How do Schools Make Decisions About Supporting Students with Disability

How do Schools Make Decisions About Supporting Students with Disability

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What is the problem?

There are many students with disability enrolled in mainstream schools. These students may require additional support, and adjustments to curriculum and teaching strategies. Increasingly schools and teachers make decisions about supports and adjustments, but we know little about how these decisions are made. Current research suggests there is an overreliance on teacher assistants (called school learning support officers, SLSOs, in NSW public schools) and perhaps a lack of consideration of alternative supports and adjustments.

About the project

Funding Source: Australian Research Council Linkage Projects (LP160100191)


Dr Talia Morris

Senior Research Assistant

Building X5A 118

Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia

T: +61 2 9850 9628

Why is it important?

This research project will be the first to examine the ways in which schools make decisions about the adjustments provided for students with disability. A better understanding of decision-making processes will lead to support for schools to make optimal, effective, decisions that personalise learning and support. A pilot professional learning package to support schools to make better informed decisions will be developed and evaluated.


Who will be involved?

Project Team:

A/Prof Mark Carter

Chief Investigator

Macquarie University

Ms Melissa Clements

Partner Investigator

NSW Department of Education

A/Prof Jennifer Stephenson

Chief Investigator

Macquarie University

Mr Neale Waddy

Partner Investigator

NSW Department of Education

Dr Amanda Webster

Chief Investigator

University of Wollongong

Dr Talia Morris

Research Officer

Macquarie University

Dr Robert Stevens

Partner Investigator

NSW Department of Education


The research is carried out by a collaborative group of researchers from Macquarie and Wollongong universities working with partners from the NSW Department of Education.


The project is focused on students in primary and secondary schools in urban, regional, and remote areas of NSW accessing  extensive or substantial adjustments  as described by the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data framework.

What will be done

The project will involve three linked phases.

  • The first will involve an in-depth qualitative study of the decision-making processes and the factors considered when schools make decisions. Interviews will be held with key stakeholders including parents, students, teachers, special educators, SLSOs, principals and school counsellors. Their perspectives on the decision-making processes, goals for adjustments for specific students, the adjustments and resources provided to support students, their satisfaction with the processes of decision-making and evaluation will be explored.
  • Drawing upon the results of analysis of the interviews, the second phase will involve a large-scale survey of schools in NSW regarding decision-making processes.
  • The final phase of the project will be a pilot project to develop and evaluate a professional learning resource package aimed at improving decision-making in schools.

What are we up to?

Interviews for the first stage of the project are currently being collected and analysed. This phase involves examination of the decision-making processes for 30 students across 30 different schools.

Interview transcripts are audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using the NVIVO program. Interviewees are asked to check the transcripts before analysis.

We anticipate that data collection for this phase will be completed by the end of 2017 and reported in 2018.


Dissemination of project findings will be provided here as they are published or reported.

Content owner: Department of Educational Studies Last updated: 05 Jun 2019 10:03am

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