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Catering for Differences. Week 10. What is diversity?. Diversity is defined as the ‘range of differences that encompass such cultural factors as ethnicity, gender, language, ability and special needs’ Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu (2007). Inclusive Education.

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what is diversity
What is diversity?
  • Diversity is defined as the ‘range of differences that encompass such cultural factors as ethnicity, gender, language, ability and special needs’

Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu (2007)

inclusive education
Inclusive Education
  • Core belief – all children can learn and as much as possible should be part of a regular classroom
  • Inclusive teaching practices recognise and value student diversity and encourage the participation of all learners

Inclusive education = a community of learners

  • A community encourages co operation and collaboration and works towards improving the academic and social growth of its members.
  • Students who are positively connected to their classroom are highly motivated to learn.
as teachers
As Teachers
  • ‘Having a positive attitude about teaching to diversity is an essential first step towards creating a truly inclusive classroom.’

(Millwater & Beutel, 2009)

a safe environment
A Safe Environment
  • A safe environment is also important to inclusive classrooms
  • Co operative groups – students work in groups – teachers role to facilitate social interactions, reinforce notions of respect
  • Students need continual opportunities to build positive feelings about themselves.
what is a differentiated curriculum
What is a differentiated curriculum?
  • Differentiation occurs when the curriculum, teaching practices and the learning environment are adapted so that modifications made ensure that learning is relevant, flexible and responsive to individual student needs. (Van Kraayenoord 2007)

In a differentiated curriculum, teachers offer different approaches to:

  • What students learn – content
  • How students learn – process
  • How students demonstrate what they have learned – product

(Maker, 1982)

you differentiate content
You differentiate content
  • When you pre assess students’ skills and knowledge, then match learners with appropriate activities according to their readiness
  • When you give students choices about topics to explore in greater depth
  • When you provide students with basic and advanced resources to match their current level of understanding
you differentiate the process
You differentiate the process
  • By adding greater complexity to tasks
  • Engaging students in critical and creative thinking
  • Engage students according to learning style – auditory

- visual

- kinesthetic

- reading / writing

you differentiate the product
You differentiate the product
  • Products are the end results of learning – they can be tangible, verbal or involve action
  • Gardner’s multiple intelligences are useful for differentiating

A constructivist teaching and learning approach has a focus on the needs and abilities of the student, not the teacher.

  • Practical strategies for differentiating instruction include:
  • Projects
  • Learning centres
  • Contracts
  • Problem based learning
  • Inquiry learning
Catering for differences provides recognition of students with special needs and strategies that can assist them while, at the same time, enriching the lives of other students in the class.
A wide variety of individual differences are present in a classroom situation.

Marsh – let’s listen to how some teachers differentiate

Think Pair Share

  • List some of the differences you think you will encounter as a classroom teacher and what ways would you differentiate?
The first step in planning for this diversity is to recognise these differences which may be classified into the following categories:
    • cognitive (including intellectually challenged and gifted learners), affective, and physical areas;
    • differences due to gender, ethnicity (including language and learning styles) and/or creative potential;
    • differences due to ‘at-risk’ characteristics
Cognitive ability includes
    • information processing,
    • problem solving,
    • using mental strategies for tasks,
    • and continuous learning.
  • We also know that students vary in the time it takes them to perform these tasks competently, resulting in a need to cater for a wide range of academic ability and learning approaches in every classroom.
therefore teachers should
Therefore teachers should:
  • expect students to be different
  • spend time and effort to evaluate each student’s potential, special interests and/or skills
  • identify each student’s area(s) of need
  • be familiar with past records of achievements
  • be aware of previous experiences that have shaped a student’s way of thinking
  • implement and monitor student responses to different strategies and approaches
  • sensitively challenge students beyond what is expected
  • look for something unique that each student can do for ‘…young people grow best and fastest when we work with their strengths. They do not grow as well when we overly remediate, focusing mainly on their weaknesses’ (Burns 1996:3)
how does a teacher cater for such differences
How does a teacher cater for such differences?
  • A number of teaching strategies that cater for individual and/or group differences have been discussed previously.

