers as they questioned and examined their practices:
action research and action learning.
Action Research
There are different forms of action research depending on .
the focus and the rationale for adopting the methodology. .
In this project, action research was used as a form of .
self-reflective inquiry. It was undertaken by teachers to
improve their practices; both in terms of why they chose
certain practices, and understanding the resulting impact .
of those practices on student learning. Through action
research, teachers were encouraged to systematically make
their practice “public” in order for it to be scrutinised at .
a level not usually associated with day-to-day teaching. .
This proved to help their understanding of their practices,
and the contexts in which the practices were carried out .
(Carr & Kemmis, 1986). This form of action research is firmly
located in the realm of the practitioner, specifically the
reflective practitioner model (Schon, 1983; Robinson & .
Lai, 2006), and the teacher inquiry model.
Half of the schools were involved in action research .
(25 schools), with schools supported by four research teams
from educational researchers in tertiary organisations.
Action Learning
A second strand of the project involved 24 schools in an
action learning model. Within this model each participating
school had a facilitator to support them. The facilitator .
was a Ministry of Education practitioner, either a psychologist
or a special education advisor, who supported the teachers
and their schools in a learning process, rather than a
research process.
This model relied on an intuitive practitioner model, rather
than that of a reflective practitioner. The distinction is that
“intuition can provide a holistic way of knowing – it appears
to be unconscious insight but it is not, therefore, without
basis. Rather, its basis is the whole of what has been known
but which cannot, by nature of its size and complexity, .
be held in consciousness” (Atkinson & Claxton, 2000, p.5).
The complexity of an action learning model lay in the way
the facilitators worked with teachers. The facilitators needed
to encourage the teachers to bring their knowledge of the
complexity of their work, including knowledge of their
learners in their own educational context, to the foreground.
This enabled the teachers both to articulate and rationalise
their practice, leading to a focus on their own and others’
practice. This was a powerful mechanism through which .
the facilitators and the teachers could explore ‘the way we .
do things around here’. In many circumstances these takenfor-granted practices were both questioned and changed .
by the teachers. Ownership of the identification of the issues,
and the associated ways to address these through collaborative
problem-solving with the facilitators, kept the momentum
for change alive. It also kept the teachers in the project.
There was not one school that withdrew from the challenge.
In the same way that we cannot readily separate individual
learners from their learning context, nor attribute causality
to changes we see in learners’ achievements, the learning
that occurred for Ministry personnel, the researchers, .
the facilitators, teachers and learners may not easily .
be separated out. Nevertheless, this is consistent with .
a socio-cultural perspective on learning, where we would
expect to see evidence that members of a learning community
have changed, and to have changed by their interactions
with others without necessarily being able to attribute cause
and effect. This project provides multiple examples of these
interactions that created and sustained different practices.
The title Enhancing Effective Practice was seen as an
appropriate choice for a project that was to support teachers
as they examined their own practice in relation to the
achievement of their learners; specifically those requiring
significant adaptation to the curriculum. The term .
“Special Education” was retained because the project used
Government appropriated funding specifically for this purpose.
The dilemma remained, and still does however, that in using
the terms, we are signalling a different type of education .
for some learners. Do the needs of learners for example,
determine who receives special education, or is it the practice
of teachers that determines what special education is? .
This is an unresolved issue and one that continues to polarise
the educational community. What was interesting though, .
is that for teachers in the project, and their learners, it was
not a dilemma. The focus on effective practice, on the
learners’ needs, and on the way teachers changed their
practices, highlighted that an ideological discussion did .
not deter daily practice, or day-to-day learning.
The Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE)
project began as a Building Capability in Special Education
(BCiSE) project. It became apparent that the language used
and the way a project is described affect the meaning and
intention of those involved. The initial choice of name itself
became a barrier for some teachers, and yet the intent and
aims of the projects remained consistent. The integrity of .
the programme was maintained. Essentially, the research
and professional development for teachers was used as .
a mechanism to support, engage and challenge teachers, .
and to facilitate and encourage the trials for different ways .
of working. A basic example came early in the project; .
one secondary school called a staff meeting to discuss .
how the teachers within the school would become involved.
