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We’re undergoing transformation!

The School Inclusion – From Theory to Practice website is undergoing transformation.

Loren has been utilising the school holiday period to update the overall look of the website, edit existing content, and add new resources and information.

The list of improvements are continuing to be accomplished, and we look forward to sharing a blog post highlighting the new features with you soon.

In the meantime, keep exploring the site, and feel free to make contact if you have any questions.

Part 3: Personalised Planning

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this three part series, I explored the position and purpose of personalised planning, and touched on the importance of contribution and mindset. As a result of this exploration, it was established that:

  • Personalised Planning should be manifested as a default level of practice afforded to all students through quality, differentiated teaching and learning
  • Recording of Personalised Planning as a specific plan or product should occur for students who require access to ongoing, personalised adjustments and modifications
  • Personalised Planning should be framed from an inclusive purpose and perspective, and should therefore position the student and their parents as valued and empowered contributors
  • The plan should be used to drive an inquiry process that involves regular review and adaptation to ensure that it is responsive, effective and realised in practice.

In order for the obligations of Personalised Planning as a product to be realised with fidelity, it is vital to consider the design and execution of the process. When working in this space, I like to utilise the insights from The Golden Circle and from Design Thinking. Although both of these stem from the sales and business driven world of corporations and companies, their application to the concept of schooling is not completely foreign. It could be considered that educational experiences and outcomes are a product, and that the students themselves are a consumer.

The Golden Circle:

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Typically, we communicate from the what to the why. We do this because it is easier to go from the tangible to the intangible. We can articulate what it is we do, and sometimes how we do it, but we can rarely identify the why that drives us.

When this default, outside-in approach to working is applied to Personalised Planning, the result is an end product with limitation. It becomes a plan that overtly focuses on and identifies the what – the actions, deficits and impacts of the student, and the resulting consequential, ad hoc responses. It is therefore not surprising that the what is rarely matched with purpose and understanding, and rarely ends up being successfully responsive and effective. This is because a knowing/doing gap is created. We establish what we think we want, but we fail to be explicit on how it is going to be achieved or why it is even important. The result is ambiguity and assumption without drive and accountability.

When we flip our thinking and come at Personalised Planning from the inside-out, we take the time to capture the why, and more importantly, we take the time to believe in it. That is, we start by positioning the student first and foremost as a student. We value them as an autonomous, worthy contributor in their education. We come at decisions and actions with their vision and rights at the heart, and with an unrelenting responsibility to providing a high-quality experience and product that matches those aspirations. It takes us out of the reactive and into the proactive.

The moral imperative and acute human perspective that comes from unpacking the why allows us to then shape the how of equity realisation, before finally communicating it as the what.

Design Thinking:

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As humans, we naturally develop patterns of thinking that are modelled on repetitive activities and the knowledge and experiences we commonly access. This allows us to quickly analyse and comfortably respond in familiar situations, but it also has the potential to prevent us from easily accessing and developing new perspectives, understanding, and ways of working.

Personalised Planning is one such pattern that has become a subconscious, automatized process in schools. It centres on patterns and ways of working that are typically derived from the status quo. The outcome is a standardised, inflexible process and product that often negates the core of its purpose – the student, and is instead focused on compliance over vision.

Design Thinking is a methodology that centres on a solutions-based approach to identifying and responding to limitations. It is an interactive process that seeks to understand the consumer, challenge associated assumptions, and reframe problems in human-centric ways in order to prompt alternate strategies and solutions.

Design Thinking lends itself seamlessly to Personalised Planning as it is extremely useful in empathetically identifying and defining problems, understanding the human needs that are involved, and generating many ideas and solutions through broad collaboration and feedback. It has inbuilt mechanisms to trial and review solutions, and adapt responses from a data driven perspective that is regularly and consistently analysed against the needs of the consumer being met.

In practical application, when the conceptual methods of The Golden Circle and Design Thinking are used in combination with inclusive principles and a human rights perspective, the result is a planning process that takes form via the following blueprint:

    1. Student voice is captured: their vision, strengths, experiences, likes, dislikes, interests, contribution… is captured and used to drive decisions
    2. Identification of relevant impacts: collaboratively identifying functional impacts that occur in the school environment as evidenced through data and experience
    3. Identification of barriers: collaboratively identifying the environmental, organisational and pedagogical aspects that impact on equitable access and participation
    4. Whole-school responses: considering what systems and process can be implemented at a whole-school level to respond to and minimise impact
    5. Whole-class responses: considering what whole-class systems and process can be implemented in combination with Universal Design for Learning to respond to and minimise impact
    6. Individualised adjustments and modifications: collaboratively discussing evidence-based options to support any remaining impacts that are not adequately addressed via whole-school and whole-class/UDL responses
    7. Implementation: responses are recorded and communicated, enacted with fidelity, and on-going data is collected to inform review
    8. Review: collaboratively review effectiveness of strategies, gain feedback, and amend responses and implementation as necessary

Rethinking traditional ways of Personalised Planning provides the potential to produce and deliver an educational experience and product that is highly responsive to the consumer. It opens up a collaborative line of inquiry that is fluid and ever evolving, and places the prime responsibility for adaptability and change to be placed on the school system, and not on the student. Ultimately it becomes about acknowledging the student and planning them in from the point of design, not planning them out via separate and different after the fact.

Part 2: Personalised Planning

In Part 1 of this 3 part series, I unpacked the positioning of Personalised Planning. In doing so, I established that it should take on two forms:

  • First and foremost it should be manifested as a default level of practice afforded to all students via quality, differentiated teaching and learning – a contextual, responsive and differential form of support;
  • Secondly, as a purposeful and specific product to communicate an evidence-based, informed response to personalised adjustments and modifications – non-negotiables that allow a student to equitably access and participate in all aspects of education.

When considering Personalised Planning as a specific product, it is important for the framing to be centred on an inclusive purpose and mindset. So often, plans are written from a deficit perspective where every characteristic of the student is pathologised, analysed and managed. This medical model mindset does nothing but pick fault and lists reasons that are masked as responses. This perpetuates failure to identify and separate real functional impacts from stereotypes, bias and general personality and developmental characteristics.

Instead, the purpose of the product should simply be about equity – supporting a student to access, participate and learn in a way that does not result in discrimination or hardship. It should be about valuing the student as an active consumer worthy of high-expectation and commensurate outcomes. It should focus on corroboration over opinion, and see impacts as solvable challenges relating to pedagogy and the environment, and not as limitations of the individual.

In order for this to be achieved, it is important to consider who contributes. For me, the most valuable contributor is the student – the person in personalised. The old slogan of ‘nothing about us without us’ could not be more fitting. Empowering the student to have autonomy and input into decisions about them is not only dignifying, but also enhances the potential for success. I recognise that capturing student voice may be difficult in some circumstances for a number of reason, but this aspect should not go by without authentic attempt.

In addition to Classroom Teacher input, parents should also be positioned as partners in the process. Their input, expertise and lived experience relating to their child is invaluable.

The Personalised Planning process should not be a competition about whose perspective is more important, nor that one side is right and the others are wrong. Instead, it should be a collaboration that draws together the strengths of differing perspective and insight.

This powerful collaboration should be used to drive an inquiry into the educational experiences of the student:

  • What is the vision of the student?
  • What problems of practice and impacts are being experienced?
  • What can and should be addressed at a whole-school and whole-class level?
  • What should be responded to in quality, differentiated teaching and learning?
  • What needs to be addressed at a more personalised level?
  • How can these impacts be identified and prioritised?
  • What evidence-based actions can be taken?
  • What is the plan?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • When will it be reviewed?
  • What’s working? What’s not? How do we know?

There is no point to any Personalised Planning if it is not responsive, and if it is not meeting the need. Check it, address it, and change it. You don’t always have to get it right the first time. Look to the student as your main marker for success. Their feedback and outcomes is what determines the difference between assumptions on a page and precise personalised, effective investment.

The true power of Personalised Planning is not in the product itself, but instead in the process and in the impact.

