Impact of critical pedagogy on professional learning for post-16 education

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Purpose: Professional learning has been highlighted as critical to improvement in educational practice for Autistic learners. Empirical evidence about what is effective for professional learning in education suggests it is a ‘bottom up’ process of intellectual, practical and emotional engagement and application of new knowledge to specific contexts. The aim of this study was to gather information about postgraduate professional learning that sought to combine lived experience with reflection on practice in a critical pedagogy approach for practitioners working with Autistic learners in post-16 education.

Design: Participants in the study represented all further education colleges in Wales and included experienced teachers and leaders, most of whom have a role focused on inclusion and learning support within their setting. Two phases of data collection were carried out, namely a baseline survey (n=36) and follow up interviews (n=15) at the end of the year of study. Interviews explored personal experiences of learning, knowledge and beliefs about practice and change in this respect, and professionals' priorities for the development of practice.

Findings: Findings present information gathered from the interviews and indicate that the course did not provide practitioners with new knowledge about autism but supported the development of more nuanced understandings of autism and more professional confidence about practice. However, familiarisation with lived experience and critical reflection on practice were described as supporting the questioning of basic assumptions and greater appreciation of the nature of difference for Autistic learners.

Originality: Study findings reframe what should be considered the focus of support practices for Autistic learners in further education.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0045
Pages (from-to)165-175
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Autism
Issue number2
Early online date17 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2023


  • autism
  • professional learning
  • further education
  • critical pedagogy


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