The first task for the facilitator was to have the teachers
introduce themselves as, largely, these teachers did not know
each other. Many secondary school teachers who operate in
large schools may work primarily within their own departments
or areas of practice. In a project such as EEPiSE that works
across curriculum areas, and where ideas and concepts
challenge both the cultures and practices within a school,
such isolation of teachers and their practice becomes visible.
Within this project we found that when teachers’ practices
have visibility, there is a greater likelihood action for change
will be initiated within the school.
More poignantly, it became apparent to the teachers, and .
to the researchers and facilitators, that we could not examine
teacher practice in relation to students with significant
disabilities in isolation from the social context of the teachers’
classrooms and school environments. Therefore the issue was
not about the students. The focus was on teaching practice.
Student achievement data became an indicator that could
identify changes in teacher practice that appeared to be more
effective for this group of learners.
Teacher Inquiry model
The Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education
programme of research and professional development
highlighted the importance of a Teacher Inquiry model.
Through both the action research and action learning strands,
teachers were supported to build their own problem-solving
skills as teachers. They did not learn “things” but they did
learn how to think about issues of teaching practice to
support student learning.
Teacher inquiry is not a single program but a broad,
generally agreed-on set of insider research practices that
encourage teachers to take a close, critical look at their
teaching and the academic and social development of their
students. The goal of teacher inquiry is to build teachers’
and schools’ capacities to understand and solve problems
of teaching and learning (Lewison, 2003).
While, as interested observers, we could say “a lot happened”,
it is more difficult to gauge the quality of the changes or their
enduring influence on student learning. Change in teacher
talk was one of the first indicators of a change in teacher
practice. Change in talk demonstrated a change in teachers’
thinking; about their learners, about their own teaching and
about the importance of being able to articulate and explain
issues of practice.
Patterns of staff professional learning were established .
in schools. Teachers who started the project talking about .
“that data thingy”, a year later were discussing the collection,
analysis and interpretation of student data to analyse their
teaching and its effectiveness.
The teachers involved in the project may not have been .
fully aware that, as with any professional development and
learning, changed thinking changes the status quo within
their own classrooms and across the school. It did in this case
and while change was not always comfortable, it certainly
made the teachers think. As Fullan (1991, p. 117) has argued,
‘educational change depends on what teachers do and think
– it’s as simple and as complex as that’. Yet for many teachers,
it was not simple to get to the point of change. The stories .
in this special edition illustrate that when we operate in
complex environments, and work through multiple issues, .
it is far from simple.
As outlined in the many papers in this edition that illustrate
the EEPiSE work, teachers as learners grappled with ideas about
learning, teaching, assessment and diversity. These teachers
challenged themselves and others about their classroom .
and school cultures, policies and practices. The notion of
“inclusionary practices” is itself one example of the need .
to challenge accepted practices. The pilot study highlighted .
a variation in the way schools clustered their students
according to a “disability”. For example, one school which
had 25 children verified as having high or very high needs
and received subsequent ORRS (Ongoing and Reviewable
Resourcing Schemes) funding, integrated these learners
throughout the classes within the school. In contrast, another
school that had seven students verified to be eligible for ORRS
funding, clustered their students into one unit. The principal
of the latter school initiated a visit to the former school .
in order to learn how the school supported these learners
within the regular classrooms.
For some teachers in this project it was about seeing the
impact of small adaptations, while for others it was an
awareness that all children have the right to experience
success like their peers. To some extent therefore, teachers
talked about their own learning. Some teachers in this
project worked on strategies to adapt the curriculum so that
students could learn in their classrooms, while for others,
learning conversations evolved with a focus on collaborative
problem-solving. They developed further understanding in
how to provide the necessary resources to enhance a child’s
learning, and demonstrated an increased awareness of how
to adapt the lesson to suit children’s needs. Some teachers
used Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to set learning goals
while others established systems within the school such as
regular meetings for teachers’ aides, or regular meetings for
teachers of support programmes. Even so, for many teachers
working in secondary and primary schools there still remain
silos of learning and teaching.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
However, the project did enhance collaborations and
cooperations between teacher and external educational
agencies. There was evidence that an increased positive
relationship developed with facilitators through the Ministry
of Education, Special Education (GSE) and teachers; and
between resource teachers: learning and behaviour (RTLB)
and GSE and teachers. The fact that there was no “one right
answer” to the challenge of changing teacher practice
enabled greater sharing of ideas, resources and energy.
