24 marzo 2018
Enhancing the skills, knowledge and understanding of teachers in the UK, Italy and Greece
With rising numbers of children and young people being diagnosed on the autism spectrum, there is a pressing need to: i) increase the awareness, knowledge and skills of the school work force and ii) improve the capacity of settings to meet the needs of children with autism. The objectives of this project are therefore to cohere a strategic partnership of researchers, policy and practitioner organisations in the UK, Greece and Italy to i) share educational practices in the vocational education and training (VET) of teachers who work with children with autism aged between 5 and 10; ii) develop the skills, knowledge and understanding of educational professionals in each country; iii) adapt a UK programme professional development programme in a manner that enables the development of ecologically valid materials for these educational contexts and standards of practice; iv) create a framework for international collaboration and a method of delivery that can be applied to other countries to research/evaluate and develop their own educational practice in autism and to v) create a website with Open Educational Resources developed from the project to support the education of children with autism internationally.
There are six partners in this project, consisting of Universities, non profit organisations, a school district and a private creative agency. These partners recognise the importance of strong links between higher education, the policy community and school practitioners. They will work together through planned regular communications and activities such as project meetings; seminars and workshops with policy makers and practitioners; and conferences in each partner country to jointly develop and deliver a range of training resources.
The project will reflect and build on current autism VET training programmes in the partner countries, and will specifically draw on the experience and expertise developed through the creation of the AET partnership programme, which is the largest ever face-to-face autism training scheme for schools across England. This programme was developed through an innovative partnership model that included individuals on the autism spectrum and a creative agency, all of whom developed a shared ethos and a vision for autism education, which linked the public, private and voluntary sector together. It has received excellent evaluation, with clear evidence of enhancing the knowledge, understanding and practice of autism practitioners (Cullen et al., 2013). We will establish a similar professional development programme in Italy and Greece consisting of three levels of training in autism education for school staff; a set of Quality Indicators for self-evaluation by settings and a Competency Framework to enable professionals to plan their Continuous Professional Development. This programme will aim to show i) sensitivity to the local and national delivery context, ii) have a sense of shared ownership, and iii) will provide the basis for further organic development.
By learning from the processes and experiences of the AET programme, this partnership will employ an innovative and participatory methodology that integrates the use of ICT in novel ways. The project will be managed through a collaborative methodology enabling open communication, clear roles and responsibilities and ensuring the voice of individuals with autism is central to the work. We will carefully examine the UK partnership model and analyse how it has been delivered to over 27,000 people since February 2012 in over 100 local authorities in England. We then consider whether aspects of this methodology can be employed to the development of similar professional development programmes in Greece and Italy and to the construction of a website with Open Educational Resources, which will be targeted at school staff who work with children with autism internationally. Through an iterative developmental approach involving feedback from training deliverers and other stakeholders throughout the creation of the materials, we will ensure that all content is clear and accessible, and relevant to the local educational context and practitioners in partner countries.
We anticipate positive and long lasting effects on participant organisations and policy systems as well as on the individuals directly or indirectly involved in the project. It will result in a sustainable model of good autism practice to develop in partner countries and that builds on local, national and international knowledge, skills and experience.
- Dr. Karen Guldberg, PhD – Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) – University of Birmingham