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Title: An evaluation of The Rochdale Autism Initiative (TRAIn), a training initiative for primary school staff, partially based on the Inclusion and Development Plan resources for autism
Author: Cooper-Jones, Claire Louise
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2013
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An increasing number of pupils with autistic spectrum condition (ASC) are placed in mainstream schools. Accordingly, there is a need for staff in schools to be trained in how to educate and include this group of children. This was particularly apparent in the Local Authority in which this research took place, as no specialist provision for autism existed. The Service Manager for pupils with SEN in this Local Authority wished to promote the Inclusion and Development Plan (IDP) resources for autism as a tool for training staff in schools in supporting pupils with ASC, and asked the Educational Psychology Service to evaluate the effectiveness of the IDP initiative. Although the EP-researcher role was not initially envisaged to include a mentoring role, it was deemed necessary in order to ensure the engagement with and the sustainability of the training package. The resulting initiative, the IDP resources with the addition of a facilitator-mentor and the opportunity for group discussions, was given the title ‘The Rivertown Autism Initiative’ (TRAIn). The aim of this research was therefore to evaluate the implementation of TRAIn over a one-year period, particularly focussing on the views of those involved, with some more objective measures of impact on knowledge and understanding also included. Data collection involved the use of questionnaires, focus groups, assessments of knowledge and understanding of autism, and self-evaluations of knowledge of autism and adjustment to practice. Participants were 22 teaching assistants and 2 special educational needs co-ordinators. Twenty four participants completed the pre-training assessments and self evaluations, commenced the training initiative and attended a total of 12 monthly support/focus groups over approximately 6 months. The number completing the whole initiative including completing the post-training assessment and self-evaluations was reduced to 14. The assessments and self-evaluations were subjected to non-parametric testing to give a more objective measure of the impact of the training on participants’ knowledge of autism. Thematic analysis was carried out on the qualitative data, using Kolb’s theory of experiential learning as a basis on which to explore and illustrate the experiences of the participants. Results suggested that the training initiative was successful in that significant improvements were shown post-training in terms of the knowledge assessments and self-evaluations. The thematic analysis suggested that Kolb’s theory of experiential learning can be closely linked with Clarke and Hollingsworth’s model of teacher change and the interconnected model of teacher growth, with the addition of a more explicit link between ‘experiences’ of learners, and the ‘outcomes’ in terms of their own continuing professional development. Additionally, the analysis provided a list of suggestions for the planning of future training events, including flexibility around timing, employers allowing dedicated work time for CPD, opportunities for learners to come together, the provision of a mentor, practical and easy to use resources, varied teaching and learning styles, and an ethos of safety and security.
Supervisor: Farrell, Peter; Bond, Caroline Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available