The Victorian Government has identified special needs and inclusive education as a focus area to address the growing need for teachers to gain skills and experience and to improve educational outcomes for learners living with disabilities.
Learners living with a disability may include¹
- total or partial loss of the person's bodily or mental functions
- total or partial loss of a part of the body
- the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness
- the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness
- the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the person's body
- a disorder or malfunction that results in the person learning differently from a person without the disorder or malfunction, and/or
- a disorder, illness or disease that affects a person's thought processes, perception of reality, emotions or judgement or that results in disturbed behaviour.
Barriers experienced by learners living with a disability can include
- a lack of teaching materials catering to a range of disabilities
- unrelatable or inappropriate context for the subject matter being taught, and
- a lack of awareness or representation in teaching materials.
Every learner has a right to the knowledge and skills that will help shape productive and positive lives, regardless of their physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics.
Research indicates that most teachers will be teaching learners with disabilities. A recent study by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission found that 62% of classroom teachers reported they were inadequately trained to teach learners with disabilities.
Professional learning undertaken for teaching learners with special needs should meet descriptor 1.6 of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST), however it may meet other descriptor(s) of the APST depending on the type of professional learning undertaken.
Teachers should consider their teaching context, their learners’ characteristics and needs and their own level of learning when selecting professional learning activities.
If they do not have a learner living with a disability in their learning environment, teachers can
- observe an experienced teacher’s practice and/or approach to a learner living with a disability and base their demonstration of Standard 1.6 on another student in the school, or
- hypothetically include a learner living with a disability to demonstrate the standard.
Then they will need to ask themselves
- What would I do if I had this learner in my group?
- How would I design and implement effective teaching strategies that are responsive to individual needs of the learner living with a disability?
The VIT has compiled the following list of professional learning resources for teaching learners living with a disability.
¹ Disability Discrimination Act 1992
Last updated: 26 May 2022