Evaluating research about education programs for students with special needs

School boards must make choices among education programs for students with special needs. However, research evidence about such programs has been difficult to understand and assess.

Project Category:
Strengthening research brokering work
Topic Area:
Equity and Inclusion
Ministry Priority
(2011-2013):
Teaching and Learning, Equity
Project Lead(s):
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Brief Background:
School boards must make choices among education programs for students with special needs. However, research evidence about such programs has been difficult to understand and assess. Research about programs for students with special needs is complicated by the variability of the students, many of whom have multiple exceptionalities, by the low incidence of some exceptionalities, and by the wide range of educational contexts in which programs are provided. The project team has been developing a process for evaluating evidence about programs for students with special needs that is focused on the requirements of school boards in Ontario.
Research Context:
When Ontario’s school boards consider the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of education programs for students with special needs, they review the available evidence and work to match this evidence with the needs of students, as outlined in their Individual Education Plans. Research studies and other forms of evidence provide critically important information for school boards and school board researchers. The challenge is to synthesize the evidence and to apply it to the specific school board context.
Knowledge Mobilization Activities:
Knowledge mobilization is inherent to this project. The project refined materials for use by practitioners , to support researchers in Ontario’s school boards in evaluating evidence (these materials are now available at http://www.aero-aoce.org/eeep.html ). A face-to-face workshop was presented in conjunction with AERO’s June 2012 conference, following a piloting of the materials with an AERO Special Interest Group (SIG) in late 2011. An article in a professional magazine read by school board researchers and administrators will also be submitted.
Outcomes:
As a result of this project, school boards across Ontario will be better equipped to evaluate evidence, including research, when choosing education programs to ensure that children with special needs are receiving programs that are effective, efficient, and equitable.