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Abilities Based Learning and Education Support (ABLES) Research

The aim of the Abilities Based Learning and Education Support (ABLES) research is to inform the development of an integrated program of assessment, reporting, and teaching advice for children and young people whose learning is supported by the Victorian Department of Education and Training's (DET) Program for Students with Disabilities, or similar programs, and other students who have additional learning needs.

The objectives of the research are to:

  • inform teachers' planning and delivery of well-targeted teaching to scaffold the learning of their students with disabilities or additional needs
  • support system-level provision of resources and professional learning to build the capacity of schools and teachers to help students with disabilities or additional needs reach their potential as learners.


ABLES Materials

As a foundation to the research, in 2009 the University of Melbourne's Students with Additional Needs (SWANs) online assessment and reporting materials were used by special education teachers who worked within the collaborative environment of a team of professional colleagues to assess learning progress for their students, set targets for student learning, and record their decisions about appropriate teaching interventions for their students. That work was assembled into a tailored package of teaching advice and recommendations that can be drawn upon by all teachers of students with disabilities or additional needs.

In 2010, the project team used this collated information in a large scale extension of the research to evaluate the usefulness of these special education learning interventions in both mainstream and special education schools. In 2011, research was conducted to verify teachers' capacity to link student assessment data to curriculum advice, recommended teaching strategies, and information on appropriate resource deployment and adjustments to the learning environment. The aim of this work was to develop detailed case studies and planning documents, using a format for Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) recommended by DET's Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division.

The project is a partnership between the Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division, DET, and the Assessment Research Centre, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, and supported by the DET Research Panel.

ABLES Resources for schools are available

2009 to 2013

Online Professional Learning Modules

In 2013, the project was extended to include the development of professional learning materials to guide and support the use of the ABLES resources by educators. This work was commissioned by Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division, DET.

The professional learning modules present a theoretical background to the development, use and interpretation of ABLES, together with practical guidelines for using ABLES in schools in Victoria. They are designed to enable teachers and school leaders to:

  • understand their responsibilities to students with additional learning needs
  • understand the use of ABLES as a formative assessment tool, interpreted within a criterion-referenced, developmental framework for monitoring the learning readiness of students with additional learning needs and describing their progress as learners,
  • interpret the assessments to plan for teaching and learning,
  • gain access to relevant curricula and advice on appropriate and effective teaching strategies,
  • think about the context of their school and the implications of using ABLES as a basis for teaching and learning across the whole school.

2013 to 2014

ABLES Adaptation and Validation for Use in Early Childhood Settings

In 2014, DET asked the Assessment Research Centre to investigate an adapted and validated version of the ABLES tools for children aged two to five years. The intention of this study was to:

  • support children's transition to school by improving the transfer of information between early childhood professionals, families and school professionals, enabling teachers to better adapt and plan their curriculum for incoming students with disabilities and enabling school staff to improve student learning experiences,
  • support early childhood educators' assessment of children's learning and development,
  • enable early childhood educators to better meet the needs of children with disabilities through improved curriculum planning,
  • contribute to a more consistent approach to learning, assessment and reporting for children from early childhood through primary school to enable high quality and seamless teaching and learning for children as they transition to school.

2014 to 2015

Funding sources

Wellbeing Health and Engagement Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria

Policy and Strategic Projects Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria


Coles-Janess, B., Woods, K., Griffin, P., Awwal, N., & Pavlovic, M. (2015). Adaptation and Validation of the Abilities Based Learning and Education Support Assessment and Reporting Materials for Early Childhood Settings: Phase Two Report. Assessment Research Centre.

Griffin, P., Woods, K., Mountain, R. (2010). The Abilities Based Learning and Support Model Project: Development of an Abilities Index: Stage One Report.

Woods, K., Coles-Janess, B., & Roberts, E. (2010). Mining the Gold: Assessing students by ability, not disability. Teacher, April 2010, 34-37.

Woods, K., Coles-Janess, B., Griffin, P., Awwal, N., & Pavlovic, M. (2014). Adaptation and Validation of the Abilities Based Learning and Education Support Assessment and Reporting Materials for Early Childhood Settings: Phase One Report. Assessment Research Centre.

Woods, K., & Griffin, P., (2013). Judgement-based performance measures of literacy for students with additional needs: Seeing students through the eyes of experienced special education teachers. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 20(3), 325-348.

Woods, K., & Griffin, P. (2011). Abilities-Based Assessment: Supporting Literacy Learning for Students with Additional Needs. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Special Education. Gold Coast, September.

Newspaper or online articles featuring ABLES

Ryan, D. (March 19, 2012). Teachers gain a new ability to help. The Age.