Topic 3: Inclusive pedagogies

Print Topic Michelle, Year 4 teacher, Cherbourg

Pedagogy that is inclusive, that is culturally appropriate and that fosters a stimulating learning environment will address the learning needs of all students.

Inclusive practice widens participation by all students and as teachers we know that our classes contain students with a range of language and cultural backgrounds and educational needs. Teaching in order to maximise learning creates an inclusive environment.

This topic will help you:

  • Develop appropriate strategies that will benefit all students in the classroom.
  • Utilise pedagogical understandings to investigate and reflect on current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, multi-cultural, anti-racism and NESB education policies, programs and services.
  • Evaluate your  role in contributing to student outcomes, equality and quality of school education.

Get StartedExplore the concepts, activities and assessment tasks below or use the Get Started button to work through the content in the suggested sequence.

Students from diverse backgrounds

What does it mean to be a learner from a diverse background and what do students from diverse backgrounds need from their teachers?
The term ‘learners from a diverse background’, embraces students who are linguistically and culturally diverse. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who come to school speaking a language other than English (that is, from communities where English is not the usual language of communication) are often the most at risk. A learner from a diverse background needs to feel that teachers understand their life experiences and care about their success. [caption id="attachment_5856" align="alignnone" width="432"]Iceberg model used to depict surface culture and deep culture Source: Creating a Place for Indigenous Knowledge in Education. Ray Barnhardt.[/caption]


Barnhardt, R 2005, Creating a Place for Indigenous Knowledge in Education, The Alaska Native Knowledge Network, viewed 29 August 2016, <>.

Inclusive pedagogy

The word ‘pedagogy’ is derived from the Greek word paidagogos, which in English translates to ‘teacher of children’; according to the Collins Dictionary it means ‘the principles, practice, or profession of teaching’.
Currently, the word pedagogy is used widely and covers a variety of teaching and learning activity. Therefore, when the term ‘inclusive pedagogies’ is used, it refers to most of what happens in the classroom and is in itself an apt description of the learning environment. Inclusive pedagogy is a method of working with students from diverse backgrounds that provides a variety of content which integrates aspects of their language and cultural backgrounds in dynamic practices. It recognises individuals’ learning styles with a range of assessment methods and aims to promote good academic outcomes and importantly, social, cultural, and emotional well-being. An aspect of inclusive pedagogy could be to select culturally relevant curriculum and texts that recognise, incorporate and reflect students’ heritage, language and culture. See

Embedding Indigenous perspectives

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives should be a natural part of every school day — right across the curriculum.
For most teachers, it is relatively easy to embed aspects of visual and performing arts, English (storying; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors), history, technologies (design), and HPE (Indigenous games; preparing food) and so on. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Increasingly, aspects of science, math, languages and other areas are proving less difficult than in the past. With the introduction of the Australian curriculum, especially in the Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages, the Elaborations indicate many opportunities for embedding perspectives. See: However, there are other ways to think about knowing your students. Take for example Nyingari’s experience just recently. She was offended and hurt when another student, herself from a language and cultural background other than English, turned to her and said “You don’t look Aboriginal”. For some of us, the response would be “What does an Aboriginal person look like?”  but Nyingari took great pains to explain about stereotyping and why the comment was hurtful. [1] In coming to know our students, we begin to realise that stereotyping, parody and misrepresentation are an everyday fact of life. Much of this has been introduced and perpetuated in the media.
[1] Used with permission.

Personalised Learning Plans

Teaching requires paying attention to the distinctive needs of all students of all abilities, acknowledging that each has different learning and teaching needs.
As a classroom teacher, you will recognise each student’s strengths and weaknesses and design your lesson plans to cater for each.
A Personal Learning Plan (PLP) should document a student’s skills, regularly highlight how well they’re progressing, and include their interests both within and outside the classroom.
Use of Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) can be a positive way of increasing the involvement/engagement of parents/caregivers in their children’s school experiences. There are many reasons why PLPs are successful in enhancing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student outcomes – academic, behavioural, and feelings of safety – social and emotional growth are inextricably linked with academic growth.
  1. PLPs include all stakeholders involved in the student’s learning.
  2. It’s a “now” thing, especially if the PLP is reviewed regularly.
  3. PLPs provide an opportunity to address any issue that might affect a student’s wellbeing.
  4. There is anecdotal evidence that using PLPs often leads to a change in a student’s attendance pattern, level of engagement and higher academic outcomes.
Personalised Learning Plans are a way of mapping where a student is now and developing a clear pathway to where they want to be. It is also a way of predicting any obstacles, such as dealing with grief, and putting in place ways of considering options.

