An inclusive classroom is one that values the contributions of all students, their families/whānau, and communities. It recognises that every learner is unique and builds on their languages, cultures, and interests; and identifies and removes any barriers to achievement.
Valuing what each student brings to the classroom
Many aspects of students' lives – their language and culture, their interests, experiences, and needs – remain hidden unless we actively include them in class teaching and learning.
Seek to understand the identity, culture, and language of each student and build connections with them
Knowing your learner (NZ)
See my voice (NZ) (video)
The student’s culture (image)
Relating to students (NZ) (video)
Finding out where students are from (video)
Basic information on the background and purpose of mihimihi, including a simple example.
This BES is intended to contribute to the development of an evidence-base for policy and practice in schooling. It covers quality teaching, pedagogical practices and creating effective links between schools and other cultural contexts in which students are socialised, to facilitate learning.
Teachers and students describe how they connect with Pasifika learners and integrate their culture into learning to strengthen relationships and support learners to succeed socially and academically.
Information to support teachers with knowing their learners so they can help them recognise their competencies, demonstrate their strengths, and work towards their aspirations. Accessed from the Inclusive Practices website (NZ).
Sample learner profile (image)
What to include in a profile
The purpose of a learner profile can be agreed by the student, their whānau, and the teacher.
Depending on its purpose, a useful profile (whether an official document or simply inquiry on your part) can include:
cultural connections and experiences
things the student is good at
memorable life experiences
how they like to unwind and relax
likes and interests
dislikes and things they avoid
how they like to learn and what helps
things that make it hard for them to learn
what they do when they need help.
Learner profile benefits
A learner profile tells teachers about a student. It sits alongside assessment data. It helps school staff to build relationships with students and to understand things from a student’s perspective. This can inform planning, classroom layout, timetabling, and student supports.
Developing a learner profile means your students can:
- express who they are
- address assumptions
- express their aspirations and passions
- have a say in what goes on for them.
Senior students may prefer to just have a conversation. Take time to get the student’s views of what will support their learning.
In the video Student Profiles, Canadian secondary teacher Naryn Searcy describes how she asks students about how they learn most effectively. She also asks students what is important to them beyond school.
She uses this information in her planning:
"I personally do a survey at the beginning of every class every semester, just everything from personal background to their history in the subject area to things they like to do outside of school, usually put a whole bunch of activities down there that we would potentially do in the class and ask them to rank it, you know what would you enjoy doing, what would you not like doing.
So just to get an idea of who is in the classroom to begin with and what they would benefit, or what they want to see in the class, what would work for them."
An example of a secondary student’s learner profile.
An example of a primary school student’s learner profile, developed by the adults around her.
Stephen introduces himself to his teachers before starting at Garin College in Nelson.
This document provides general support and guidance when developing a learner profile. It includes prompts and questions, along side purpose and benefits for students.
A series of texts to help new entrant Pasifika children transition to English medium schools. These early reading books come in five Pasifika languages (Gagana Sāmoa, Lea Faka-Tonga, Cook Islands Māori, Gagana Tokelau, and Vagahau Niue) and English.
Flexible learning environments (NZ) (video)
Students’ interests (image)
Classroom approaches – Dyslexia (NZ) (video)
Culturally responsive teaching (NZ) (video)
An interactive digital book telling the story of Rūaumoko, the god of earthquakes and volcanoes. This narration is supported by text and audio in Te Reo Māori and English. The digital book is available from iTunes (apple) and Google Play (android).
The Ministry of Education spoke to children who will enjoy a more inclusive world under the revised disability strategy. This video shares their take on inclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand.
A slide presentation of Angus Macfarlane’s bicultural framework and approach to inclusive education, (University of Waikato, 2009)
This booklet published by the IHC outlines how inclusive education can work in practice in our schools. It gives specific guidance to schools on how to achieve better learning for all students in classrooms.
Video story of students developing and sharing their mihimihi from Enabling e-Learning (NZ).
Tātaiako is a resource explaining competencies teachers need to develop so they can help Māori learners achieve educationally as Māori. It was developed by the Ministry of Education, the Teachers Council and a reference group of academics, teacher education practitioners, and iwi representatives involved in iwi educational initiatives.
Engaging student languages (NZ) (video)
Connecting experiences to learning (NZ) (video)
NZ Sign Language (NZ) (video)
Using first language texts (NZ) (video)
Authentic contexts (NZ) (video)
An introduction to New Zealand Sign Language that supports teaching and learning NZSL as an additional language in English-medium schools for students in years 7–8.
Some Ready to Read series titles that are available in NZSL.
This book is available as an interactive QBook. It has video narration in three sign languages; NZSL, AUSLAN, and ASL.
Establishing a caring, supportive, and respectful class climate
“Becoming more inclusive is a matter of thinking and talking; reviewing and refining practice; and making attempts to develop a more inclusive culture.”
