Student works understands and works on her task

Structure tasks using work systems

Preschool – Year 12

Resources are provided with this practice



Work systems provide a means for teachers to structure tasks or elements of a task for students on the autism spectrum. Work systems can help students to understand: 

  • what task or activity they are expected to complete
  • how much work they have to do and how much time they have
  • if they are making progress on a task and when it is finished
  • what they should do next.

Work systems share some common elements with Use visual schedules to help students stay on task which provide a means to sequence tasks or elements of a task. 

By developing appropriate work systems and supporting students to use personalised work systems, students are empowered to become more independent in completing tasks and activities.  

This practice will help students to

work independently

be calm

plan and organise

pay attention to tasks and activities

This practice will help teachers to

use fewer verbal prompts

promote student independence

How the practice works

Apply this practice with your students

The tabs below provide information to support your implementation of this practice. The sequence aligns with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership's High-Quality Professional Learning Cycle. You can find out more about high quality professional learning in the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders.

A. Plan

When to use work systems

The aim of work systems is to help students stay on task, complete tasks, and work independently. Work systems are used to provide structure to an activity or task when students are unable to focus on and complete tasks independently. 

Work systems can be developed for tasks that are:

  • academic
  • games or physical activity
  • self-help activities
  • choice activities
  • in the playground
  • at lunchtime.

Work systems can include activities that are to be completed:

  • individually
  • on group rotation 
  • as a whole class activity.

How to plan the structuring of work systems

Begin to plan your structuring by assessing the scope of the task.

Clearly identify what task the students are expected to complete:

  • Look at the goal of your task or activity.
  • Think about the format of the task – written, multi-modal, oral, creative, or active.
  • Break down the task into smaller, manageable sections with more detailed scaffolding.
  • Be mindful of the range of ability of the students who will use the system.
  • How many different actions or steps are in the task? Use this to develop a checklist for your work system.

Clearly identify how much work the students will have to do:

  • Think about what the different actions or parts of the task or activity are.
  • The students’ range of abilities will determine how much work they can complete.
  • Is there a specific order in which each part of the task is done? If so, consider sequencing the information.
  • Determine what equipment students will need to complete each section of the task. The types of materials needed may impact how and what type of work system you create, and how it is delivered. 
  • Have the necessary equipment ready for students.   

A work systems lesson plan and task checklist

Clearly identify how the students will know they have completed a task from start to finish. 

What action do the students take to start part of a task? E.g. students:

  • read the work system steps from top to bottom
  • match a Velcro image to a box, container, or folder
  • match a number on a step to a box, container, folder, or paper.

What happens when students finish part of a task? E.g. students:

  • tick a checkbox
  • cross off words or text
  • circle a star or image
  • continue with another work system, if necessary.

Work systems can be used for one small task or activity, or for a series of two or more larger tasks.
A work systems checklist and activity task sheet

Clearly identify what task students are expected to complete next:

  • Advise student what to do next on the work system.
  • Incorporate students’ personal interests in the work system, e.g. for an individual consider a reward activity, or for a group or whole class consider using images for each activity that appeal to the students.

Use the work systems checklist and activity task sheet to reward students


How to structure the task into a work system

Present to students the task steps in a logical order.

How to break tasks down into steps using work systems

Identify to students a clear finished area for their tasks.

An example of work systems clearly showing students when tasks are complete

Determine whether your work system is fixed or mobile.

B. Set goals

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Session title

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C. Apply the practice

Introduce the work system

You will need to introduce the work system to the student. Students will require different levels of scaffolding based on their personal needs. After introducing the work system, begin to gradually fade out prompts and scaffolds while supporting the student to use the work system to complete tasks independently. 

On first use

When uncertain

Affirmation and rewards

D. Reflect and refine

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Reflect on your student goals

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Reflect on your teacher goals

Please enter teacher goals in B. Set Goals

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E. Share

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Completed At: <% current_outcome.completed_date %>

Your student goals and reflections

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Your teacher goals and reflections

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Similar practices

This practice is from the core research project


Excellent visual resources.


29 Apr 2022


26 Apr 2022

work system is used to indicate the amount of work to complete. students will know when work time, items to prepare like getting the stationeries, pencil, erase, ruler ready and then upon receiving the worksheets, to write their name, class and date and then to complete the amount of work indicated and upon completion where to submit.


3 May 2022