Challenging the knowledge transfer orthodoxy: knowledge co-construction in technology enhanced learning for children with autism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Southampton
  • University College London
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University


Experimental intervention studies constitute the current dominant research
designs in the autism education field. Such designs are based on a
‘knowledge transfer’ model of evidence-based practice in which research is
conducted by researchers, and is then ‘transferred’ to practitioners to
enable them to implement evidence-based interventions. While these
research designs contribute important knowledge, they lead to a gap
between what the research evidence may prescribe and what happens in
practice, with a concomitant disparity between the priorities of researchers
and practitioners. This paper discusses findings from the ESRC funded
‘SHAPE’ project, which adopted a different model of evidence-based
practice, focusing on knowledge co-construction. Pupils (N=8), teachers
(N=10), a Speech and Language Therapist and a parent in three different
school communities investigated creative ways in which children’s social
communication skills could be enhanced through technology use. Through
a participatory methodology, digital stories were used as a method to
enable engagement with the practical realities of the classroom and
empower practitioners to construct and share their own authentic
narratives. Participants articulated precise knowledge about the learning
opportunities afforded to them and their pupils through quality interactions
that were mediated by the technologies, as evidenced through digital
stories. The Shape project shows that it is feasible to develop
methodologies that enable genuine knowledge co-construction with school
practitioners, parents and pupils. Such co-construction could offer realistic
opportunities for pedagogical emancipation and innovation in evidence based
practice as an alternative to the currently dominant and narrow
model of knowledge transfer.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-413
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017


  • technology enhanced learning;autism intervention; participatory research; knowledge co-construction.

ASJC Scopus subject areas