This article has been published in Enabling Education 11
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Responding to learner diversity in the European Union

Responding to learner diversity in the European Union

These materials consist of a teacher’s handbook, DVD with readings and video clips, and a tutor’s manual. They can serve as a basis for teacher education through reflective practice in opening up to, understanding and responding to the diversity of strengths and needs of students in the classroom. They reflect the experience of a varied international group of practitioners in different European countries and up-to-date research on teaching and learning.

Creating the handbook
The materials were produced through an EU-funded project by an international group from Malta, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Sweden and UK. They came from different institutions (universities, colleges, and an NGO) and disciplines (inclusive education, differentiated teaching, educational psychology, learning disability and special education, pedagogy of mathematics and language). All are engaged in teacher education and are concerned about social justice in education.

They started by sharing information on their education systems and concerns. Five teachers from each country were interviewed, which formed the basis of the handbook content. Collection of materials was done in pairs of partners; one was a writer, the other a critical friend. Four revisions were created over three years, through democratic discussions. An additional editing process was done before the materials were piloted. Various piloting approaches were used by the partners (e.g. in pre-service and in-service training).

The materials were initially produced as an online course, but were revised for use in face-to-face learning. The revised handbook allows for more flexible use (e.g. more choice over use of activities for student reflection at the end of the chapter). The handbook has been produced in each of the seven languages of the partners.

Because the partners were diverse, the project has covered an unusually wide variety of issues. The six chapters cover:

  1. action research as a tool for professional development
  2. respect for student diversity, particularly culture, language, gender and exceptionality
  3. personal and social growth of individuals within a caring and supportive environment
  4. understanding diverse student characteristics
  5. diversifying curriculum content, the learning process, and the learning product
  6. reflective application of all these principles holistically in teaching practice.

Handbook, DVD and tutor’s manual available from:
Dr Paul A. Bartolo
Faculty of Education
University of Malta
Msida MSD 2080
Price: free (plus 20 Euros for airmail postage and packing)
Will be available to download (October 2007) from:


The Manchester Inclusion Standard

Most of the accounts of practice reported by EENET are from countries of the ‘South’. However, this does not mean that education systems in the economically richer countries (the ‘North’) are already inclusive. For example, the story on pages 8-9 – from a school in the city of Manchester, England – explains efforts being made to reach out to groups of children who experience marginalisation.

The education service in Manchester faces many challenges. Achievement levels among children from poor families are a particular concern. School attendance is worryingly low and significant numbers of learners are excluded from school because of the way they behave.

To address these concerns, the local authority has worked with schools to develop its ‘Inclusion Standard’. This is an instrument for evaluating the progress of schools on their journey to becoming more inclusive. The Standard focuses directly on student outcomes, rather than on organisational processes, and uses the views of children as a major source of evidence.

So, for example, it does not require a review of the quality of leadership in a school. Rather, it focuses on the presence, participation and achievements of students, on the assumption that this is what good leadership is aiming for. Similarly, the Standard does not examine whether or not students are given the opportunity to take part in school activities. Rather, it assesses whether students, particularly those at risk of marginalisation or exclusion, actually take part and benefit as a result.

In these ways, the Manchester Inclusion Standard aims to: increase understanding within schools that inclusion is an ongoing process; foster the development of inclusive practices; and use the voice of students as a stimulus for school and staff development. Gradually, the Standard is becoming an integral part of schools’ self-review and development processes.

Students on the University of Manchester’s MEd course in Inclusive Education, work with schools as they use the Inclusion Standard, helping them to collect the views of children. Pages 8-9 show how this can help to stimulate inclusive school development.

For more information contact: