Based on original image by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

Children and young people learn best when they feel accepted, when they enjoy positive relationships with their fellow learners/ākonga  and teachers, and when they are able to be active, visible members of the learning community.

An inclusive approach focuses on ensuring all learners/ākonga  are able to access and participate in all aspects of the learning. The aim is to bring students together and build a learning community where every child is valued and is able to reach their potential. This means:

  • Shifting your focus from students identified as having “additional needs” to the learning of all students in the classroom.
  • Rejecting the idea that student ability is fixed and that the presence of some will hold back the progress of others.
  • Seeing difficulties in student learning as a professional learning challenge to develop new ways of working, rather than as a deficit in the learner[1].

Many educators and organisations have made significant progress in this area in recent years, as evidenced in actions taken to address accessibility issues for disabled learners/ākonga , the design of physical learning environments to cater for students with sensory needs, provision of specialist support for those with various forms of cognitive difficulties, specialist resourcing for the vision and hearing impaired etc.

In a hybrid environment these things need to be considered with ‘fresh eyes’ to ensure the same (or similar) practices can hold true for all learners/ākonga  when they are not physically present.

One of the issues raised in the COVID research was in regards to the design of the online instructional programmes which, in many cases, were a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to designing online instruction, with little evidence of the sorts of inclusive thinking seen in in-person settings. This is not surprising given the ‘emergency’ responses being made, but does highlight an important area to be addressed as we move towards a hybrid approach to learning.

An important and very useful strategy here is to use the guidance provided through the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)[2]. This provides a way to connect every student to the learning experience, and a way at looking at learning that is fully inclusive and promotes success for all learners/ākonga , regardless of ability.

There are three key principles in the UDL framework:

  • Provide multiple means of engagement – make decisions based on emotion and motivation to achieve learning environments that are safe, relevant, and support students’ motivation and resilience. 
  • Provide multiple means of representation – recognising that learners/ākonga  perceive and understand information differently, it is essential information is presented in multiple ways.
  • Provide multiple means of action and expression – provide options and supports so everyone can learn, create and share in ways that work for them[3].

Questions you could use to help identify the practices in your context that address inclusion include:

  • In what ways are learners/ākonga ’ needs catered for in your programmes, including:
    • Physical disability
    • Cognitive disability
    • Vision/hearing impaired
  • How is the diversity of culture, belief, gender etc reflected in your programme design and pedagogical practices?
  • What steps are taken to ensure there are multiple ways in which learners/ākonga  can engage with their learning?
  • How might this cater for the diversity of abilities, interests, backgrounds, beliefs and culture for example?



[3] See more at

This post is one of a series of ten being published on this blog that are taken from the document “Codifying Teacher Practice”. This document has been written to provide educators with some guidance on how to approach the challenge of shifting their pedagogical approach as they embrace hybrid learning and includes templates and activity to help educators and leaders explore this in their own context. This paper follows two previous thought pieces relating to hybrid learning, both of which can be found on the FutureMakers website. If you’d like to receive an advance copy of this paper please email to have one emailed to you.

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