SEPT Framework

Executive Brief: Rather than portraying an Assistive Technology evaluation in terms of ‘tasks’ that are predominantly assigned to students, we might appeal instead to a perspective wherein a student might choose to engage in ‘processes’’; in this way, we would adapt SETT into SEPT.


I have long been a staunch proponent of Joy Zabala’s SETT analysis (i.e., Student, Environment, Task, Tools) because it is a tool-last approach, as opposed to the distressingly common tool-first “Golden Hammer” uninformed lack-of-strategy (that wastes resources and significantly increases the risks of frustration and subsequent tool abandonment).

That said, I have found myself (over the years) being dissatisfied with the term ‘Task.’ While it’s true that someone might autonomously assign themselves a task, the conventional semantics of ‘task’ portray a power imbalance between the Assigner and the Assigned; what’s worse, that imbalance represents the predominant use in special education.

So I would like to swap out ‘Task’ for ‘Process’.

Speaking in very broad terms, in cognitive grammar there is an ontology that establishes the following categories:

• things (nouns)

• atemporal relations (adjectives, adverbs, prepositions)

• temporal relations  or processes (verbs).

A task is a type of process, where the latter term has less dominance baggage (which reminds me of this Jean Anouilh novel that we were assigned as a task in high school).

Yes, I did consider ‘activity’, but I figured that the resulting “SEAT” acronym might be distracting.

I also like this because school tends to start on or around SEPTember.

So in an Assistive Technology evaluation, we consider the student’s strengths and challenges as applied to an environment in which they might like to participate in certain processes. Only after we have done that much do we approach the question of tools.

It’s fine if some of you prefer to say ‘SETT’ (because I can just pretend that you have phonotactically assimilated your ‘p’).


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