Source: Muijs et al, 2011, p. 92 Collaboration and Networking in Education
New views of diversity
“Diversity” needs to be recognised as a strength for a future-oriented learning system, something to be actively fostered, not a weakness that lowers the system’s performance.
Diversity encompasses everyone’s variations and differences, including their cultures and backgrounds.
This calls for greater engagement of learners, family/whānau and communities in co-shaping education to address their needs, strengths, interests and aspirations, while also ensuring that all students—no matter where they are from or where their learning happens—have opportunities to develop and succeed according to the high level educational aspirations set for, and agreed to, by New Zealanders as a whole.; Source: Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching: A New Zealand perspective
Including all learners (video)
Markers of difference
In Springboards to Practice, students identify common markers of difference.
The language and messages used in the school about disability or learning support.
Physical access to playgrounds and buildings.
Planning for trips.
How mobility support is offered to the student.
How teachers can help (NZ) (video)
Diversity and the Treaty of Waitangi
“The concept of 'diversity' is central to the (BES) synthesis. This frame rejects the notion of a 'normal' group and 'other' or minority groups of children and constitutes diversity and difference as central to the classroom endeavour and central to the focus of quality teaching in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It is fundamental to the approach taken to diversity in New Zealand education that it honours the Treaty of Waitangi.”Source: Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (2003)
A report commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Theme 2 explores new views of equity, diversity, and inclusivity.
A set of materials developed by the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education to guide UK schools through a process of inclusive school development.
Studies both overseas and in New Zealand have found that students with disabilities don’t always experience a sense of belonging in their relationships with others in their classes and schools.
Deficit-focused ideas about any students are very powerful and can strongly influence what teachers and other staff do at every level in any school (Ainscow et al, 2006; Bishop, Berryman, Cavanagh, and Teddy, 2007).Source: Learning better together: Working towards inclusive education in New Zealand schools (p 12)
Promote high expectations
High expectations is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum.
The high expectation principle calls for teachers to support and empower all students to learn and achieve personal excellence, regardless of individual circumstances.
Explore practical strategies in the following resources:
Parent perspective (NZ) (video)
Teacher perspective (NZ) (video)
Students’ perspective (NZ) (video)
This section on New Zealand curriculum online draws together research, digital resources, and examples to support leaders and teachers as they consider the high expectations principle.
A student’s experience of leadership (NZ) (video)
Student leadership in classroom (NZ) (video)
I think what's good about the direction that we are going in now around inclusive education … gives more opportunity for them [students] to express their own form of leadership and that can be self-leadership, leadership in your own life.
But also the ability to lead other people and learning I feel should ideally develop that wide conception of what we mean by leadership so that you can feel resilient and confident in leading your own life but also, if you get opportunities to lead others and engage with others, then you’re able to develop the confidence to do that.Source: Matt Frost, who was deputy head boy in his school, has autism, and is a disability advocate and policy analyst
Inspirational peers (NZ) (video)
Listening to students (NZ) (video)
Practical peer support (NZ) (video)
A skilled teacher optimises task sequences, not only to directly facilitate the different stages of learning cycles for individual students, but also to build up a peer learning culture that can intensify the challenges and supports for learning.Source: Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis (p. 91)
Classroom approaches at Onslow College (NZ) (video)
The advantages of peer tutoring
Benefits for tutees
- more individual teaching
- gains in learning
- gains in social/relationship skills, for example, communicating, accepting help
- improvement in attitude towards learning
- improvement in self-esteem
Benefits for tutors
- practice/reinforcement of skills at earlier levels
- gains in learning
- insight into the learning process
- development of social/relationship skills, for example, listening, encouraging
- development of responsibility
- development of self-esteem
Benefits for teachers
- increased opportunity to interact effectively with a range of individual students
- more effective use of time
- greater coverage of individual needs
- opportunities to observe students at work, and to assess skills
Discussing friendships (video)
Information to support setting up a successful peer tutoring programme in your classroom. Created for the NZ Ministry of Education.
Information to support setting up a successful cooperative learning programme in your classroom. Created for the NZ Ministry of Education.
A literature review summarising cooperative and collaborative classroom strategies, produced by Victoria University of Wellington.
Tony Renshaw, a teacher at Rotorua Lakes High School, and Russell Bishop of the School of Education, Waikato University discuss the impacts of collaborative strategies and peer mentoring.
Planning learning where everyone can participate and achieve
Consider a framework such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to guide the planning of inclusive teaching and learning. UDL supports the design of the least restictive learning environments for students, where barriers are minmised and learning supports and flexibility are built in to the environment at the outset.
UDL at Silverstream School (NZ) (video)
Building in flexibility using UDL (image)
Offer flexible options
Creating flexible and responsive environments allows students to make choices about:
tools and resources they might use (digital and non-digital)
methods to share their ideas and understanding
how they physically access an environment
order of learning tasks
when to sit assessments
who they might access for help
the process to finish or complete a task
who they might work and collaborate with.