They included

  • self directed/ independent learning,
  • small group work,
  • learning centres,
  • cooperative learning,
  • problem solving and some forms of language and literacy based strategies.
  • Modeling
  • Students proceed at their own rate
Teachers need to maintain high expectations and to retain goals for all students
  • For some students, additional time and steps may need to be taken along the way for them to achieve these goals.
  • It is imperative that students are involved in their assessment and that this takes place against their past performance, not against other students.
strategies to help the intellectually challenged students
Strategies to help the intellectually challenged students:
  • establish patterns of learning but vary your motivational techniques
  • develop lessons around the student’s interests, needs and experiences
  • provide an encouraging, supportive and challenging environment
  • use cooperative learning and peer tutoring if acceptable to the student
strategies to help the intellectually challenged students1
Strategies to help the intellectually challenged students:
  • provide appropriate learning aids including audio and visual materials
  • teach content in small sequential steps and provide adequate practice, frequently checking their level of comprehension and progress
  • use individualised materials and instruction whenever possible
  • take steps to positively reinforce a student’s concept of self as well as develop their sense of self esteem through ensuring they experience success and accomplish particular tasks
gifted talented students
Gifted / talented students
  • Gifted / talented students have above average abilities and they, too, need special consideration.

Unchallenged, they may develop poor study habits and negative attitudes toward school and learning.

These students require independent programs that develop out of the general program used in the class. Due to their exceptional capabilities they have the skills to make such extension work feasible and successful.
here are some suggestions to help gifted or talented students
Here are some suggestions to help gifted or talented students:
  • Do not require these students to repeat material they already have mastered
  • Present instruction at a flexible pace allowing those who are able, to progress at a productive rate
  • Condense repetitive practice activities and substitute extending activities
  • Encourage students to be self-directed/independent workers
  • Encourage students to assess their work from a constructive critical stance
more suggestions to help gifted or talented students
More suggestions to help gifted or talented students:
  • Use grading procedures that will encourage them to take intellectual risks without penalty for choosing complex learning activities
  • Provide appropriate resources beyond basal text books
  • Provide horizontal and vertical curriculum enrichment
  • Encourage supplementary reading and writing
  • Encourage the development of hobbies and interests.
Education in the affective area focuses on feelings and attitudes.
  • Self-esteem, time management, confidence, and self-direction are typical affective education outcomes.
  • To achieve these teachers should attempt to enthuse students with a thirst for learning, develop confidence in their ability to learn and to work cooperatively as well as independently, while praising and encouraging their achievements.
to encourage affective development
To encourage affective development:

1. identify students by name as early as possible

2. accept the student as s/he is, for each has interesting, valuable qualities

3. be aware of previous experiences that have helped shape each student’s feelings

4. observe students and monitor their responses to a diversity of situations

5. adapt groups and/or program to accommodate each student’s needs

6. provide encouragement and constructive feedback

7. seriously consider the effects of commonly used strategies on a student’s feeling of well being

