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Watch the presentation about how the IEP process can support students to be actively involved in decision making about their learning.

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Meet the presenter

Hi, I’m Katrina. I’m one of the people who got teacher aide support at school.
M6 Narrator Katrina

M6 Students participating in their Individual Education Plans

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Giving students a say in their learning

Why this module?

This module supports teachers and teacher aides to provide opportunities for students to participate in their learning.

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) process is one way that students, families and whānau can express their wishes and preferences for learning. It discovers the strengths and desires of the student and those who know them best and gives students a say. IEP team members find ways to support students to confidently participate in the process and have access to their learning plans.

What is an IEP?

An IEP shows how the school programme will be adapted to fit the student and is used when additional teaching strategies are needed to support the student.

A student’s IEP informs the teacher’s day-to-day planning in the classroom. There will also be other things the teacher plans for that are not in the IEP. An IEP is not intended to be a different programme to the rest of the class. Instead, it outlines how the classroom curriculum may need to be adjusted to ensure the student learns within the curriculum and alongside their peers.

An IEP sets goals that the whole team agree are a priority for the student and their team. It recognises student strengths and achievements and focuses on students' learning pathways. All staff supporting a student should have a copy of the student’s current IEP.

The IEP may also include goals for the adults. For example, if Joe needs a talking device to communicate, the IEP has goals for all team members to support use of the device. Some whānau and family members and some staff may need training — this would be included in Joe’s IEP, too.

Who does what in the IEP process?

Collaborative decision making is at the heart of the IEP process. It requires all those involved to be part of IEP development and implementation. The specific roles and responsibilities of all the team members, including teachers and teacher aides, need to be discussed, clarified and agreed by the team.

Teachers have full responsibility for the learning and behaviour of all the students in their classes. Their role is central and critical to the IEP process, as they “represent the largest and most knowledgeable resource in programming for the needs of students. The quality of their relationship with parents/carers and community agencies plays a large part in the overall outcomes for students.” (Mitchell et al., 2010, p. 36)

The teacher aide’s work complements and supports the teacher.

Students participating in their IEPs

Effective teaching creates opportunities to involve students directly in decisions relating to their own learning. This means students talk about their goals and the progress they are making. This helps to motivate them and build their confidence and independence. It is the same for all students, whether or not they have an IEP.

Participating in the IEP process will mean different things for different students. Some students attend IEP meetings and take part in conversations, sometimes using assistive technology. Others make a written or recorded contribution. Some students may not have the confidence or the ability to express, their preferences for learning. Their family, whānau and peers can help by contributing their knowledge to the IEP team.

Attending IEP meetings is only part of this, just as the IEP meeting is only one part of the process. It’s important for the team to ensure the student has access to their learning plan as it is implemented. The student’s plan can be accessible in a variety of ways. For example, it might be in written form, using the everyday language the student uses or visually, using symbols or pictures. The student could access their plan electronically, using software that reads the text in the plan.

Students who don’t have an IEP

Not all students with additional learning needs require an IEP. Many students’ needs can be met using the strategies and resources already in place in the school. These students still need to be involved in decisions regarding their learning.


Mitchell, D. (2010). Education that fits: Review of international trends in the education of students with special education needs. University of Canterbury, for the Ministry of Education.