The Structured Teaching Framework is an evidence based intervention approach from Division TEACCH at the University of North Carolina, a university which is constantly at the forefront of research, service development and training professionals in the field.
Research has shown this approach leads to improvements in the development of functional skills, social communicative abilities, autonomy, social participation, emotional and coping abilities and reduction in behaviours of concern. This program is also useful in bringing about improvements in social skills, social play, motor skills, cognitive skills, independent skills and communication skills. Structured Teaching strategies and practices are based on research and the result is increased independence and access to all areas of the curriculum.
Structured Teaching is implemented in all classrooms at Monash SDS to foster independence for all students. Structured Teaching is a system of organising the classroom environment and matching educational practices to the ways that students learn based on current research. Individual student strengths and learning styles are assessed and utilised to teach new skills. Emphasis is placed on understanding and meeting individual needs.
Structured Teaching has two complementary goals. The first is to increase each individual’s skills and the second is to make the environment more comprehensible and more suited to the individual’s needs. These goals are achieved using four essential components of the Structured Teaching approach: physical structure, visual schedules, work systems and task structure. Each of these elements helps our learners to access the curriculum in meaningful and important ways by addressing the major difficulties with conceptual and organisational skills.
Every classroom is organised to provide clear areas for one to one instruction, social interaction and independent work. This is the first step in making classrooms manageable for our students by creating a clear, predictable and individually tailored learning environment. The environment and learning activities are designed to help our students understand that the world is an organised, predictable place where they can succeed, rather than random events and disconnected objects that inevitably overwhelm or confuse them.
Visual schedules allow learners to anticipate and understand what will happen in their day and when. Each student is provided with an individualised daily schedule, which tells them the sequence of their daily activities. Schedules help to promote personal, social and emotional development by teaching students what is happening in their environment. The use of visual schedules and positive routines offers strategies for developing important skills in these areas of learning. Schedules also support our students with transitions. They provide consistent ways for learners to change activities and a meaningful way for them to understand what is coming next. Schedules are very effective for facilitating transitions and help learners develop a positive approach to new experiences and become confident to try new activities.
Individualised work systems provide our students with a systematic way to approach and organise their work and tasks within lessons. Organisation and study skills are achieved through individual work systems and supports learners to fully participate in curricular activities by focusing on the learning environment, organisation and sequencing, and motivation and concentration. Work systems help keep learners organised so that they can function independently and effectively in a variety of different activities. This helps our student to increase their confidence, try new activities, attend and concentrate.
Visual structure adapts materials, activities and tasks to the appropriate developmental level for each individual learner. Visually structured tasks show learners how to complete specific tasks and how to use required materials. Research demonstrates that students learn best when materials are presented visually.
The four elements of Structured Teaching combine to provide every learner at Monash SDS with the level of structure that helps them to understand and access the curriculum. The need for learners to develop personal autonomy, to make choices and to communicate their choices applies across all curriculum subjects. Structured Teaching provides a framework for delivering the curriculum for learners with specific learning styles. Within this framework the content of the Victorian Curriculum delivered to our students is broad and balanced.