As educators, we need to enhance the learning of students with visual, auditory and/or other physical impairments, ie. physical factors that effect receiving information and/or communicating their response.
The inclusion of students with disabilities that slow down their learning development in mainstream classrooms has the potential to enrich the experience of other students.
  • The situation provides opportunities for the class to gain an understanding of the student’s needs and develop cooperative strategies to assist the learner, the teacher and other members of the class.
visual impairment
Visual Impairment
  • Visual impairment minimises or, in extreme cases, prevents the receiving of cues of smiles, winks, hand and other body actions that support verbal interaction.
  • Likewise a child is unable to imitate such gestures and is therefore limited in their responses.
  • This brings about a perception of their being disinterested or unable to understand which in turn lowers people’s expectations of them.
Hohn (1995:389) suggests three ways to enhance the learning of visually impaired students:
  • (i) alter the environment to minimise specific problems of reception or expression,
  • (ii) maximise the use of other channels of communication, to reduce the effect of the impairment on learning, and
  • (iii) focus on the remedial needs of the particular deficit where possible.
hearing impairment
Hearing Impairment
  • Hearing impairment is important to consider in all classrooms but it is particularly important for teachers of Aboriginal students who were reported in 1994 as experiencing 25-50% mild to moderate conductive hearing loss (Howard in Harris & Malin 1994:37).
  • Unfortunately more current figures place that percentage much higher at approximately 65% with some researchers claiming that in isolated communities it can be as high as 90-95%.
hearing impairment1
Hearing Impairment
  • Fortunately, Aboriginal students have strong visual skills and operate better in a classroom where the role of the teacher is decentred allowing for peer support and cooperative learning strategies to be used effectively.
Hearing impaired students miss the quick forms of verbal cues provided by others wishing to communicate with them.
  • This often results in a need for a far more conscious effort on the part of others to make contact.
  • Developing the sensitivity of students in the class to provide this support is imperative if the student is not to feel isolated or ‘behind’ the action.
physical impairment
Physical Impairment
  • Physical impairment appears in many forms and may be linked with other disabilities such as visual impairment, brain damage or weaknesses resulting from diabetes or other severe illnesses.
  • 1. Physically handicapped children long to be normal and be seen as normal as much as possible. Focus on what they can do at all times.
  • 2. Find out what the child's strengths are and capitalize on them. These children need to feel as successful too!
  • 3. Keep your expectations of the physically handicapped child high. This child is capable of achieving.
  • 4. Never accept rude remarks, name calling or teasing from other children. Sometimes other children need to be taught about physical disabilities to develop respect and acceptance.
  • 5. Compliment appearance from time to time.
  • 6. Make adjustments and accommodations whenever possible to enable this child to participate.
  • 7. Never pity the physically handicapped child, they do not want your pity.
  • 8. Take the opportunity when the child is absent to teach the rest of the class about physical handicaps, this will help foster understanding and acceptance.
  • 9. Take frequent 1 to 1 time with the child to make sure that he/she is aware that you're there to help when needed.

(Sue Watson) retrieved from

The difference in male and female learning is difficult for psychologists and educators to understand.
  • There has been a change with a focus turning to support girls in secondary schools.
  • Traditionally in Australia, boys performed significantly better than girls at this level. Attention was given to the inequality of classroom practices and teachers began to support the role of girls.
  • Consequently there are now studies in place to try and work out how boys can be better supported as they have been surpassed in more recent years by the more confident girls applying for University entrance.
The following web site provides an introduction to policy regarding gender equity in schools. Take a look at the rationale, values and principles.
differences produced by ethnicity cultural diversity
Differences produced by ethnicity/cultural diversity
  • Cultural differences can readily lead to misunderstandings between teachers and students.
  • This makes it imperative for teachers to gain understandings about the students whom they teach to enable them to treat each as an individual from a rich and meaningful cultural heritage.
More recent research has encouraged teachers to more fully appreciate and respect the knowledge these children bring to school and to foster their identity while making them aware of, and develop their skills in, the culture of formal education.
  • The approach envisages that students will develop a respect for their own and other cultures and an awareness of how to move comfortably between them.
Getting to know members of the students’ families and community is invaluable and has the potential for improving student /parent relationships and trust with the teacher. It also assists in teachers becoming aware of cultural values that need to be respected in organising the class program.
Inviting speakers to the school, as well as the sharing of cultural knowledge and experiences, provides opportunities for students to interact naturally with people of other cultures.
  • Such experiences enable them to develop cross cultural understandings and respect for other forms of culture while allowing the children from that cultural group to experience pride in their heritage and a sense of well-being.
A child ‘at risk’ and experiencing alienation from self, family and/or the community generally has developmental needs that have not been met.
  • The term ‘alienation’ is used to describe a lack of connectedness and meaning in the lives of these students who need special support as they grapple with their need for recognition, a sense of worth and a connectedness to the class and/or the wider community.
  • As with students possessing other forms of impairments, the strengths of these students need to be recognised and reinforced.
additional reading reflection
Additional reading & reflection
  • Marsh’s chapter 15 ‘Meeting the diverse needs of students’, consider reflection and issues section