PLP planning

In preparing for the development of a PLP, you as the teacher would need to talk with your student and their parents/caregivers about who they would like to be involved at the planning session. On occasion, a parent/caregiver might like to have another stakeholder such as the Indigenous Education Worker (IEW) participate. When developing a PLP with a focus on academic outcomes, there are four key questions:
  • Where is the student now? (This should document the student’s skills.)
  • Where should the student be?
  • How will they get to where they should be?
  • How will we know when they get there?
For older students, the questions might be:
  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I think I should I be?
  • How do I get to where I think I should be?
  • How will I know when I get there?
A PLP should document a student’s skills, regularly highlight how well they’re progressing, and include their interests both within and outside the classroom. Weekly goals, as well as short and long-term goals can be set and if the PLP is accessible online, students and parents/caregivers can access it at any time.
In Western Australia, all Aboriginal students participating in the Follow the Dream: Partnerships for Success program require an individual learning plan, as this forms part of the agreement for this targeted initiative.

Related content

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Suggested readings for Topic 3: Inclusive pedagogies
Barkly Regional Arts 2014, Stronger Sisters Elliot, video, Vimeo, viewed 30 August 2016, <>. Council of Australian Governments 2009, ‘Improving teacher quality’, Schools and Education, viewed 26 June 2013, <>. Dobia, B, Bodkin-Andrews, G, Parada, R, O’Rourke, V, Gilbert, S, Daley, A & Roffey S 2014,  The Aboriginal Girls Circle — enhancing connectedness and promoting resilience for Aboriginal girls, University of Western Sydney, viewed 30 August 2016, <>. Dusseldorp Skills Forum 2010, Same Kids Same Goals – Cultural Appreciation, video, YouTube, viewed 26 June 2013, <>. Giles-Browne, B & Milgate, G 2012, ‘Session H – Improving school practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students: The voices of their parents and carers’, ACER Research conference, School Improvement: what does the research tells us about effective strategies, Australian Council for Educational Research, viewed 26 June 2013, <>. Gorrigine, S & Spillman, D 2009, Creating Stronger Smarter Learning Communities: The role of Culturally Competent Leadership, viewed 30 August 2016,  <>. Impact Communities, Families and Schools Together, viewed 26 June 2013,  <>. Murray-Harvey R 2010,  ‘Relationship influences on students’ academic achievement, psychological health and well-being at school’, Educational & Child Psychology, vol. 27, no. 1, pp.104–115. Racism No Way 2015, Teaching Resources, NSW Government, Dept of Education, viewed 30 August 2016, <>. What works. The work program 2001, A Conversation about Building Awareness, Commonwealth of Australia, viewed 26 June 2013,  <>.

Eight Ways: A pedagogical model

Activity: How might each of the eight aspects of the Eight Way Framework relate to your local Aboriginal community?
The Eight Way Framework (Yunkaporta 2009) is a pedagogical model about Aboriginal knowledge processes.


Identify the Aboriginal group/s in the local area. Use 'yarning circles' with Elders or members of the Indigenous community to explore and localise content using examples from the area.
Module 2 Activity 3.4 Image 8 Ways of Learning  


Yunkaporta, T 2009, 'Aboriginal pedagogies at the cultural interface'. PhD thesis, James Cook University, Townsville, viewed 26 June 2013, <>

A mind map of inclusion

Activity: Reflect on the following statements on inclusion.