Making it work for everyone (image)
Identifying student needs (image)
Overview of UDL by Dr David Mitchell, University of Canterbury. The theme of this chapter is that educational services and policies should be universally designed. Regular education should be accessible to all students in terms of pedagogy, curriculum and resourcing, through the design of differentiated learning experiences that minimise the need for subsequent modifications for particular circumstances or individuals.
An illustrated paper by Mark Osborne of CORE Education, 2013.
A succinct overview of the origins of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), from the Maryland State Department of Education, US.
Establish a way of talking about learning that focuses on what a student can do and their next steps
As a teaching team, discuss the language you use to describe students’ well-being and their learning needs
Consider the impact of identifying students through phrases such as “struggling readers”, “low achievers”, “special needs students,” or “slow learners”.
Instead take an evidence-based approach. Focus on what students can do and articulate next steps in their learning that both the students and their families can understand and embrace.
Using positive language (image)
The impact of social attitudes on students (video)
Students supporting students (NZ) (video)
Including all learners (video)
This commercial from Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) demonstrates why there is no excuse for students with intellectual disabilities to be in separate classrooms.
A short radio commercial from Canadian ACL with Jessica, a grade 5 student with special learning needs shares some of the prejudices she faces.
Provide regular opportunities for students to say what is working well in the classroom and what needs modifying
What students want
Students ask not to be separated from peers and request that teachers:
get to know them
give them opportunities to talk about what school is like for them
listen to their views
take their views into consideration when they are planning and teaching, so they can learn
support them to make school a better place for them
allow them to be part of their peer group and to be fully involved.
Self-advocacy at Fraser High (NZ) (video)
Student partnership at Onslow College (NZ) (video)
Student-designed learning spaces (NZ) (video)
Talk to students
Design for all learners by finding ways to:
Include student voice in the design of the learning environment.
Create flexible spaces that can be changed, rearranged based on student needs and preferences at the time.
Ask students what would help in their learning.
Information for classroom teachers to support the development of student language and communication from the Inclusive Practices website (NZ).
Taking a community approach to supporting learning and well-being
Inclusive values are developed through a student’s lived experiences and their exposure to other cultures and world-views. Bring your community into the classroom and take your classroom out to the community.
Indicators for building community:
Source: Index for Inclusion: Developing learning and participation in schools
- Everyone is made to feel welcome.
- Students help each other.
- Staff collaborate with each other.
- Staff and students treat one another with respect.
- There is a partnership between staff and parents/carers.
- Staff and governors work well together.
- All local communities are involved in the school.
Build relationships with families/whānau and the other significant people who will support the student’s learning and well-being
Family involvement, Silverstream School (NZ) (video)
Working with families at Onslow College (NZ) (video)
Ideas for working with whānau
Suggestions for working closely with parents, caregivers, and whānau
Communicate and share information in ways that work for everyone, for example, social media, playground conversations, email, Skype, a notebook, class blog, newsletters with photos.
Value parents’ and caregivers’ knowledge about their child and assessments they have had done out of school.
Involve whānau in determining strategies to support student learning and well-being at home and school.
Work with programmes or materials parents are using to maximise consistency and support for the student.
Share information about out-of-school programmes that may boost self-esteem (for example, groups for music, art, or sporting interests).
Recognise areas of expertise and experience and look for opportunities to explicitly value and utilise them in the classroom.
Whānau and iwi involvement
Strong engagement and contribution from students and those who are best placed to support them – parents and whānau, hapū, iwi, Māori organisations, communities and businesses – have a strong influence on students’ success. Māori students’ learning is strengthened when education professionals include a role for parents and whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori organisations and communities in curriculum, teaching and learning.Source: Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success: The Māori Education Strategy 2013–2017, p. 23
Listening to families (NZ) (video)
This September 2008 ERO report discusses the factors that contribute to the success of “engagement”, defined as a meaningful, respectful partnership between schools and their parents, whānau, and communities.
A Ministry of Education resource that supports educators to ensure that Māori students achieve educational success. It includes guiding principles, focus areas and goals and actions to facilitate change.
This area of the TKI website provides a wide range of resources and information to support engagement with Pasifika parents, families, and communities.
Parents of students needing additional support outline their needs and how schools can best work with them to meet those needs. Key information is from the ERO report Partners in learning: Parents’ voices. An example of practice from a primary school and discussion questions are provided on this page from the Inclusive Practices website (NZ).
The relationships between whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kotahitanga, and rangatiratanga school culture to build school and community culture are explained. Networks of support that can be accessed are identified on this page from the Inclusive Practices website (NZ).
Build relationships and collaborate with local iwi, the Pasifika community, and other representative cultural groups
Working with community groups (image)
Finding our voice (NZ) (video)
Going into the community (NZ) (video)
Invite education and health professionals to class events and welcome the participation of past students
Learning from others (NZ) (video)
Have high expectations (NZ) (video)
Inspirational peers (NZ) (video)
A list of national organisations that support students with additional needs and their families, compiled by the Ministry of Education.