The design and use of a learning progression of emergent numeracy to support the instruction of students with intellectual and development disability
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-01-08.
© 2019 Dr Jane Strickland
This study developed an assessment to support teachers’ planning for emergent numeracy instruction for students with intellectual and developmental disability. It was conducted in response to reports of poor learning outcomes for students with disability in Australian schools, and reports that teachers required improved support to cater for the diversity of student learning needs (e.g., Senate Committee, 2016). Assessment can point teacher attention to student learning needs, although for students with disability it is commonly used to diagnose the type and extent of impairment, often to determine resource allocation. In contrast, assessment using rubrics (Brookhart & Chen, 2014) and criterion-referenced interpretation (Glaser, 1981) have been used to make consistent judgements of student behaviour, focusing on what students can do and identifying their place on a skills progression (Masters, 2013). Building on research into resources to support instruction of skills such as communication and literacy for students with disability (Woods, 2010), this study developed an assessment of emergent numeracy. It examined the potential to map student outcomes on the assessment to a progression of increasingly difficult numeracy skills and investigated the utility of such a progression to support teachers’ instructional decision-making. The research followed Wolfe and Smith’s (2007a, 2007b) instrument design and validation protocols, and drew on specialist teacher expertise to help develop a criterion-referenced framework to guide observation of student numeracy skills. Instrument design consisted of drafting items presented in a partial credit format (Masters, 1982) to describe levels of numeracy skill. Draft items were trialled with 2597 students aged between two and 24 years, and representative of students with diverse abilities and disabilities. After analysis using partial credit item response modelling (Masters, 1982), subject matter experts suggested changes to draft items, and a revised pool of items was trialled with 1818 students from four to 22 years of age. Analysis demonstrated that the instrument had good item and person fit and that items could be mapped to a single underlying continuum. The continuum was compared to the hypothesised framework developed during instrument design as one source of evidence for construct validity, then divided in a manner interpretable by subject matter experts to represent increasing levels of numeracy skill. A final research activity investigated the instrument’s consequential validity, as 45 experienced special education teachers examined the learning progression’s potential to support their instructional planning for students described in case studies. The study found that emergent numeracy of students with intellectual and developmental disability could be reliably measured using the instrument, and student outcomes were interpretable as a learning progression. Further, 76% of teachers reported that the progression helped them recognise the current and likely next skills of students, and 87% of teachers demonstrated partial use of the learning progression to support their instructional planning for students described in case studies. The findings offer an empirical progression to support identification of learning goals in emergent numeracy for students with disability, and provide an impetus to further investigate the optimal presentation of learning progressions to support teachers’ instructional planning.
Keywordslearning progressions; numeracy; inclusion
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