• Theme: Growing towards an inclusive pedagogy
  • Media:Answers to typical questions

To develop inclusive practices, teachers need to adapt their role and develop their compentences accordingly.

Changing role of the teacher in an inclusive society

An inclusive school and society, according to the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2016), requires teachers and other educational professionals to:

  • Provide a warm welcome for all learners so that they feel that they belong, are involved, can learn, and can engage in positive social interactions with peers and adults. Check this example of a warm welcome. 
  • Improve and innovate their practice, based on acquired knowledge, skills and attitudes. It is not about being prepared for all possible problems but realising the knowledge, skills and attitude can be developed in collaboration. Realising and celebrating human diversity, and being open for divers ways to learn, to discover and to develop. Example article Dance is nature written by Hannah Dupré - see download material. 
    Quote from this article: Inge Blockmans: "Its about letting go of the illusion that all people whould move in the same way."
  • Use a community-centred approach through pupil participation, valuing expertise by experience of children and peers. Example article Manifesto for attuned teaching - see download material.

  • Create a holistic curriculum for each learner.
    In a holistic approach, attention is given to the physical, personal, social, emotional and spiritual well-being of children in addition to the cognitive aspects of learning. Even when a learning activity focuses on a specific learning goal, it is always integrated and interconnected with each child, the child's family, communities and peers. Learning is seen as a social activity in which collaborative learning is central. In an integrated, holistic approach to teaching and learning, attention is paid to connections with the natural environment. For an example, watch the Video "The Butterfly Circus".

  • Use a holistic design approach 
    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that offers tools to put an inclusive vision into practice.  Also, the Four-Component Instructional Design Model (Van Merriënboer & Kirschner, 2017) can be applied. For an example, watch the Film 'Accessible Learning for All'.

  • Be culturally responsive. With this concept we focus on the importance of acknowledging all the divers cultural backgrounds and traditions. When a teacher is interested in the background of a child, connects with the traditions (festivities, food, habits,…), this can be very empowering for children.   For example: Students appeal to Education for inclusion of Muslim holiday.

  • Encourage interprofessional collaboration within systems by being open to each other's expertise as professionals and by designing integrated and innovative approaches from a shared vision (De Waal et al., 2018). For example the collaboration beyond the school boundaries: working together with the local community, youth care, health organizations,… Involving the local community in the school and allowing them to participate.
  • Take professional development with a focus on inclusion for granted. For example investing in professionalisation intern, in schools, to be able to learn as a team. We do not need individual experts in schools but networks of people who learned to cooperate, to share vulnerability and expertise.
  • Involve the local community in the school and involve the school in the local community. Examples of collaboration beyond the school boundaries: working together with the local community, youth care, health organisations,… 

Core competences of the inclusive teacher

Because these are broader and sometimes new roles for the teacher, according to European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2012) the teacher needs four core competences. In our research (2021) the importance of these competences was inquired within the participating countries:

  • Competence 1: Appreciating learner diversity - differences between learners are seen as a resource and an asset to education;
  • Competence 2: Supporting all learners - teachers have high and realistic expectations of the performance of all learners;
  • Competence 3: Working with others - collaboration and teamwork are essential approaches for all teachers;
  • Competence 4: Personal professional development - teaching is a learning activity and teachers take responsibility for their lifelong learning.

Mirror: inclusive education starts with yourself

To achieve inclusion, we need to tailor our educational environment and our educational concept to the learning needs of each learner in the diverse population. With structural and inclusive changes in teaching and curricula, a school can create an inclusive environment. The concept of inclusion must be supported by all teaching staff. Inclusion is the norm. This requires a structural adjustment as to 'practice what you preach'. A learning activity will help you to explore the resources you can use to create inclusive learning environments.

In our current school system we observe the tyranny of homogeneity, forming unities of 30 pupils, excluding minorities. In this current system we don't value diversity, maybe also because we believe it is inefficient? Maybe we run our schools for the benefit of the greatest return? Have you interrogated your own values?

The following questions may support your reflection and dialogue:

  • Who are you as a professional within an inclusive school?
  • What drives your actions within an inclusive school? 
  • Do you build in 'slow time' to listen and learn from others?
  • Which long-standing values have you learned to change? Can you link that with the ten habits of inclusive teachers?
  • What dilemma have you encountered recently, and what have you learned from it?
  • How do you handle situations that you perceive as tense in your school? Think about polarisation in the classroom, or in your staff team. Think about dilemmas, different perspectives and expectations.
  • Can you give an example of a situation where you made the wrong assumptions? How did you deal with that?
  • What do you learn from this film 'Crip Camp': what already changed in our society and what is not changed yet?
  • In what way(s) do you think the song 'True colors' by Cindy Lauper resonates with the theme of inclusive education?

All this is linked to an inclusive pedagogy. Clicking on the image depicted below leads you to Professor Lani Florian, Bell Chair of Education, delivering her inaugural lecture entitled "Inclusive Pedagogy: a transformative approach to understanding and responding to individual differences". This lecture explores the transformative potential of inclusive pedagogy as an alternative approach to addressing longstanding educational inequalities such as the chronic underachievement of particular groups of learners. Recorded on 11 March 2015 at the University of Edinburgh's 50 George Square building. 


Article 'Dance is nature'
Article 'Dance is nature' - latviešu valodā
Article A manifesto for attuned teaching
Article A manifesto for attuned teaching - Latvian version