An international definition of inclusion

...a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all children, youth and adults through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing and eliminating exclusion within and from education.  It involves changes and modifications in content, approaches, structures and strategies with a common vision that covers all children of the appropriate age range and a conviction that it is the responsibility of the regular system to educate all children. (UNESCO 2009)

Inclusion and schooling

The Queensland Governments Inclusive Education Statement (2005) raises issues and approaches to education that require an immediate and ongoing response from school communities. The statement includes:
  • fostering “a learning community that questions disadvantage and challenges social injustice”
  • maximising “the educational and social outcomes of all students through the identification and reduction of barriers to learning, especially for those who are vulnerable to marginalisation and exclusion”
  • ensuring “all students understand and value diversity so that they have the knowledge and skills for positive participation in a just, equitable and democratic global society”
In a think/pair/share activity answer the following questions:
  • What are the key words from each of these two statements that indicate the essence of inclusive school and classroom practices?
  • In what ways do you see, or not see, the essence of these statements reflected in society?
  • Share an experience of your own in which you have felt ‘excluded’ and for what reasons?
  • Share an experience of your own where you have either experienced or witnessed racism?
    • How did it make you feel?
    • What did you do?
    • What could you have done?
Combine pairs forming groups of around 6 students:
  • Discuss what can be done within classroom practice to ensure all students are connected to learning and feel included.
  • On large pieces of paper draw a mind map illustrating pedagogical practices that ‘include’ all students regardless of race, religion, ability, social background or language.


Queensland Government 2005, Inclusive Education Statement. UNESCO 2009, Policy guidelines on Inclusion in Education, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, viewed August 30 2016, <>.


Activity: Use potatoes to explore diversity.
Adapted from More Diversity Activities for Youth and Adults (Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences 2004) For this activity each student in the class needs a potato to look at/hold. Each student should take a minute or two to carefully examine their potato, and make a note of its appearance and ‘personality’. Each student should then introduce their potato friend to the group and share a story about their potato explaining something about its appearance (shape, bumps, scars etc.). If this is an online class, each student can post a photo of their potato friend with a short introduction and story. Everyone should then place all of the potatoes into bag. Then students can discuss the following questions by providing reasons for their answers.

Discussion questions

It would be easy to group all potatoes together and categorise them as the same and they are all the same in certain ways.
    1. In what ways are the potatoes the same?
    2. In what ways are the potatoes different?
    3. If I had a line-up of all the potatoes or emptied the bag now would you be able to find ‘your friend’? (Students can try to identify their potato amongst the group of potatoes).
We can do the same thing now but think about groups of people. Can you think of students as belonging to certain groups? For example groups based on:
      • socio-economic background
      • religious affiliation
      • gender
      • racial or ethnic background
      • where they live (city, country, remote)
      • mathematics ability
In what ways are people different?
      • What is it called when we lump all people from a particular group together?
      • Would you say that all the people in the group that you’re thinking about share all of the same characteristics?
      • What can happen if we treat people based on the group that we categorise them into?
In what ways are all people the same?
      • Are there characteristics that are the same that are important for how we should treat people?
      • Are generalisations and stereotypes fair?
      • Are generalisations and stereotypes harmful?
      • Are generalisations and stereotypes dangerous?


College of Agricultural Sciences Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension 2004, More Diversity Activities for Youth and Adults, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, viewed 30 August 2016, <>

Equity and inclusion

Activity: What does equity have to do with inclusion?
Before we launch into answering this question we must first consider what we mean by equity and how it relates to equality, as the two ideas are tied to inclusion.


The commonly accepted ideal of equality in most Western democracies sees all people of equal status simply because they are human. Moreover, to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender, class, socio-economic position, culture, ethnicity, race, sexuality or disability violates the basic ideal of equality.This ideal of equality is also the basis for policies of inclusion. We need to critically consider in our educational practices anything that unnecessarily (without good reason) excludes individuals or groups from educational opportunities. Conversely, we ought to be promoting practices which promote equality and inclusion.

Difference and diversity

Humans are all different and our institutions are always not fair meaning that we find ourselves (as individuals and/or as members of certain groups) disadvantaged and/or in circumstances that are not at all or not entirely of our own doing.

Group reflection

To what extent are your circumstances of your own doing?
  • Do you choose where you are born?
  • Do you choose your family?
  • Do you choose what your family provides for you? (Think broadly about this question).
Consider these questions for the children who you will teach. One could argue that there are some things in life that we have little or any control over. It is worth reflecting on some of these things and the extent to which they have influenced areas of our lives.
Discuss in your group the role the following things have played in your life and in the lives of those both around you and in distant places:
  • where you were born (country, state, suburb)
  • gender, class, socio-economic position, culture, race, sexuality, disability
  • the family you were born into and the family who raised you (what assets did they have, what did they inherit - think broadly here)
  • individual health.
If one of the the areas above has influenced your access and/or opportunities for, achievement in the following areas of your life and the lives of others?
  • education
  • health (being healthy)
  • employment
  • wellbeing/happiness
  • rights
  • political representation and participation


