Exploring Integration and Systems Change in a Model of Integrated Student Supports Implemented in Schools Serving Students with Complex Needs

  • Author / Creator
    Morley, Kirstyn R
  • Support is growing for integrated student supports: initiatives that aim to promote success for students with complex needs by partnering with community agencies to provide school-based supports and services targeting academic and non-academic barriers to achievement. However, research on the implementation of these approaches is limited. Furthermore, researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers increasingly recognize the limitations of discrete programs for addressing complex issues. Efforts are needed to further our understanding of how integrated student support initiatives can influence changes to systems on a broader scale. The purpose of this qualitative secondary analysis study was to explore the first-year implementation of a model of integrated student supports targeting barriers to students’ learning and well-being in 5 schools serving students with complex needs in a Western Canadian city. Using thematic analysis with interview and focus group data collected during a community-based participatory evaluation project, the current study pursued two objectives: (1) to identify characteristics that can promote and/or impede the integration of schools and community services, and (2) to explore initiative decision-makers’ perspectives on influencing systems change. Findings highlight 2 broad themes and several nested sub-themes underlying integration. The first category of themes relates to the roles and relationships of the partners, consisting of leadership from administrators, agency staff availability and consistency, agency staff expectations, and teacher involvement. The second category of themes pertains to issues of power and autonomy; these include alignment with the school culture and compatibility of practice. This study demonstrates that scaling up complex, community-based initiatives can require systemic reform emphasizing innovation and flexibility, rather than replication. In addition, changes to policies and resource allocation across various levels of the school system and government were identified as crucial to initiative sustainability and growth. Generating evidence of initiative impact was also identified as important for influencing these changes, and highlights the importance of considering the political context when working to influence systems change. These findings may be particularly relevant for academics, practitioners, and policy-makers interested in the opportunities and challenges related to integrating schools and community services and facilitating the adoption of these approaches on a broader scale through system-wide changes.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Education
  • DOI
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.