*This is the second part of a 3 part blog series that explores Personalised Planning

Part 1: Personalised Planning

The purpose, development, title and importance of personalised planning differs across educational systems and sectors right around the nation. Some refer to the products as Individual Education Plans, others Individual Support Plans. In Queensland, for example, personalised planning is broken into a variety of sub-plans that fulfil different decisions, such as: Personalised Learning entries, Support Provisions, and Individual Curriculum Plans. In some states and systems personalised planning is mandatory for students with disability, and are a non-negotiable requirement to draw down targeted funding and resources. Regardless of these nuanced differences, there is a place for personalised planning; and who contributes, how the products are situated and what they aim to achieve, is vital to establishing and framing their value.

Consider for a moment the most recent time that you have been involved in a personalised planning scenario…

Who were you planning for? What role did you play? Why were you doing the planning? Did you feel comfortable with the planning process? What was the outcome? Is the plan still current and at the forefront?

My early-career experiences regarding personalised planning were always about accountability, compliance, documenting the deficit, presumption, and stereotypes. The process was time consuming, and even after all of that hard work they were filed away and rarely looked at or referred to; unless needed as some form of proof that we were doing something to support the student. Teachers found them difficult to connect with, particularly in a high school setting where they saw multiple classes of students sporadically across a timetable. They were a record of the ideal supports and services that would benefit the student, but they were not necessarily contextual or realised at the practice level. This was because of a disconnect between planner and plan, student and plan, and teacher and plan. An anecdote of experience that is still present in many schools today.

This status quo approach to personalised planning is driven by a reasons focus. That is, the plan is framed and compiled to adhere to the expectations of people and factors external from the student. Simply put, they’re born out of compliance. This bares results that are often anything but personal and are not supportive of a student’s true vision, contribution and experience.

Personalised planning actually sits within the bigger principle of Planning for Personalised Learning. There is obligation and direction around this which sits at the legislation level. The Planning for Personalised Learning and Support: A National Resource falls out of the Disability Standards for Education (DSE). It articulates that schools have a responsibility for maximising the outcomes and wellbeing of all students, and for providing access to high-quality education this is free from discrimination. For this to be achieved, it is stated that educators need to provide personalised learning that aims to fulfil the diverse capabilities of each student. This is consistent with the principles embodied within General Comment No. 4 (UNCRPD: Article 24) and in The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.

As a result, quality differentiated teaching and learning should be the baseline for all students. This differentiation should be responsive to analysis of real-time student need, and should sit alongside teaching and learning experiences that are clearly aligned to the curriculum in its design entirety. An expectation that is strengthened through alignment of the AITSL Proficient Teacher standards and the Australian Curriculum design and implementation provisions.

Therefore, the main record of personalised planning should actually be evident in teacher curriculum planning, and in lesson execution. A living, breathing form of personalised planning that is highly contextual, responsive, and purposeful to the individual experiences that occur for all students with and without disability across different subjects and learning environments.

Beyond this scope, however, exist functional impacts that require the consistent response of individualised adjustments and modifications. Although these may still be picked up and catered for within a well-designed lesson, they are usually non-negotiables that on a daily basis either have the power to restrict or enable a student with disability to be successful. Therefore, it is at this level that the purposeful necessity for personalised planning as a product is realised.

*This is the first part in a 3 part blog series that explores Personalised Planning

Modified Curriculum: Re-considering the necessity

For a variety of reasons, students may experience functional impacts that affect their ability to progress through curriculum complexities and amounts at the same rate as their peers. If such impacts are not adequately supported through the application of quality, differentiated teaching and learning, Universal Design for Learning and adjustments; than students may access modified curriculum – same content and topics but with modified expectations that are aligned to the students ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (Vygotsky, 1978).

For a student to be considered for modified curriculum at an alternate year level juncture, there needs to be significant concern regarding their individual learning which is supported by sufficient evidence of their performance and functioning. The concern must be related to their functional ability to engage with the required thinking and doing of the Australian Curriculum Content Descriptors and Achievement Standard for the entire breadth of the subject area in question. Each subject area should be considered in isolation. The need for modified curriculum in one subject area does not automatically equate to the need for modified curriculum in all areas.

Modified curriculum is not required when evidence indicates that a student needs to revisit a particular strand, or particular concepts and skills to address gaps in learning. Revisiting earlier complexities to develop particular aspects of the learning area is done through differentiation and evidence-driven instruction.

Difficulties with literacy and numeracy (including that which is evidenced through standardised assessments and/or a miscue analysis) are not the primary reason for providing curriculum at an alternate year level. Difficulty with literacy and numeracy skills will be evident in all learning areas and are not themselves an entire curriculum. Supporting the student’s development and application of these skills can be provided through Universal Design for Learning, adjustments, differentiation and assistive technology. Anything that is not explicitly demanded on the assessment criteria can be adjusted; and the way in which a student demonstrates the individual components of the criteria can also be individually designed.

For example:

Jack is a student in Year 9. His English class have been learning about Speculative Fiction. Throughout the teaching and learning process Jack has been able to engage in the content and verbally demonstrate the demands. He has also been able to demonstrate his understanding through the use of graphic organisers and visual representations. However, Jack experiences significant functional impacts in the area of literacy – he is reading below a Year 3 level, finds it difficult to write complete sentences, and cannot spell words that he is otherwise able to use in correct context verbally. For the assessment item he has to create a hybrid speculative short story that is stimulated by ideas and issues represented in an information text to present perspectives on aspects of the world and significant human experiences. Jack is excited, he has lots of ideas. However, when it comes to writing them down he quickly becomes frustrated. He writes a couple of brief sentences that do not match the rigor in his mind, and he is left feeling defeated. Jack disengages and his output is nowhere near the standard of what he is actually able to understand and do. His teacher is left with evidence which suggests he is not capable. See criteria below:

Criteria

 However, if the assessment item was adjusted for Jack, there is potential for him to equitably demonstrate his true level of ability.

Firstly, Jack could be given the opportunity to use a graphic organiser/visuals to plan his story. Secondly, he could verbally dictate his Speculative Fiction (via a scribe, or a speech to text application). This would allow him to record the full extent of his ideas and skills. Thirdly, he could then edit the text to ensure that what was scribed/recorded matched his intent and that it meets the expectations of the text type in relation to vocabulary and grammar. Finally, he could still be assessed on the demanded components of spelling and punctuation by engaging in them separately. He could be given a spelling test and then also given a text sample that he has to punctuate. All pieces of output contributing to the judgment made against the criteria.

This level of adjustment would allow Jack to produce evidence of learning that is reflective of what he can do, whilst still maintaining rigor and the opportunity to be assessed against his year level standard. In Jack’s case, modified curriculum would not be appropriate; however, it could very easily be wrongly considered based on his literacy skills and their resulting barriers.

Significant data and evidence should be collected when the option of modified curriculum is being explored. The data should demonstrate what a student can and cannot do, and also demonstrate the level of support and intervention that has been provided. There needs to be certainty that the student’s performance is not related to deficits in teaching practice, lesson or assessment design, lack of adequate adjustments and differentiation, nor as a result of literacy and numeracy demands. A student’s diagnosis or lack thereof should also not weigh in. Consideration of the current functional impacts regardless of label, presumption and past performance should instead be the focus. If a student can demonstrate any part of their year level Achievement Standard after they have been adequately and effectively taught the content and skills, than modified curriculum is not justified.

When modified curriculum is the right decision, access the following link for information on how to inclusive plan for its delivery within the regular classroom.

What is the recipe for inclusive schooling success?

What is the recipe for inclusive schooling success?

A simple question with a complex answer.

In fact, the answer is often illusive. Many schools struggle to not only find and gather the extensive list of ingredients, but to then also effectively combine and mix them in a manner which results in something palatable and lasting.

The secret is not so much in the what, but more so in the how.

Like any good recipe, preparation is key. Yet, many of us dismiss or neglect its significance; instead rushing ahead, eager to enjoy the end product, only to find it is disappointing and not as we imagined.

Before delving into the likes of placement, effective pedagogy, capacity building and resourcing; take a step back. Tackling these constructs can be like lifting lead balloons if time and commitment is not adequately afforded to acknowledging and building strong culture, purpose, and belonging.

Culture:

Culture is all about the will – the hearts and minds, the triumph of moral imperative.

The default culture in schools surrounding students with disability is often one of a fixed mindset. Time is spent sustaining the current because it is safe, comfortable, and provides the least resistance. Unconscious bias and presumption surrounding students with disability and their needs and wants blocks the realisation of inequity.

It should not be assumed that culture will just adapt and change because expectations and policies change. Deliberate and strategic investment is required in intercepting and interrupting fear, ignorance and opinion.

The value, worth and contribution of all students needs to be recognised; and the default way of thinking and doing needs to shift to one that acknowledges, respects and reflects this.

Where there is will, there is a way.

Purpose:

Purpose is what separates integration from inclusion.

Common responses such as placement and participation can often front as inclusive schooling, but in reality they are just a smoke and mirrors response.

At its heart, inclusive schooling is about maximising the outcomes of all students. It is about setting high expectations, valuing and celebrating diversity; and employing high quality, evidence-based teaching practices focused on success for every student.

Therefore, the prompt of purpose should be used to reflect and evaluate all decisions. If the benefit is not about maximising the outcomes of all students; than commitment to further knowledge, understanding and improvement is required.

If there is no purpose, there is no point.

Belonging:

All humans want to feel a strong sense of belonging.

Belonging is a psychological lever that has broad consequences. It is considered a need that has to be satisfied before any other need can be fulfilled. It is a primal, fundamental precursor to happiness and over-all wellbeing. Without it, one can feel disrespected, disconnected, and disengaged.

Belonging therefore has a direct correlation to learning.

Being invited, and being welcome are two very different things.

Every student, every day should feel a sense of connection to the classroom and the broader school environment. They should feel comfortable and accepted, and they should feel supported.

Focus on building bridges, and not on building barriers.

The complexity of inclusive schooling inevitably results in hiccup, it is rarely perfect and rarely easy. As a result, proclamations from the unacquainted suggest that it simply cannot and does not work.

However, I can almost always guarantee that such claims, in combination with their supporting failed anecdotes, are attributed to deficits in the preparation and consideration of either culture, purpose or belonging; and not to inclusive schooling itself.

When culture, purpose and belonging are recognised as fundamental components of inclusive schooling; perspectives shift and the recipe for success starts to unfold and take shape by design, and not simply by trial and error, or by luck.

Influencing From the Bottom-Up

The most common question I am asked is:

Can school-level change occur in a context that lacks leadership support?

The short answer is yes!…However, the realisation is unfortunately not that simple.

Contrary to popular belief, significant and sustainable culture change does not occur from one grand gesture or idea. There are no magic wands, no short cuts and no pot luck. In fact, when such change attempts are rash and brazen, we often see an isolated few racing ahead without any followers. The momentum eventually fades; and although dispersed of much energy and effort, the gap between the current and the ideal still remains unchallenged and unchanged.

Although ‘top-down’ approaches when executed strategically are proven to create the most influence in the shortest amount of time, not all acts of change have the shelf life to lay in waiting.

Fortunately, the art of large-scale culture change is on the side of those of us sitting at the bottom of the organisational triangle.

You see, real change is accomplished through a series of small victories. That is, a series of acts and accomplishments that authentically spark new ways of thinking and doing; and often the best way to give voice and velocity to such is to cultivate from the ‘bottom-up.’

“Evey time you stand up for an ideal, you send forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

-Robert Kennedy

My advice: Be bold, but be realistic; and don’t waver on being professional.

Reflect on the context you are in. What principles and practices of inclusive schooling could you realistically enact? How will this look?

Ensure that you have done your homework and that you are always aiming for evidence-based practice. Engage in professional learning to increase your knowledge and understanding, and to provide substance and depth to what it is you are wanting to achieve.

To begin with, start small and look for opportunities that have minimal impact on whole-school operations.

Engage in cycles of inquiry to track your impact and make improvements along the way.

Collaborate with others to build community and to look for opportunities of scalability.

Finally, don’t be shy. Share your successes at all levels and use them to encourage others to seek out their own small victories.

My first small victory comprised of seeking out a general education teacher who was willing and open to the idea of merging my small, special education class with her regular class group. Together we collaborated to create one class that centred on a strong foundation of belonging and success. We shared our professional strengths to not only improve the outcomes of all students in the room, but to also improve our own capability. We created our own bubble of inclusion that impacted on no one in the organisation but ourselves; yet had great positive impact on the social-capital and learning of our combined 32 students.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

– Lao Txu

What step will you take?

