Curriculum Adjustments

“Providing equitable opportunity to unlock infinite potential” – Loren Swancutt

The provision of reasonable adjustments is embedded in the Disability Standards for Education (2005). Reasonable adjustments are an action or measure taken by a teacher to enable a student with disability to access and participate in education on the same basis as there peers. In relation to teaching and learning, teachers are obligated to design learning experiences that ensure all students have access to their age-equivalent curriculum, can interact with and make use of instructional practices, and are able to authentically demonstrate their learning.

Curriculum adjustments are an important aspect of designing accessible learning experiences derived from rigorous, age-equivalent content for all students. Curriculum adjustments are informed by a Multi-tier System of Supports (MTSS) which focuses on providing high-quality differentiated education followed by an increase in frequency and intensity of supports based on individual student learning profiles and progress.

When curriculum adjustments are required, they must be designed in consultation with the student and their parent/carer, and should be regularly monitored and reviewed.

There are three tiers of curriculum adjustments – supplementary, substantial, and extensive.

Supplementary Curriculum Adjustments

Supplementary curriculum adjustments are utilised to enhance an individual student’s access and participation with the regular, age-equivalent curriculum. Supplementary adjustments do not change the complexity or goals of the curriculum, but instead supplement the ways in which the student interacts with those goals. This involves things like being provided with more time to work on an assignment, using a speech-to-text program, accessing an audio book version of a novel, using a calculator, or following a structured visual schedule to complete a task. Teachers can incorporate supplementary adjustments into lessons by utilising universal design for learning principles.

Substantial Curriculum Adjustments

Some students may experience cognitive impacts that affect their ability to progress through curriculum complexities and amounts at the same rate as their peers. If such impacts are not adequately supported through the application of quality differentiated teaching, which incorporates universal design for learning principles and supplementary adjustments, than a student may access substantial curriculum adjustments. Substantial curriculum adjustments involve the curriculum content being drawn from the student’s regular grade level, with performance expectation being changed in complexity to that of an alternate access point on the Prep/Foundation to Year 10 sequence of achievement (some curriculum authorities may also provide opportunity for the grade level curriculum content to be reduced in breadth or depth without the need to change the complexity – covering less content).

For example, substantial adjustments to curriculum complexity might involve a student calculating the area of a square using informal processes (counting the squares on graph paper), instead of using a mathematical equation and formal units of measure. Substantial curriculum adjustments should occur in addition to quality differentiation and supplementary adjustments, with student progress being closely monitored and instructional processes adapted accordingly.

Extensive Curriculum Adjustments

A small number of students may require ongoing intensive teaching that is highly individualised as a result of disability impacts that effect their ability to access and engage with an achievement standard on the Prep/Foundation to Year 10 sequence of achievement. In this instance, students may access extensive curriculum adjustments. Extensive curriculum adjustments involve the development of individual curriculum goals derived from Level 1 of the General Capabilities and/or Literacy and Numeracy Progressions. Extensive curriculum adjustments involve curriculum content being drawn from the student’s regular grade level, with the individual learning goals determining the context and focus.

For example, an individual learning goal might involve responding to simple questions – this could be delivered through the content of a Year 10 science class by asking the student questions relating to a chemical reaction they have participated in. Extensive curriculum adjustments should occur in addition to quality differentiation and supplementary adjustments.

Determining Substantial & Extensive Curriculum Adjustments

Substantial and extensive curriculum adjustments are the most intrusive and impactful level of curriculum adjustment. They dramatically alter the depth of understanding and sophistication of skill that a student is learning. Therefore, decisions regarding the appropriateness of such adjustments needs to be rigorous, collaborative, and supported by evidence. Substantial and extensive curriculum adjustments indicate that there are significant cognitive impacts that effect a student’s current ability to successfully engage in the complexity and/or amount of thinking and doing associated with their grade level learning area/subject. This means that when a student has been provided with high-quality and effective instructional practices, in combination with supplementary adjustments, they are not yet able to demonstrate the rigour of knowledge and skills relating to the curriculum goals of their grade level.

Substantial and extensive curriculum adjustments are related to the content of learning areas/subjects, and are not related to a student’s literacy, language, and communication competencies. Literacy, language, and communication competencies should not be used as a measure to determine the need for substantial or extensive curriculum adjustments. Barriers relating to literacy, language, and communication will be experienced across the curriculum, and should be responded to with adjustments relating to those areas specifically. Before determining the need for substantial and extensive curriculum adjustments, demonstration of curriculum knowledge and skills should be assessed with the barriers relating to literacy, language, and communication removed.

Sequences of Achievement

The following sequence of achievement guides have been created to support the alignment of curriculum adjustments to age-equivalent curriculum content.

Would you like to learn more?

Loren provides professional learning focused on building teacher capability to design inclusive curriculum. This involves systematic processes regarding the identification of the construct relevant goals of the curriculum, planning for flexible means of instruction and assessment, and aligning supplementary, substantial and extensive curriculum adjustments. Loren can also provide demonstration of how to effectively and efficiently incorporate all of these aspects into inclusive lessons where all students access and participate in learning together.

If you would like to engage in professional learning regarding the design and implementation of inclusive curriculum, check out the Services page here, or send Loren an email at: