Learning Support Responsibilities Preparation

Staff development


Staff development ensures that staff have the knowledge and skills to work effectively with disabled learners and tauira and create a fully inclusive environment.  

Best practice standards

  1. Regular disability responsiveness and inclusion training for staff is adequately resourced and arranged as part of induction and development programmes for all staff and, in particular, those involved with teaching and assessment.  
  2. This training covers disability equity issues, the principles and benefits of principles of universal design in education and universal instructional design, inclusive teaching and assessment practices, learning supports for those with different impairments, common barriers, engaging disabled learners with different communication and information requirements, staff obligations under the HDC Code of Rights, Human Rights and Privacy Acts and other relevant policy and legislation, strategies to plan, implement and evaluate effective learning support for disabled learners. 
  3. Strategies are developed and implemented to measure if staff development  and training leads to staff having the knowledge and skills to work effectively with disabled learners.  
  4. Specialist expertise, including the expertise of disabled learners and whānau, are actively involved in staff disability training and appropriately reimbursed. 
  5. Staff have access on an ongoing basis to resource information about creating an inclusive educational environment, barriers to participation and achievement, and sources of internal and external support.  
  6. Demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion by welcoming and actively encouraging the employment of disabled staff.

“Actually, learners aren’t the only people who are disabled… I’m a staff member, I’m disabled. If I can’t survive as a staff member in everything used by the (tertiary provider), then a learner can’t. That’s what it comes down to. If I can’t manage with all my experience of working within the online teaching  environment, then how does a learner with the same equipment as me cope on day one?... The litmus test for the way you look after disabled learners is the way you look after disabled staff.”  

“To me, there is an enormous barrier in staff knowledge and capability around being the sort of educator that disabled learners would flourish next to and alongside.”  

- Disability Services and Academic Staff, Tertiary Institution. 

Ideas and resources

  • Ideally staff induction, development programmes and resource information should cover: 
    • Disability equity issues, the principles and benefits of universal instructional design, inclusive teaching practices, curriculum development and learning resources.
    • The implications of different impairments on learning and teaching strategies, including barriers and learning supports.
    • Designing and managing physical access for people with different impairments.
    • Engaging disabled learners from different cultural and equity groups or  who have different communication and information requirements.
    • The range and types of learning support available to disabled learners with different impairments. 
    • Obligations under the HDC Code of Rights, Human Rights and Privacy Acts and other relevant policy and legislation.
    • Strategies to plan, implement and evaluate effective support for disabled learners.
  • Many larger tertiary institutions have already developed training programmes that they may be willing to share, or use external providers including disabled people to provide this training. Contact disability support services within larger universities or tertiary education organisations to find out about these training programmes and resources.  
  • Endorsement from council and senior management for this training and development is essential.  
  • Where possible training should involve all staff, including general, teaching, part-time and contract staff.

Engaging disabled learners

Involve disabled learners with different impairments in this staff development and training. 

Case studies

Some key themes from the special interest staff development: 

“I like the idea of a resource for staff. ‘I’ve got a blind learner in my class. What do I do now?’ Well, go in and look it up and go, Oh, there it is, blind: instant information, better awareness, it recommends you go talk to them. ‘Okay, I’ll do that!’ So go to a resource rather than a training.”  

“I think disability awareness needs to be taken as a responsibility across the organisation.That means the level at which plans are developed… you would need to look at where resourcing responsibility is… I think for us it would be around department plans, because they are allocated budgets, [to] make the decisions around. Well, what’s their plan for disability?”

“Disability awareness training in institutions … There are multiple ways to understand disability. There’s hidden impairments, visible impairment, and yeah, I think institutions need to have a bit more understanding in that regard.”  

“One thing that would really help us would be if there was more pedagogical training for staff and ... something from higher-up making it mandatory… when they are inducted into their job.” 

“Upskilling academic staff to work and support learners with any kind of disability.”

  • Designated contact(s) for disabled learners in different parts of the organisation with appropriate and ongoing professional development. 
  • Strategies for measuring outcomes of training can include reviewing progress with learner participation, retention and success rates, learner climate  surveys and staff evaluations of the benefits of training. 
  • Staff development initiatives may also include staff mentoring, competency programmes, actively employing more staff with impairments and advertising positions among disability community networks.

Useful resources and links

The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education provides a great overview of teaching and assessment strategies for learners with different impairments. There is an equivalent section for disability support practitioners which includes some additional ideas as well that may be relevant to teaching staff.  

Auckland University has developed a range of resources sheets for staff about providing learning support for students with different impairments. Some of the links handouts and guidelines for staff highlighted in the ideas and resources section for teaching and learning support also includes these types of resources. 

This page is current as of May 2022 Print this page