Two images of persons of varying heights Image: Equity in the justice sense (not the financial) usually refers to the unequal or differing distribution of something  (goods, services, access, opportunities etc.) in order to make the situation or circumstances just or fair in opportunities for either achieving important human needs or exercising rights or capabilities, for example.  Consider the image above. The equal distribution of the wooden crates, in this circumstance (to the left), produces an unequal outcome because of the differences in height of the three people. In the image above the equitable (unequal/differing) allocation allows for the need, to be able to see over the fence, to be achieved. The idea of equity and equitable allocations are based on a notion of equality in which there are important aspects of being a human that ought to be respected. For some, what is important is based on our shared human needs and form the basis for Universal Human Rights. Similarly, Martha Nussbaum, has argued that her approach to justice ‘Begins with the idea that all human beings have an inherent dignity and require life circumstances that are worthy of that dignity’. Moreover, this approach asserts that there are important human capabilities that all people ought to have the opportunity to exercise and this is what should form the basis of a just society. Nussbaum’s approach is connected to Aristotle’s idea of society ‘providing each and every person with what they need to become capable of living rich and flourishing lives’.[1] You can watch more on this from Martha Nussbaum on YouTube
In groups or as a class, discuss what you would consider to be required or essential elements for each person to become capable of living rich and flourishing life that is worthy of the dignity of life: A good life.
You might like to use the UN’s Human rights or something like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a leaping off point for your discussion. You can compare your list to Nussbaum’s List: Life, bodily health, bodily integrity, the development of the senses (imagination and thought), the development of practical reasoning, the development of affiliation (informal in the family, friendship but also in the political community), the development of the ability to play and recreational opportunities, the ability to have relationships with other creatures and the world of nature, the developing emotional capabilities (we don’t want to live in fear for example).
Now consider what achieving everything on your list or one of the examples (Nussbaum’s list, UN Human Rights etc.) would require from individuals and/or the society by discussing the following questions:
  • Can you think of individuals who are advantaged from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Can you think of individuals who are disadvantaged from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Are there groups which are advantaged in their opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Are there groups which are disadvantaged from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Is it okay that some individuals or groups are excluded from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life because of our social and or political arrangements?
  • Is it possible for each person to be able to achieve a flourishing life? What would it require?

Difference and young children

Activity: Teach young children to be comfortable with difference.

Activity 1

Using the Racism No Way website, and focussing on the teaching resources for years K-3, break up into small groups and choose one of the activities from the theme ‘Being comfortable with difference’ to teach to your group.

Activity 2

As a class or in small groups read through the book, Dingoes are not Dogs by Chris Sarra.
  • In your small groups discuss the main theme/s in the book.
  • In your groups design an activity based around the theme in Dingoes are not Dogs that you will teach to the other groups in your next tutorial.

Activity 1 requires small group access to a website and Activity 2 requires access to the book Dingoes are not Dogs, by Chris Sarra, Budburra Books, 2011.

Personalised Learning Plans

Activity: Develop Personalised Learning Plans.
Following is a small sample from a Year 4 class, all turning nine this year.
  • Darren W – can count up to 68 and is learning his letters.
  • Darren R – very good at number and the letters of his own name; still to come to grips with reading and writing.
  • Anna S – will do anything to please and is eager to learn. Has bowel problems and is sometimes kept home from school.
  • Rachael C – reads and writes fluently and is number literate.
  • Patrick O – has difficulty holding a pencil/pen and is slow to complete tasks, which he finds frustrating.
  • Stephen A – brilliant artist who is not really interested in numeracy and English literacy, but quite capable.
  • Craig B – at year level, but is teased constantly about his Aboriginality.
How would you go about developing a PLP for these students?
  • Select two (you can give them any other characteristics you like) and describe your process.
  • In doing so, can you design a visually attractive pathway?


Developing and implementing PLPs at the whole school level: A checklist. Available at Aboriginal [and Torres Strait Islander] Education in Diocesan Catholic Schools: NSW. Available at Guide to developing Personalised Learning Plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – A professional learning resource. January 2011, Commonwealth of Australia

Related content

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Engaging students

Assessment objective

Demonstrate how you will use the knowledge of your students to engage them at the beginning and the end of a lesson using digital resources in the classroom.