Inquiry into practice
While the Ministry project team knew there was “no cook
book approach, and no one right answer” to the dilemmas
teachers face in supporting the learning for all students,
there were some teachers who signed up for the project
looking for that one programme, or one way of doing things
that would magically increase student learning and positively
influence student behaviour. Increasingly, the teachers in the
project started to realise it was them, not a specific programme,
that made a difference to how they felt about teaching, and
how they felt about their learners. In the early phases of .
the project many teachers felt let down, as did some of the
facilitators, that they were not provided with the recipe for
success. However, as they realised, creating solutions was .
as much about identifying and exploring the real problem,
and that the teaching solutions were often to be found
within the school. These solutions were shared by the teachers
in a range of ways, including the culmination of school-led
symposia across the country. Many of the papers presented
in this edition come from those symposia. Even so, what will
work well in one context and in one school will not necessarily
be the answer for other teachers in other contexts. There is still
no single solution to complex challenges of teaching practice.
The context for learning, and the teachers and learners in these
contexts, are important elements in deciding what to do when
faced with a teaching or learning dilemma. This has long
been recognised and led Gersch, Kelly, Cohen, Daunt and
Frederickson (2001) to observe that ‘the same presenting
problem in other circumstances or in other schools could
arguably require a different response to be effective’.
What these classroom teachers have done, in their own
contexts, and through this EEPiSE project, is to show that
“giving it a go” in a structured, systematic form of inquiry,
can make a difference for them as teachers and learners. The ultimate outcome for these teachers and the project is
that their students’ social, cultural and learning opportunities
and achievements are enhanced and positively encouraged.
Ainscow, M. (2005). The next big challenge: Inclusive
school improvement. Keynote presentation at the conference
of school effectiveness and improvement, Barcelona,
January, 2005.
Dr Roseanna Bourke
Atkinson, T., & Claxton, G. (2000). The intuitive practitioner:
On the value of not always knowing what one is doing.
Buckingham: Open University Press.
Carr, W., & Kemis, S. (1986). Becoming critical: Education,
knowledge and action research. London: Falmer Press.
Fullan, M. (1991). The new meaning of educational change.
New York: Cassell.
Gersch, I., Kelly, C., Cohen, S., Daunt, S., & Frederickson, .
N. (2001). The Chingford Hall Schools Screening project: .
can we have some more educational psychologist time
please? Educational Psychology in Practice, 17 (2), 135-165.
Lewison, A., & Lewison, M. (2003). Teacher Inquiry. .
In E. P. St. John, S. A. Loescher, & J. S. Bardzell (Eds.),
Improving early reading and literacy in grades 1-5:
A resource guide for programs that work. Thousand Oaks, .
CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
O’Brien, P. (2005). Enhancing Effective Practice in Special
Education. A pilot study. Auckland Uniservices.
Robinson, V., & Lai. M. K. (2006). Practitioner researcher
for educators: A guide to improving classrooms and schools.
Califorina: Corwin Press.
Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How
professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
Dr Roseanna Bourke is Director of the Centre for Educational
Development at Massey University, leading a team of In-service
Teacher Educators. Prior to this she spent three years as
Manager, Professional Practice at the Ministry of Education,
New Zealand. In both roles, her interest has been to support
educators develop and implement an evidence-based model
of practice in education through research programmes and
practice-related initiatives. Her PhD focused on students’
conceptions of learning and self-assessment and her research
interests are in learning, assessment and the professional
learning of teachers.
