Contextualising Inclusive Pedagogy: a Mapping Exercise in the Australian Education Landscape

Year: 2018

Author: Spandagou, Ilektra, Poed, Shiralee

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Inclusive education’s call for equitable access to education for all students has developed around a fundamental tension. On the one hand there is focus on specific groups of students as it is the case with the United Nations’ (2006) Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, and on the other hand there is increased recognition that systemic reform is necessary for educational systems to become inclusive of all their students as it is expressed in the United Nations’ (2016) General Comment No. 4 Article 24: Right to inclusive education. The tension between attention on individual characteristics and how they differ from a perceived norm and a quest for moving away from approaches that reproduce deficit, discrimination and marginalisation is evident in policy and legislation, resourcing allocation systems, identification and provision of supports, and selection of teaching strategies and methods. This tension is exemplified where inclusive education should be realised: in the interactions of teachers and students in classroom. Therefore it is surprising that there is limited literature exploring whether there is a distinct inclusive pedagogy informing how teachers plan, organise and deliver instruction.
One notable example is inclusive pedagogy, which is defined as classroom practice that meets the “standard of extending what is generally available to everybody, as opposed to providing for all by differentiating for some” (Florian & Black-Hawkins, 2011, p. 813). A distinguishing feature of this framework of inclusive pedagogy is that there are no specific teaching practices that are seen as inclusive, but rather the qualifying characteristic is the use of practices to demonstrate “a shift in thinking from ‘most and some’ to everybody” (Florian, 2015, p. 16) and in this context “it is in the ways that teachers respond to individual differences, the pedagogical choices they make and how they utilize specialist knowledge that differentiates inclusive practice from other pedagogical approaches” (Florian, 2014, p. 226).
This paper presents a mapping exercise of this framework of inclusive pedagogy on the Australian landscape of terms that are linked to the education of students with disability and of other groups that may experience marginalisation or exclusion. It explores how terms like reasonable adjustments, personalised learning, and differentiation, that are embedded in policy documents and educational practices, relate to inclusive pedagogy. In doing so it explores whether the inclusive pedagogy standard presented above is applicable in the Australian context to promote sustainable inclusive practice.