How do schools make decisions regarding adjustments for students with disabilities in mainstream classes?

Increasing numbers of students with disability are enrolled in mainstream classes, while responsibility for resourcing decisions to support them is increasingly taken by schools. Schools may employ a wide range of formal and informal adjustments to curriculum, instruction, assessment and the school environment to support students with disability and special education needs. Little is known, however, about how schools make decisions regarding adjustments and resourcing, although there is considerable evidence of over-reliance on the use of teacher assistants (Carter, Stephenson, & Webster, 2018).
This presentation will provide a description of the initial phase of a multistage project examining the ways that schools engage in decision-making for students requiring substantial or extensive adjustments under the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data. The research to be described involved 107 interviews with key stakeholders (e.g, principal, learning support teacher, school counsellor, mainstream class teacher, student, parent) in 21 schools in NSW. Naturalistic decision-making theory (Zsambok, 1997) and Nichel’s constraint inclusion theory (Robinson and Donald, 2015) provided a framework for analysis of decision-making. Interview data were analysed qualitatively to identify key themes.
Preliminary findings will be presented with regard to the adjustments schools employed and how decisions were made. It is anticipated that a more complete understanding of decision-making processes will lead to improved support for school communities to make optimal, cost-effective decisions that personalise learning and adjustments that will lead to better outcomes for students with a range of needs.
Carter, M., Stephenson, J., & Webster, A. (2018). A survey of professional tasks and training needs of teaching assistants in NSW mainstream public schools. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, Online First, doi:
Zsambok, C. E. (1997). Naturalistic decision making: Where are we now? In C. E. Zsambok & G. Klein (Eds.), Naturalistic decision making (pp. 3-16). New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Robinson, V., & Donald, R. (2015). On the job decision making: Understanding and evaluating how leaders solve problems. In S. Chitpin & C. W. Evers (Eds.), Decision making in educational leadership: Principles, policies, and practices (pp. 93-109). New York, NY: Routledge.