All means all: Taking stock of inclusive teaching practices across classrooms in eight countries

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This blog was originally posted on Education for Global Development, World Bank Blogs, on May 21, 2024 by EZEQUIEL MOLINAEMMA CARTERDIEGO LUNA-BAZALDUAADELLE PUSHPARATNAMNIDHI SINGAL.

A teacher talking to her students
Although awareness of inclusive teaching practices is increasing, there is room for improvement when it comes to making classrooms truly inclusive. Copyright: Arne Hoel


Inclusive teaching represents a global aspiration amongst educators and policymakers, as reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 4. As result of this stronger emphasis on teaching for all students, there has been an increase in awareness of inclusive teaching practices globally. But there is still room to improve our understanding of how these practices can best be identified and measured in the classroom.

Inclusive teaching involves using pedagogical strategies and learning supports to ensure classrooms are accessible and effective learning environments for students with diverse characteristics and needs. This encompasses practices like designing lessons with multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression; differentiating instruction by students’ ability and providing different types of support as students learn; promoting positive peer interactions and collaboration; using localized examples and languages; and adapting physical learning spaces and materials.

But without more precise identification and measurement of such practices, it is challenging to effectively guide policymakers on how to adequately support teachers to improve in these areas.

What is the new evidence on inclusive teaching?

Our new study sheds light on the extent to which teachers in low- and middle-income countries use inclusive teaching practices in the classroom. While the findings indicate there is still substantial room for improvement when it comes to making classrooms truly inclusive, there is immense potential for positive change and the transformative impact it can have on the educational landscape. In this sense, the findings of the study encourage collaboration and dialogue among educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to collectively work towards creating more inclusive and equitable learning environments for all students.

The study analyzed data collected using the Teach classroom observation tool across over 5,000 primary school classrooms in eight countries – Afghanistan, Jordan, Mongolia, Pakistan (Punjab province), Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uruguay. Following the Teach framework, the Teach tool captures teaching practices related to classroom culture, instruction, and supporting students’ socioemotional skills. We supplemented the existing work on Teach by mapping the principles of Universal Design for Learning, focused on multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement, onto the Teach framework. This allowed us to develop a more specialized indicator to monitor the quality of inclusive teaching practices. 

The findings illuminate opportunities for growth and improvement in the quality of inclusive teaching practices among the majority of teachers observed. Most teachers scored low on the quality of inclusive teaching practices overall. Less than 20% demonstrated strong competencies in this area across all the countries studied.

Teachers require the most support with practices aimed at providing students with multiple means of action and expression. For example, few teachers encouraged goal setting by students or gave them tailored feedback to tackle academic challenges. Teachers scored better on practices related to representation, such as the use of verbal, written, visual, and concrete supports. Only 30% of the teachers could make strong connections between content and students’ existing knowledge and daily lives – a critical instructional practice to enhance comprehension.

The findings highlight similar patterns across the diverse range of contexts assessed, suggesting common areas where teachers require more guidance to enhance inclusion in their instructional approaches regardless of country or region. This includes supporting them in strengthening practices to motivate student engagement, developing relevant learning activities accessible to children with different needs and strengths, and promoting peer collaboration and interaction. 

At the same time, the study provides encouraging evidence that teachers who demonstrated quality inclusive practices also tended to score higher on other aspects of effective teaching. This suggests that supporting teachers in this area may have cross-cutting benefits for other instructional competencies. Teachers who performed better at practices such as adjusting instruction to their students’ level, using constructive feedback, acknowledging effort, and framing content clearly were also more likely to implement inclusive strategies like providing multiple means of representation and expression.

What are the takeaways of this study?

These findings have important implications for policy and professional support aiming to improve inclusion and quality in classrooms, especially given the commitments made under Sustainable Development Goal 4.

First, the findings underscore critical gaps in teacher training, resources, and incentives when adopting inclusive practices, signalling areas to target reform and investment. These encompass ramping up pre- and in-service training on differentiated instruction and formative assessment to respond to the diverse needs of students. It also includes equipping teachers with inclusive teaching and learning materials, and reframing teacher competency frameworks and evaluations to encompass such inclusive practices. 

Second, the observed relationships between general instructional practices and inclusive teaching practices point to opportunities for integration in instructional guidance and reform priorities. Quality teaching initiatives could benefit from greater incorporation of inclusion perspectives. Policymakers can design professional development programs that integrate inclusive teaching practices into broader efforts to enhance general instructional competencies. For instance, workshops and training sessions can focus on strategies for differentiated instruction, which benefit all students while catering to diverse learning needs.

Last, the widespread use of the Teach tool opens up avenues to monitor system-level changes over time after reforms aimed to enhance inclusion take effect across educational systems. The ability to monitor progress at scale through classroom observations can support accountability and adaptive policy to realize quality education for all learners. We invite policymakers and other stakeholders to review these resources and think about how they could be useful for their policies and programs to strengthen the teaching profession.

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Inclusive Education

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