Inclusive Teaching and Learning

The biggest mistake of past centuries in teaching has been to treat all students as if they were variants of the same individual and thus to feel justified in teaching them all the same subjects the same way – Howard Gardner

Designing equitable learning experiences that acknowledge and value the contributions and outcomes of all students is a crucial component in the realisation of inclusive schooling.

Inclusive lesson design requires teachers to adopt and enact evidence-based pedagogical practices in order to ensure that all students are not only accessing and participating, but are engaged and learning.

When a systematic process to lesson design is applied, the full breadth of student diversity can be captured and supported within one core lesson that stems from the regular, age-appropriate curriculum.

A systematic process to lesson design is explored below:

Loren Swancutt 2018


High Impact Practices are a level of pedagogy that encompass inclusive principles in combination with effective teaching strategies. Such practices underpin the inclusive lesson design process:

  • highly focused lessons with sharp objectives;
  • high demands for student involvement and engagement;
  • high levels of interaction and collaborative learning;
  • appropriate use of teacher questioning, modelling and explaining;
  • structured, worked examples with scaffolding;
  • guided and differentiated support and intervention;
  • developing student metacognition;
  • frequent exposure and practice;
  • and regular use of encouragement and authentic feedback.


For lessons to be responsive, it is important for teachers to know their students as learners. Knowing students is about more than acquiring superficial level facts and information. It is instead the gathering and analysis of data for the purpose of learning about what intrinsically motivates and engages a student, and what supports and strategies best serve them as individuals during the vulnerability of learning.

Seeking and obtaining student voice and clarity around what impacts they experience, allows for lessons to be designed in a manner which are both physiologically and psychologically safe for every learner.

One way of capturing knowledge of students is through the use of One Page Profiles. More information can be found here.


In an inclusive classroom, it is important that the teacher has a clear understanding of the intent and the demands of the regular Year level curriculum. That is, an ability to articulate exactly what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in the summative assessment tasks, and to therefore achieve the objectives of the associated Content Descriptors and Achievement Standard from the Australian Curriculum (or the associated Syllabus components for those systems not accessing the stand-alone version of the Australian Curriculum).

Once the learning area curriculum has been aligned, identification of compatible General Capabilities can occur. This identification will allow for holistic clarity of what needs to be explicitly taught and supported, and what opportunities there are for adaptation and adjustment.

Following this, alternate access points from the F-10 continuum (modified curriculum) and individualised learning outcomes (highly-individualised curriculum) can then be aligned.


In order to effectively deliver the curriculum a strong pedagogical framework that supports evidence-based inclusive principles and high impact practices is recommended.

An example of such a pedagogical framework is Explicit Instruction.

For more information regarding Explicit Instruction, refer to the text Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching (Anita Archer and Charles A Hughes 2010).

Another example of a supportive pedagogical framework is the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. The Gradual Release Model centers on shifting the thinking and doing from the teacher to the student – moving from teacher knowledge and demonstration, to student understanding and doing. The model “emphasizes instruction that mentors students into becoming capable thinkers and learners when handling the tasks with which they have not yet developed expertise” (Buehl, 2005). The model focuses less time on lecturing and whole-class instruction, and more time on guided, collaborative and independent learning that is supported through the application of Instructional Scaffolding.

Utilising this form of instruction in combination with metacognitive strategies results in more authentic learning as it allows students to become active, reflective participants who are able to identify what is required to be successful and what that looks like in application. It supports learners to build their knowledge and skills from where they are to a level that is challenging, yet attainable.

An example of the gradual release model can be viewed below…

gradual release

For more information about the Gradual Release Model access the text Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility 2nd Edition (Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey 2013).


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a proactive approach to lesson design that focuses on eliminating unnecessary barriers from the beginning. Flexible pedagogical design principles that impact learning goals, methods, materials, and modes of assessment are applied in anticipation of student diversity form the outset.

UDL combines a teachers clarity around students and curriculum and supports the generation of accessible, efficient and effective learning experiences that are enacted throughout the components of the chosen pedagogical framework.

Access to the UDL planning guidelines can be found here – Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. Further information can be obtained from the CAST website.


Student work samples that directly link to what they need to know and be able to do to be successful should be analysed against the assessment criteria or individual learning outcomes – this process can be both teacher and/or student led. Analysis should occur at regular intervals and student’s should receive formative feedback that allows them to recognise what is required for improvement.


On-going analysis of student performance should occur through the application of diagnostic and formative assessment, as well as from general observational data. This analysis should drive responsive adaptations to teaching and learning processes, and identify the need for focused and intensive support. Differentiation at this level aims to rectify the limitations in curriculum design and teaching; and therefore responds to the associated complications with the acquisition of knowledge, understanding and skills that are impacting on successful student performance.

Differentiation can be enacted on the spot with responsive changes to questioning, guidance, scaffolding, prompts, length and complexity adaptations, more practice, varied time limits etc. Differentiation can also take shape through subsequent lesson design processes retrospectively, resulting in practices such as extended modeled and guided phases of learning, incorporating concrete materials, giving choice with tasks, tiering complexity, providing visual prompts, utilising station activities, inquiry tasks, pair/group work etc.

The difference between UDL and differentiation is that UDL proactively evaluates at the front end, whereas differentiation reactively evaluates and retrofits on the back end. Therefore, both forms of pedagogy are best used in combination.

For further exploration of inclusive curriculum access click here. You can also find out more about inclusive lesson design here.

If you have encountered problems of practice or have any questions relating to inclusive curriculum access or lesson design, please let us know. Loren is currently in the process of designing a new section of the webpage which will provide a unique opportunity to engage with expertise and solutions that directly respond to contextual, real-life classroom experiences. You can get in touch with us here.