You know you want your audience to be absorbed. You want your students to care. You want them to be delighted with the content of your presentation and their activities. You can engage your kids by working with what they’re interested in and the current media they use. You want that ‘student who is quietly sitting at the back of the classroom not participating’ (AITSL) to be offered a stimulating enjoyable experience.
The minutes at the beginning and end of a lesson are crucial in engaging your students.
Lessons need to start off by discussing prior knowledge, generating expectations and setting some aims. Checking for understanding and getting/giving feedback at the end of the lesson will show you that the lesson’s aims were achieved. Sidebars can be useful; if interest in what you are doing wanes, you can always abandon the planned lesson and go off at a tangent in response to a remark or a question from a student. If you don’t do this, then you will need to do some heavy lifting to get things back on track.


Digital resources in the classroomAssessment Take some time to notice what engages your kids and reflect on what you see them doing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in particular engage with listening posts, individual computer programs, smart boards and of course tablets and mobile phones. How many of the kids in your classroom have mobile phones? How do they use them? Are they on Facebook? Summarise your observations in 2-3 paragraphs. Choose a learning activity/lesson and plan how you would use one of the following to engage the students in your class:
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • a cross-discipline activity/a game plan using the classroom as a bulletin board
  • Blogging
  • a listening post using iPads
Detail your plan in a one page lesson plan.


AITSL n.d., Engagement in Australian schools, Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Ltd, viewed 22 September 2016,  <>
Image: student ipad 014, Flickr,

Professional reflections

Assessment objective

Write a professional reflection on the topic of Inclusion in Education that considers the ways in which students from diverse backgrounds can be excluded in education.


AssessmentBegin by reflecting on an experience in your life when you felt ‘different’ (age, gender, race, class, sexuality, appearance etc). Use the following questions to guide your reflection:
  • How did you feel?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • How does this experience affect how you relate to individuals or groups who are ‘othered’?
  • Explore how western schooling can work to discriminate against students from diverse backgrounds by providing two examples.
  • Analyse and critique media articles and songs i.e. 'We are Australian’, ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ etc and identify the historical, political, cultural and social discourses that covertly display levels of misrepresentation.
  • Reflect how inclusion and exclusion can be mitigated by:
    • incorporating a teaching approach encompassing multiple worldviews
    • teaching for diversity
    • augmenting and building on cultures and funds of knowledge
    • involving family and community as partners, and
    • relating curriculum to local community and local learning environment utilising local sites.

Inclusive pedagogies portfolio

Assessment objective

Commence an 'Inclusive pedagogies' portfolio by completing the activities listed below.


  1. Discuss the following question, providing evidence from at least 3 readings to support your argument: What are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and do you agree that we need to include Indigenous perspectives within the curriculum ?
  2. Choose a key learning area and a year level and create a lesson that provides an Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspective activity for students.
  3. Choose an Indigenous community organisation or group in your local area or region. Discuss the role of the group/organisation and suggest ways in which you could utilise them in a teaching environment.
  4. Outline your understanding of the need for building a classroom learning environments that are based on ‘effective teacher-student engagement’.
  5. Detail the specific strategies you would use in the classroom to make learning engaging, accessible and culturally responsive for Aboriginal students.
  6. Reflect on what you consider to be the teacher’s role in achieving an inclusive learning environment.
  7. What do you see as the teacher’s role in contributing to student outcomes, equality and quality of school education for all students?

Topic review

Inclusive pedagogies

This topic has focused on the importance of inclusive pedagogy, that is culturally appropriate and that fosters a stimulating learning environment to address the learning needs of all students. The topic has included activities and assessments giving you the opportunity to think deeply about inclusion and diversity as well as equity.

Questions for review:

  • How would you explain the relationship between inclusion, diversity and equity?
  • Outline some practical strategies to improve outcomes for your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
  • How do you see your role in contributing to student outcomes and is it different to how you see the role of the Principal? If so, how and why?

Choose one Focus Area of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers where you could apply  the knowledge and skills you have gained from Topic 3, such as:

3.2 Plan, structure and sequence learning programsProfessional knowledge

Plan lesson sequences using knowledge of student learning, content, and effective teaching strategies. (Graduate level)

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Graduate teachers)

« Return to Topic 3: Inclusive pedagogies » Continue to Topic 4: Building positive relationships