[email protected]
Kairaranga Book Reviews
Springboards to Practice
Ministry of Education
The title of this resource – Springboards to Practice – .
is apt, as it has been designed to promote professional
dialogue in the teaching/education community and support
reflective practice. Throughout this resource are two
underpinning themes:
• the importance of social inclusion and belonging as
being a vital pre-requisite for learning (thought-provoking
quotes from students and parents underline this point)
• that good teaching practice for students with special education needs, is good teaching practice for all learners.
The focus is on effectively catering for diversity and is
compatible with Adrienne Alton-Lee’s (2005) Best Evidence
Synthesis for teaching diverse learners.
The resource, which consists of seven, four-page posters, .
is a synthesis of current research about teaching and learning,
practical class-based strategies and the perspectives of students,
parents, and a teacher. Each poster addresses a particular
topic. They include Friendship, Belonging, Social, Learning
Support, Bullying and Teaching. Each topic expands on the
key ideas and provides opportunities for teachers to deepen
their understandings of the ways in which they can include .
all learners.
Key messages include:
• the value of the diverse strengths and needs of all learners
• that positive relationships are central within the teaching
context, achieved through relating to each student
individually and through modelling behaviours which
are inclusive
The research strongly suggests that students’ social
relationships at school will be supported when there are
changes at the level of the classroom, but most importantly,
when there are systemic changes which focus on the
school as a caring community (Allan, 2001; Grenot-Sheyer,
Fisher & Staub,2001; Staub 1998).
While some sheets provide practical strategies, such as four
ways to adapt curriculum tasks, other sheets provide key
discussion points or questions and invite teachers and
schools to work together and come up with their own ideas.
The sheets are also accompanied by a teacher workbook .
that can be used as a reflective diary. It could also be used .
by a course facilitator to guide teachers through the resource.
The individual posters can be used as stand-alone resources –
one does not have to follow the other, but the seven posters
incorporate sufficient material to form the basis of a
comprehensive professional development programme for .
all teachers at all levels of the school system. Springboards
to Practice is an attractive resource. Being colour-coded, .
and with a consistent format, it is easily accessible and .
clear in its messages. It incorporates literature references .
for each Springboard poster to facilitate deeper study.
All teachers/educators would benefit from having access .
to the messages that this resource conveys. The opportunity
to order more copies or to have the resource on a CD would
be useful.
Allan, J. (1997). With a little help from my friends? Integration
and the role of mainstream pupils. Children and Society, 11,
• the viewpoint of accepting and incorporating all
perspectives as opposed to “this is the way we do things
and you’re only welcome if you do things our way”
Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality teaching for diverse students
in schooling: Best evidence synthesis. Wellington: Ministry .
of Education.
• the importance of partnership, which includes the
student, their parents and the school
Grenot-Sheyer, M., Fisher, M., & Staub, D. (2001). At the end
of the day: Lessons learned in inclusive education. Baltimore:
Paul, H. Brookes.
• the importance of the peer group being encouraged and
supported to find their own solutions to social situations
• the importance of a student-centred approach towards
learning with practical recommendations on how to
increase student involvement in their school experience
• the importance of school management embracing .
and promoting the above concepts, and of adults
modelling positive ways of relating socially.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Ministry of Education (2005). Springboards to Practice.
Source: Donald Beasley Institute (Eds.), Building capability
in education for students with moderate and high needs.
Final draft of a literature review commissioned by the
Ministry of Education: Wellington, New Zealand.
Staub, D. (1998). Delicate threads: Friendships between
children with and without special needs in inclusive settings.
Bethesda: Woodbine House.
Kate Donoghue
Kate is a Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB)
based at Coromandel Area School. She has previously worked
as a Special Education Advisor with the Ministry of Education,
Special Education. She also has experience as a teacher, .
a special needs coordinator, and a guidance and learning
unit teacher.
Jennifer Browne
Jennifer is a psychologist working for the Ministry of Education,
Special Education in the school focus team in Auckland, .
and as an RTLB. Previously she has worked as an RTLB, .
a guidance and learning unit teacher, and has had experience
both as a classroom teacher and a special class teacher.
