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Can Theory of Change make a difference to the use of evidence in autism education?

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Wednesday 15 May 2024

12.30pm - 1.30pm




Online via Teams, Off campus



An image of characters spelled out to spell autism.

In this online seminar, Dr Joseph Mintz will share his work surrounding how schools can best make use of research evidence in autism education.

Dr Joseph Mintz profile.

Dr Joseph Mintz is Associate Professor in Education at University College London (UCL). His research interests focus on special educational needs, inclusive education, teacher education for inclusion, autism education, and educational technology for children with special needs.

He has a strong track record (15+ years) of formulating research proposals and designs for competitive tenders, winning funding and then delivering educational research projects involving qualitative, quantitative and mixed-method approaches. He has successfully led over 17 research and evaluation projects. Funding for these has come from the European Union, Department of Education in England, the National Council for Special Education in Ireland and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science.

He also has a track record in knowledge exchange, and has worked closely with a number of commercial, governmental and third sector organisations on development and evaluation projects. He was Co-Investigator on UCL’s Centre for Education Leadership evaluation teacher and school leader professional development in Saudi Arabia (2020-2021). He was on secondment to England’s Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) from July to September 2023 and has led on national projects on careers guidance in schools and colleges, including a specific project focusing on careers guidance on provision for children with special educational needs. He regularly publishes in leading academic journals and also regularly consults for government on a variety of areas. He advised the Department of Education on the development of teacher education policy, focusing on teacher education for inclusion, in various forums from 2015 to 2022.

Event programme (online)

12.30pm – 1pm: Dr Mintz will present his research findings to the group.

Educators and educational researchers show continued interest in how schools can best make use of research evidence in bringing about change in practice in schools. A number of models have been developed to support schools in this challenge, such as research learning communities and lesson study. However, questions remain about the effectiveness of such models, their fit to the particular needs of schools and the extent to which they contribute meaningfully to the body of evidence used to inform changes to practice within the field of education.

This issue is of particular relevance when considering the inclusion of autistic children in the classroom partly because of the large body of research being undertaken on autism across a range of domains with varying epistemological perspectives (e.g., neuroscience, psychology, pedagogy) and partly due to the widespread need to support autistic children in the classroom.

Questions have also been raised about the evidence policy “agenda,” particularly in terms of reliance on positivist models centered on randomized controlled trials. These concerns focus on the extent to which performative or neoliberal perspectives on effectiveness might mask the complexity of how practice and knowledge (or evidence) are related in models of teacher professional working.

One particular approach that could have potential in addressing these is that of Theory of Change (ToC). ToC models come from the field of theory-driven evaluation and draw on frameworks for relating practice to knowledge such as realist evaluations whereby the evaluation focuses on understanding how complex programs work in specific contexts by examining the mechanisms that lead to particular outcomes. ToC models consider under what conditions, for whom, and for what reasons or aims a given activity will achieve its intended outcomes. This presentation will consider the scope for the application of ToC models in autism education, referring to particular examples drawn from the work of the Centre for Inclusive Education at UCL and in the US via National Implementation Research Networks.

1 – 1.30pm: We will have time for questions and a group discussion.

Discover more about our Inclusion, Diversity and Identity Research Network

Who is this event for?

Current students Teachers, tutors and careers advisers Widening access and underrepresented groups


For enquiries about this online event, please get in touch with Dr Anna Mariguddi.