In this blog post Associate Professor Beth Saggers, discusses research outcomes of the Early Years Behaviour Support Project. This research was conducted as part of the Autism CRC School Years Program. It trialled the use of a novel tele-classroom consultation approach to support teachers in rural and remote regions of Australia.
The current global pandemic has put a spotlight on teaching and how teaching is delivered in schools. COVID-19 has put enormous stress on education systems, school and families to engage learners in remote ways. Some areas in Australia are again facing lockdowns and possible school closures. But much of the media has focused on technology options to support learning and teaching, rather than focus on good teaching practices that underpin inclusive practice across all mediums.
Regardless of the medium used, pandemic conditions or the students involved, good teaching is good teaching. Teaching in the 21st century is diverse and increasingly complex, and teachers need support to ensure they provide high-quality, inclusive teaching practices for all students in their classrooms.
This was evidenced in The Early Years Behaviour Support Project, which looked at supporting educators in rural and remote regions to meet the needs of learners on the autism spectrum through providing both face-to-face and remote modes of support. We found three key things were critical to supporting teachers and parents in their teaching, regardless of whether the support for the educators was face-to-face or provided remotely.
Three key elements to support teaching
First, it was important to identify the needs, preferences and strengths of the educators as well as the families and learners involved and develop an understanding the educational context. This ensured that strategies had a “contextual fit”. In the Early Years project, it was this “needs analysis” that informed every aspect of the project and how it proceeded and informed how consultations with schools occurred, with what regularly and using what medium. The needs were identified using a multidisciplinary perspective to accurately assess needs from a range of different disciplinary perspectives (e.g., education, speech therapy, occupational therapy) and give breadth and depth to the information gathered from educators, families and students. This approach helped ensure maximum uptake by participants of the inclusive practices that were suggested as part of the consultation process.
Second, it was important to identify what support could best meet the needs of educators and would in turn, help them more effectively support and include their students. It was essential to ensure support was flexible and responsive to the identified individual strengths, preferences and needs of the participants involved. In the Early Years project through the tele-classroom consultation this meant collaborating with participants to consider:
- What support was needed?
- What would this support look like?
- How could a combination of face-to-face and remote support work best?
- What platforms would be used to deliver remote support?
- What would the support look like? (e.g., co-teaching, observations and discussion, modelling of support strategies, reflective discussions, SWOT analysis, start-stop-continue conversations with relevant participants).
- How frequently would support be provided (e.g., daily, weekly, bi or tri weekly, monthly)
- Who were the key people to be involved?
- How would communication between the research team and participants work?
- How would information be shared with others in the education community?
Third, it was important for the success of the project that regular contact was maintained with key people to check in regularly and give them the opportunity to discuss concerns they were having, identify what was working well, what else they felt was needed and what further adjustment to support for both themselves and the learners was needed to maximise success.
Supporting teachers and supporting learners
This project highlighted some parallels between supporting teachers and supporting learners. Common to both groups was promoting the importance of:
- developing connections,
- building positive relationships and collaborative partnerships,
- maintaining regular, open and effective communication.
While this research was focused on supporting educators in rural and remote regions to support learners on the autism spectrum, it highlights the importance of elements that are foundational to inclusive practices and quality teaching in all schools. It is important in education that we continue to provide support to teachers that is responsive to their needs, particularly when modes of teaching are impacted by events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Associate Professor Beth Saggers is a member of The Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) at QUT. She has over 30 years of experience across a broad range of educational settings. Beth has a strong interest in the educational perspectives of key stakeholders including students on the autism spectrum and best practices for supporting students with ASD in education contexts. Beth is currently an active researcher in the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) and led the development and implementation of the Autism CRC Australian Educational Needs Analysis (ASD-ENA).