Teaching writing to learners who have complex communication needs : a mixed methods study of New Zealand specialist teachers' experiences and perspectives : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Writing is a critical skill for living in today's society. It is even more crucial for learners who have complex communication needs as it opens a pathway to independent communication. This study explored the perceptions and experiences of Specialist Teachers involved in teaching writing to learners who have complex communication needs in inclusive school settings in New Zealand using an explanatory sequential mixed methods design. Initial data was collected via an online survey, and this was followed up by semi-structured interviews with a nested sample of Specialist Teachers. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics. Qualitative data from the survey were analysed using a general inductive approach. Qualitative data from the interviews were analysed using a more theoretical approach where the codes from the survey data provided the initial framework for analysis. However, new codes were added as the need arose when data did not fit into the existing coding scheme. Results indicated that Specialist Teachers had generally positive beliefs related to writing for learners with complex communication needs. They believed strongly that writing is important for all learners and that they should have daily writing opportunities. Worryingly, their belief in the capability of all learners who have complex communication needs to learn to write was somewhat lower. Overall, Specialist Teachers' confidence in their ability to enable learners who have CCN to develop as writers and undertake relevant teaching activities was fairly moderate. Areas of particular confidence were in providing meaningful writing opportunities and selecting appropriate writing tools. Areas of lower confidence included assessment, feedback and planning of next steps. A number of facilitators and challenges to the teaching of writing were also identified. In particular, the attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge of all team members were seen as crucial factors. Details of practical aspects of writing instruction were also examined. Recommendations for practice and future research are outlined.