The Early Years Model of Practice: Supporting Teachers of Young Students on the Autism Spectrum in Australian Primary Schools

Year: 2019

Author: Beamish, Wendi, Taylor, Annalise

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Focus & Relevance

Most students on the autism spectrum are educated in Australian mainstream schools. Yet, many teachers feel they need additional knowledge and skills to successfully educate students on the spectrum (see Roberts & Simpson, 2016). This need for targeted professional learning highlights the ongoing gap between research and practice in this area, and the associated demand for knowledge translation including the tailoring of existing research to create contextualised and useable knowledge products or resources for teachers. The Early Years Model of Practice (EY-MoP), a new practice framework, is one such product. This framework of empirically-supported, foundational practices empowers teachers to make informed choices about the structuring and implementation of learning

activities for young students on the spectrum.

Context & Contribution

This research draws from and contributes to the fields of inclusive education, knowledge translation, recommended practice, and Design Based Research. As the EY-MoP and its foundational practices will be shared with teachers via the online platform inclusionED, this resource should actively support teacher capacity building in this country.

Design & Methods

Design-Based Research was the overarching methodology used to develop and trial the EY-MoP. Multiple, iterative cycles of design-evaluate-redesign were undertaken, including (a) practice generation from the literature and design of Prototype 1, (b) content validation of practices by an expert group, (c) practice refinement and redesign to create Prototype 2, (d) social validation of practices by 129 teachers, (e) practice refinement and redesign to create Prototype 3, (f) trial by 38 teachers in 21 schools in Queensland, NSW, and Victoria, and (g) practice refinement and redesign to create Prototype 4 for sharing via inclusionED. Mixed methods of data collection were employed. EY-MoP validation (cycles b–e) used online surveys, while the trial (cycle f) used online surveys and phone interviews at the beginning and end of the 8-week trial period.

Results & Findings

The trial provided evidence for the viability of the EY-MoP with its 29 practices as a pragmatic and flexible online resource to support Australian teachers in their daily work with young students on the spectrum. Some teachers reported using the model as a “go to” resource for everyday planning while others used it as a reflective tool. Several teachers recognised the usefulness of the model for other diverse learners. Many commented on the model’s relevance to early career teachers. Importantly, use of the EY-MoP resulted in increased perceptions of teacher knowledge, confidence, and efficacy.