Title: Springboards to Practice
Author: Ministry of Education
Date of Publication: 2005
Contact Details: This resource is free. To obtain a copy
contact Joanna Curzon, Ministry of Education, Special
Education, Wellington. Phone: 04 463 8260 or email.
[email protected]
Editor: Lani Florian
As noted in the preface, ‘This Handbook is intended as a
sourcebook of information and ideas about special education’
(p xxiii). This aim is certainly achieved. The Sage Handbook
of Special Education is dense with information and ideas
about special education, predominantly in North America
and Britain but with some interesting references to other
parts of the world.
The Handbook is presented in five sections: how special
educational needs are understood; the challenge of
inclusion; knowledge production; teaching strategies and
approaches; and future directions for research and practice,
with sub-sections within each of these. There are almost .
70 contributors including some internationally familiar
names in special education such as Ainscow, Fuchs, Giangreco,
Slee, Thurlow, Thousand and Villa, and New Zealand’s .
own Bourke and Mentis. Most of the contributors hold an
academic position which is of course reflected in the tone
and content of the text.
Throughout this Handbook there is a plethora of historical
information which provides a context for what this text
seems to be, an academic description of special education.
The emphasis is on special education as a specific discipline
for service provision and research, rather than general or
particular information about the various categories that .
are used to describe a learner’s special educational need.
While this Handbook is about special education, from special
educators’ perspectives, I would value more reflection on a
genuine partnership between regular and special education,
with some contribution from those working in the regular
education sector.
There are two chapters I found particularly stimulating,
probably because of personal interests and dilemmas. .
In chapter five, Brahm Norwich writes about “Categories .
of special educational needs”. This chapter provides a useful
history of the classification of learners with special needs,
and describes the difficulties associated with both labelling
and not labelling a special education need a learner may
have. For practitioners in the field of special education this
chapter could be illuminating as well as reassuring.
Chapter twelve by Roger Slee is titled “Inclusive schooling as
a means and end of education?” This has been abbreviated
to “Inclusive schooling?” as a header for each odd numbered
page – what an enticing question mark. In this chapter Slee
raises many issues about the realities of inclusive education
for both special and regular educators with what seems to .
be an honest appraisal of what has been achieved in inclusive
education to date. Slee is not denigrating inclusive education
but argues that ‘ … inclusive education is an important but
fragile educational project’ (p166). The information provided
and questions asked are thought-provoking and stimulate
some reflection on practice. I would be interested in a response
to this chapter from an academic in regular education.
This text would have been excellent when I was studying
special education at a post-graduate level, and may be of
particular interest to policy makers and devisers of systems.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a handbook as a .
‘book giving basic information or instructions’. I am not .
sure that The Sage Handbook of Special Education achieves
this, particularly for practitioners in special education.
However, as noted in the preface it is a sourcebook and
encourages reflection with the information provided.
Jordan, A. & Stanovich P. (1998). Exemplary Teaching in
Inclusive Classrooms. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting
of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego,
California, April.
Clark, C., Dyson, A., Millward, A., & Robson, S. (1999).
Inclusive education and schools as organisations.
International Journal of Inclusive Education, 3(1) 37-51.
Suella Quinn has worked in the field of special education as .
a speech-language therapist, teacher and special education
coordinator. She also worked for The University of Waikato
coordinating SE2000 professional development contracts .
in South Auckland.
Title: The Sage Handbook of Special Education
Editor: Lani Florian
Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd
Date of Publication: 2007
ISBN: 13-978-1-4129-0729-3 (pbk)
RRP: £85.00
Kairaranga goes Digital
Woven through this special issue of Kairaranga are strong
threads – learning, sharing, challenging, inquiring, analysing
and reflecting. Pulling them all together is an unwavering
focus on evidence, or what one school referred to as “that
data thingy”.
The data takes many forms. Surveys, interviews, running
records, classroom observations, samples of students’ work,
formal assessments and reflective journals are just some of
the ways schools have captured the changes made during
their EEPiSE projects. And, fittingly for this so-called digital
era, some schools have chosen to use digital data. Three of
these digital accounts are presented on the DVD in the back
pocket of this special issue.
