The Transform Autism Education team met in Greece last week for a packed schedule of meetings, workshops and training events. As the project enters into its final phases, the team members are taking the opportunity to reflect on how the TAE has progressed from the early planning stages to its fruition into multi-layered teacher training programmes designed to facilitate the inclusion of autistic children in mainstream primary schools. Therefore a core question which formed the focus of much of the week’s activities was how to evaluate the impact of the TAE project, which spans across different countries (and regions within those countries), languages, cultural norms, socio-economic contexts and educational structures.
The TAE team was aided considerably in the process of establishing a method of evaluation by attending a workshop run by Bev and Etienne Wenger-Trayner (who flew over to Greece specifically to provide this training) on the development of ‘value creation stories’ which will constitute part of a ‘valuation creation framework’ for the TAE project overall. Through a series of presentations, discussions and written exercises, the TAE team members were encouraged to consider specific events and situations in association with the project which may have led – through a series of steps and various influences – to changes in practice or the development of knowledge and understanding, and so in turn have ‘created value’ in the context of teacher training, autism and inclusion. It was fascinating to see how the different team members had a range of ideas and experiences which were very particular to them as individuals, but which nevertheless formed part of the overall project aims and ambitions.
Other aspects of the week included a reflective group exercise on autistic participation run by Dr Damian Milton (who is a specialist advisor on the TAE) and Project Manager Becky Wood, information and discussion about sustainability led by Principal Investigator Dr Karen Guldberg, training on the development of the website by Martin Kerem of Genium, and a visit to Ralleia School, whose staff have undergone training from the TAE. Here, the staff and children made the large group of TAE visitors very welcome, and we were able to observe some extremely well-planned and creative lessons, including one where children from the special school for autistic children, which is next door to the Ralleia School, participate in a weekly art project.
It was very gratifying to hear from the staff how much the TAE training has helped in the inclusion of autistic children in their school and the visit was a very heart-warming and positive experience for all, especially as TAE members were invited to take part in a P.E. lesson on Greek dancing!
The multiplier event (a short conference) was, as always, a central component of the week’s activities. Its theme was ‘Building autism friendly schools through the TAE project’, and the speakers explained how the training scheme had had a significant impact on the understanding of autism and the inclusion of autistic children in mainstream schools.
The week overall provided a great deal of food for thought about the next steps and longer term sustainability of the programme, as well as some clear evidence that the TAE has the potential to make a real difference to school staff and children. Future dates to look out for include: the launch of the project website 2nd April 2017 and the final transnational meeting in Milan 5 – 9 June 2017.
“Something magic happened on this training, and we need magic in schools.” Comment from a presenter at the TAE multiplier event.
This short post can only give a snapshot of the week’s activities in Greece: for more photos and comments on the transnational week, a storify of tweets is here.