Thuringowa State High School – Committed to Every Student Succeeding

A vignette highlighting the inclusive schooling practices at Thuringowa State High School is now featured on the ‘Every Student with Disability Succeeding’ website by The State of Queensland (Department of Education and Training).

The vignette features the Principal, Grant Dale; and Head of Special Education Services (now known locally as Head of Inclusive Schooling), Loren Swancutt.

Grant and Loren share the schools journey and identify the importance of strong leadership, building capability and investing in school-wide culture.

The Australian Curriculum – A curriculum for ALL

The principles of inclusive schooling recognise that every individual has the capacity to learn, and that all learners should have access to a quality, rigorous curriculum that promotes both high-expectations and equity.

However, curriculum access is often a component of schooling that is identified as being of significant barrier to the realisation of inclusion for students with disability; particularly students who experience impacts relating to their cognitive and intellectual functioning.

Responses to variances in student curriculum progression and support needs often centre on the notion of separate:

Students undertaking learning in a separate location (both within and outside of the regular classroom), often from a set of separate curricula, utilising separate teachings and tasks, with separate expectations that result in separate outcomes.

The Australian Curriculum provides opportunity to retire the response of separate!

The Australian Curriculum is designed so that all students can access rigorous, relevant and engaging learning experiences from the one, general curriculum within age-appropriate contexts.

Teachers can utilise the Australian Curriculum to deliver teaching and learning programs that are responsive to diversity within regular, heterogeneous classrooms. It provides tools and approaches that support teachers to seamlessly address variances in cognitive, physical and social development.

The following design aspects of the Australian Curriculum can be utilised to support the realisation of inclusive curriculum delivery:

  • The on-line format provides flexibility in how the curriculum is viewed. It can be viewed by learning area, by multiple year levels, or by year level across learning areas.A variety of filters can also be applied to minimise or expand the amount and/or type of curriculum information that is shown – allowing teachers to purposefully target what is pertinent to their planning requirements. 
    • In particular, utilising the multiple year level functionality allows teachers to identify the linear progression of curriculum complexity, and to provide learning opportunities that incorporate various stages of learning relating to the one content area. For more information on how to plan for various stages of learning (modified curriculum), access the Curriculum tab of the School Inclusion – from theory to practice website here.
  • Each curriculum learning area can be filtered to show authentic applications of the General Capabilities and Coss-curriculum Priorities alongside learning area content. Identifying the General Capabilities and Cross-curriculum Priorities provides opportunity to add depth and richness to learning.
  • The three-dimensional design (learning area content, general capabilities, cross-curriculum priorities) provides flexibility to cater for student diversity by: Teaching targeted skills in literacy, numeracy and personal and social capability alongside learning area content – reducing the need for such skills to be taught in isolation.
    • Using the general capabilities to personalise age-equivalent content and contexts – using the continua to make adjustments to how students engage with curriculum input and output experiences.
    • Aligning individual learning goals to age-equivalent content and contexts – utilising the general capabilities continua to provide multiple opportunities for students to develop essential skills and work toward highly-individualised learning goals across all content areas.
  • Each content descriptor within a learning area is linked to the Scootle community – a national repository that provides Australian schools with more than 20,000 digital resources aligned to the Australian Curriculum. Each descriptor also has an elaboration, providing further information and teaching ideas.
  • Work Sample Portfolios are provided for each Year level of each learning area – providing a sample of what curriculum output typically looks like at each stage of learning.  
  • Illustrations of Practice provide real-life applications and insight into how the Australian Curriculum is utilised to address student diversity.

In summary, the Australian Curriculum provides a wealth of opportunity for all students to engage in learning within the general education classroom. It provides teachers with the necessary tools to equitably build on student interests, strengths, goals and learning needs without having to default to the application of separate.   

The Human Right to an Inclusive Education

The obligation to ensure an inclusive education system is a recognised obligation of the Australian government under international human rights law.  Notably, Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which provides for this obligation in Article 24 (Inclusive Education).

*Click here to read this resource in full on the website of All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education. Excerpt republished with the author’s permission.