The teachers who took part in EEPiSE are typically diffident
and modest. They don’t think they are doing anything
special. But you, the 4,000 readers of this special issue of
Kairaranga, will find that it is both reassuring and motivating
to read, see and hear what is being achieved for students in
New Zealand schools by teachers like you. Now we hope you
are inspired to create learning for all in your own schools. James Hargest College brings together students from the
school’s Learning Support Centre and the drama class in a
uniquely New Zealand interpretation of Macbeth. Their
project focuses on fostering friendships across the school and
the production is called ‘Macbeth – a catalyst for inclusion’.
As a direct result of the students’ collaboration in Macbeth,
there has been a significant increase in the nature and
number of student interactions, both in and out of school.
You have read about the changes Ferndale School made .
to the lunch break – now you can see these changes for
yourself. The “before and after” shots provide strong
evidence of the impact of this project.
Taumarunui School reveals a talented cast of students and
teachers who wrote, produced and performed a bitter-sweet
and thankfully fictitious account of ‘The way we were’. .
The tamariki and “Mr T” make enthusiastic use of black
humour as they highlight the contrast between the bad old
days and their current, effective use of formative assessment
and learning intentions. The music used is composed and
performed by students of the school.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
Joanna Curzon is the Team Leader: Research .
in the Ministry of Education, Special Education
Professional Practice team. She was responsible
for leading and managing the Enhancing Effective
Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE) programme
from January 2005 until its completion.
Joanna on DDI: +64 4 463 8260 or .
email: [email protected]
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on a current educational issue. (Up to 2,000 words).
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quantitative and/or qualitative analysis of data, or
reviews of the literature. (Up to 3,500 words).
Storied Experience – Papers reporting the experiences .
of children, parents, caregivers, teachers, support staff
and professionals in various learning settings. (Up to
1,500 words).
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Resubmission is possible.
Submissions for Volume 8, Issue 1, 2007
Deadline: December 20th, 2006
Submissions for Volume 8, Issue 2, 2007
Deadline: May 1st, 2007
Send to: [email protected]
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contradictory views on issues relating to educational
practice which may be included within the texts,
resources or programmes. This should result in views
being expressed that do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of the Editorial Board.
Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
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Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
This issue and its contents including pages, documents, online graphics, audio and video are
subject to copyright laws of New Zealand. The copyright is owned by the Ministry of Education
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You may view this issue and its contents and save an electronic copy, or print out a copy, of parts
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You must not reproduce, transmit (including broadcast and website), adapt, re-distribute or
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Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.
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Editorial, Editorial Board and contact details
Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE)
In it together – Vijaya Dharan
Practice paper
Enhancing Effective Inclusive Practice
Knowing, doing and believing – Martyn Rouse
Keynote address
Teaching Mäori Children with Special Education Needs
Getting rid of the too hard basket – Jill Bevan-Brown
Keynote address
Teaching Strategies: For some or for all? – Lani Florian
Keynote address
A Torrent of Change: Enhancing effective change
in special education – one school’s journey
– Chris Morris and Shirley Katon
Practice paper
Within our Circle of Influence
– Namratha Hiranniah and Bernadette Mahoney
Practice paper
Reflections on an Action Research Project
An interview with staff at Mt Richmond Special School
– Savi Bhupala, Gurjeet Toor and Kathy Dooley
Personal experience
Putting Enjoyment into the Lunch Break
Enhancing effective practice at Ferndale School
– Dorothy Wilson and Stephen Evans
Practice paper
Raising the Bar in Reading – Taryn Naidoo and Roshilla Naicker
Practice paper
Building Resiliency in Students with Special Education Needs
A journey of discovery – Alan Mears and Rosalie Stevenson
Practice paper
Motueka High School Storied Experience
Teaching and learning strategies – Tracey Ellery and Jan Trafford
Practice paper
What Does it Take to Facilitate? – Bruce Kent
Research/practice paper
Challenging Teachers’ Practice through Learning
Reflections on the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education
programme of research and professional practice – Roseanna Bourke
Research/practice paper
Book Reviews
Kairaranga goes Digital
Submission Guidelines
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