A Phenomenological Exploration of Victorian Primary School Teachers’ Perspectives on Reasonable Adjustments for Students with Disabilities

Year: 2021

Author: Bleeker, Oskar

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Continued advocacy for inclusive education has pressed for increased enrolments from students with disabilities in regular school settings consistent with international human rights obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This has intensified the need to improve equitable access to individualised planning of reasonable adjustments to support individuals’ participation and progress in these schools. Much of the existing research primarily focuses on obligations policy and legislation concerning the inclusion of students with disabilities and evidence-based practices; consequently, teachers’ understanding has received comparatively less attention. As teachers are responsible for implementing adjustments, it is key to explore their understanding of their obligations in order to address persistent issues of practice by individual schools and teachers such as the denial of adjustments, gatekeeping and restrictive practices. This paper will present the findings from a study conducted within the Victorian government education system. The study aimed to examine how teachers understand individualised planning of reasonable adjustments by collecting qualitative data obtained through digital questionnaires and interview data. Through these, teachers’ perspectives of reasonable adjustments, including their knowledge of and experiences in practice, were collected and thematically analysed. The findings indicate that a willingness to provide adjustments for students with disabilities exists among primary teachers. However, the findings also suggest teachers’ have a limited understanding of some aspects of reasonable adjustments including student eligibility, and how to select, develop and plan individualised supports that best suit their learners. Recommendations are provided for how further training on the topic is offered to educators during their initial teacher training as well as in-service professional development, with the aim to increase their understanding and practice. By building teachers’ capacity, we can ensure that students’ individual needs are met, and their rights upheld. We can also ensure that access to quality education by students with disabilities is improved and overcome some of the entrenched inequities within the education system.