• Autism: Researching Practice

    Autism: Researching Practice

    Amazing opportunity to observe good practice and to take away ideas to implement in our own

    2018-19 participant


    The Autism: Researching Practice Project was a participatory research project which sought to develop and enhance teacher professional development by engaging schools in designing, leading and implementing their own research project. Each school nominated a teacher and leader to work as a duo and attend sessions with a programme lead from the alliance, a researcher from UCL Centre for Inclusive Education, Dr Amelia Roberts and three programme facilitators from two local schools with an autism resource base.

    The project aimed to:

    • improve the experience and/or outcomes of one or more autistic pupils in participants’ schools
    • increase teacher understanding and awareness of the issues faced by these pupils.

    The project was designed around the concept of using Research Learning Communities to inform professional practice. Pairs of senior leaders and teachers in 12 schools were empowered to develop a deep understanding of the needs of pupils with autism in their schools and to design interventions to change practice and improve pupil learning. Participants were supported to work their way through a research cycle which explored what worked for their pupils, families and teachers, in their own contexts.


    This study incorporated a pre- and post-programme audit to assess professional experience in relation to both research skills and working with autistic pupils, school level case studies of impact, interviews with teachers, school leaders/SENCOs, and programme leads.


    All schools reported that they had been able to observe some quite significant impact on focus pupils’ learning behaviours, in particular on their social skills and speech development, independent learning, and behaviour and emotional self-regulation.

    Teachers said that their involvement in the programme had developed their professional practice ‘enormously’. At the start of the programme teachers scored themselves an average of 2.3 (range 1-5) for knowledge and experience of research. By the end of the programme this had risen to an average score of 3.5. At the start of the programme senior leaders scored themselves an average of 3.1. By the end of the programme this had risen to an average score of 3.8.

    When asked about their experience of working with autistic pupils, the audits showed an overall improvement in both teacher’s and senior leader’s perceptions of their knowledge and skills. By the end of the programme, all participants responding to the audit agreed that they had the knowledge and skills to: teach children with high-functioning and low functioning autism; help pupils with autism to develop their social skills; help these pupils to regulate their emotions; and help them to develop relationships with other people.

    Participants were able to identify a range of ways in which the project had had a wider school impact. They were able to offer an extensive list of advice for other schools wishing to make similar changes in their own schools suggesting that the programme had indeed been a valuable source of professional development.
    Read the full research report and a full set of school case studies.

    Read our new Autism: A Practical Guide for Class Teachers.