Navigating the Boundaries of Difference: Issues that Divide and Ways to Unite

This study’s objective was to build an understanding of the different perspectives and practices that have endured among professionals within mainstream and special teacher education. It also aimed to foster inclusive teaching and learning by recommending ways to unite educators.


Inclusive education is often championed in our democratic society.

Despite the support for inclusivity in schools however, many young people are excluded from schooling due to various debates regarding choice and equity, educational success and quality.

To build an understanding around the issues that divide professionals in special and mainstream education, Professor Joanne Deppeler presents her research into the challenges of inclusive schooling. She also examines practices that can create synergies between the two fields of education.

Key findings

Drawing upon research conducted in schools over the last 15 years, the key findings of these studies are as follows:

  • No strong evidence exists to support having special pedagogy for students identified with a particular diagnostic category.
  • Special education and inclusive education are understood differently among people – and are used interchangeably by mistake.
  • While professional development can improve confidence and attitudes among teachers, it has been far less effective in influencing practices that impact student learning and participation outcomes.
  • Literacy and behaviour were the main causes of disengagement exclusion among students.
  • School-wide solutions and shared responsibilities can help teachers deal with issues in their classrooms and increase student engagement.
  • Approaches that consider and build on a learner’s strengths and their context have been shown to create positive changes in teacher knowledge, practice and efficacy – as well as student success.

Learn more

To discover more about this study, watch the full lecture.

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Navigating the Boundaries of Difference: Issues that Divide and Ways to Unite


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