UNICEF Trainer-of-Trainers Modules on Inclusive Education

Inclusive education is a broad concept that includes all groups of children. UNICEF education programming covers all groups of children, paying particular attention to children at risk of being excluded from education.

In line with the CRC and CRPD, and UNICEF’s mission, inclusive education is the approach UNICEF employs to ensure every child receives a quality education. Inclusive education as defined in the Salamanca Statement promotes the “recognition of the need to work towards ‘schools for all’ − institutions which celebrate differences, support learning and respond to individual needs” (pg.2). Inclusive education is a process that values the well-being of all pupils and is not an end in itself.

The purpose of the modules is to provide a foundation for training on inclusive education that is grounded in a human rights-based approach. Teachers are the most important change agents and are essential for social inclusion and promotion of participation and learning for all children. The modules are based on the premise that much information, many tools and guidelines are already available and should be used where and when appropriate and useful.  The modules are designed to be adaptable to different training settings, at different points in time of a teacher’s professional career. The main purpose of these training modules is not to add more information, but to help participants to develop an ‘inner map’ to help guide them on the path towards inclusive education.


Introductory Module: Linking Theory to Practice

The Introductory Module: Linking Theory to Practice provides the theoretical foundation of the ToT, as well as an overview of the most essential assumptions, premisses, organizing principles and recomended methodology of the entire series of Modules.

The Module starts by setting the background and rationale behind the development of the Modules and provides clear guidance as to its basic premisses: a human rights-based approach, learning as a social process, competencies, situational approach and learning in schools. Then the Module provides an overview of the organizing principles and models across the modules: Life-cycle, problem-solving, three-tier model of support systems, teacher competencies, participation, systems and persons, and activity theory model. Finally, this module provides guidelines on how to use the modules, as well as an overview of the remaining three Modules.

PDF Document:  Introductory Module: Linking Theory to Practice

Supporting Power Point: Linking Theory to Practice PPT


Module 1 - Inclusive Education: Vision, Theory and Concepts

Module 1 - Inclusive Education: Vision, Theory and Concepts, seeks to lay the foundation and provide an overview of concepts relevant to inclusive education. It takes an activity-based approach based on the premise that participants have to be actively involved in order to learn. It not only teaches the principles of inclusive education, but also follows and enacts these principles. Participants should both gain knowledge and be introduced to concepts and models that they can themselves use in their everyday practice. The module seeks to provide opportunities to reflect on one’s own practice, knowledge, beliefs and attitudes. These are the building blocks of teacher competencies. Competencies relevant to inclusive education will be introduced and used as the underlying structure of the module.

This first Module provides an overview of inclusive education with a focus on teachers and other professionals who work in formal educational settings (e.g. schools, kindergarten). It looks at the impact of persons and systems on processes of inclusion and exclusion within the framework of a rights-based approach. Inclusive education is understood as a process to ensure the participation and learning of all students. The concept is introduced using a rights-based approach. Realisation of rights is about respecting the individual rights of persons and about the progressive realisation of a rights-based approach in institutions or organizations. Teachers have to be able to ensure rights with both approaches by respecting the rights of every child and by making their school and classroom more inclusive. To be able to work with both – the Person and System approach – it is important to understand systems, both in society in general and in institutions in particular. Participants have to develop basic skills in system thinking to become agents for inclusive education in their environments. Therefore, models are introduced to understand social inclusion of the child (family, community, society) and inclusive institutions (classroom, school, education system).

If teachers are to become agents for inclusive education, they have to be willing to develop not only their knowledge, but also skills and attitudes. Module 1 highlights the importance of teachers, their knowledge, skills and attitudes. Using the profile of an inclusive teacher developed by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, it seeks to illustrate and highlight the competencies involved. The four areas of personal professional development, valuing student diversity, supporting all learners and working with others are introduced.

Module 1 also introduces some of the over-arching organizing principles and models that will serve teachers as tools in their own practice:
Systems approach from Uri Bronfenbrenner, with a focus on micro, meso and macro systems.
• Matrix, representing the levels (classroom, school, policies) and process of education (input, process, outcome) (European Agency 2011).
Profile of Inclusive Teacher (European Agency 2012).
• Actions cycle or problem-solving cycle.
• Activity model.
• Concept of participation (European Agency 2011).

PDF Document:  Module 1- Inclusive Education: Vision, Theory and Concepts

Supporting Power Point:  Vision, Theory and Concepts PPT

Supporting Document:  Social Identity Exercise


Module 2 - Working Together to Create Inclusive Schools

Module 2 - Working Together to Create Inclusive Schools focuses on relationships and how relationships can be created to support participation and learning and to promote inclusive education in schools and communities. Because Module 2 is about what participants do or don’t do in their working lives, it is emotionally the most challenging of the three modules. Participants have to be willing to reflect with colleagues and families on their own interaction patterns and possible lack of real relationships, and the consequences of such practices for others. The focus of this module is not on concepts of communications and modes of interactions; it does not provide communication training or teach relationship skills. The module highlights the need for these and provides opportunities to reflect on participants’ abilities and knowledge in this area. By using tools that participants can use again with others, it helps initiate necessary change processes in schools and communities.

Module 2 is about the participants, their understanding of participation restrictions, and the importance of relationships, of working together and of sharing experiences. It seeks to make current professional relationships visible in order to facilitate reflection and exchange on current collaborative practices. It starts with a warming-up exercise that provides an experience of the effect of someone who is not listening to what someone else has to say. This exercise is followed by a case study  to illustrate the derogatory communication style still prevalent in many schools when talking to families of minority background.

One of the important activities in this module is the development of a collaboration map. The network of collaborative relationships is visually represented and documented for further reference in later activities of the module. The collaboration map is an important tool to reflect on relationships. The most important relationships are subsequently analysed using questions that guide participants through the problem-solving cycle. The Activity Theory Model and the problem-solving cycle are important tools to analyse the nature and the purpose of collaborating and relating with others. Templates of both models are provided at different stages throughout the module to get participants used to these tools. The expectation is that they, later on, are able to use these models when tackling problems and analysing activities in their own work settings.

If teachers and other professionals in schools should work together to promote participation for all children, it is important that they are able to develop a shared understanding of participation restrictions. The module takes participants through a series of activities to first analyse participation restrictions, then explore them with a view to planning for changes that will enable the child to participate. Unit 2 is probably the most challenging one, and the trainer may want to do some short exercises in between activities to ‘loosen participants up’. It ends with bringing together the results from the different groups, each having developed strategies to promote participation under the development, curriculum, health and relationship perspectives. Unit 3 picks up on one of these four perspectives (health) and introduces a framework and common language to be used by parents, teachers and other professionals with medical or social backgrounds. The modules uses three case vignettes of people with Down`s Syndrome who live in very different circumstances and have very different abilities, and therefore different support needs; the vignettes will help to explore the necessity of thinking of ‘disability’ in a new way. The health perspective is selected because it is generally the most established one in schools and also is the most in need of re-thinking. This module ends with a focus on collaborative relationships, especially inclusion teams and what their purpose and related shared activities might be in schools. Participants are invited to reflect on their current relationships and how they would need to be developed to help a joint effort towards inclusive education. The module ends with sharing ideas and visions on how this could be achieved.

PDF Document:  Module 2 - Working Together to Create Inclusive Schools

Supporting Power Point:  Working Together PPT

Supporting Document:  Problem Cycle Template

Supporting Document: Activity Model

Supporting Document: Analize Participation

Supporting Document: Explore Participation


Module 3 - Enabling Environments for Personalized Learning

The basic premise of Module 3 - Enabling Environments for Personalized Learning is that schools exist for children and young people, not the other way around, and therefore schools should adapt to enable students’ learning as much as possible. But schools also fulfil other functions: for example, to recreate the social order of a society, which implies a selection process (while everyone has a place in society, not everybody will become a minister, lawyer or doctor). The social values and social structure of a society impact on the functioning of schools and this needs to be taken into account. Teachers should be made aware of the multi-voiced discourse around what constitutes a good teacher: is it a teacher investing in the brightest students; a teacher who spends much time supporting the weakest students; or a teacher achieving the highest marks in national student exams? In addition, all schools have limited resources, and traditional class instruction may seem the only efficient method to address large classes to be taught in minimal space without personalized learning materials. The reality of participants’ working conditions should never be neglected while working on this module.

Personalized learning implies that every child is accepted and acknowledged as a person with talents and abilities, with a specific family background, a social identity and previous learning experiences. Every child is able to learn; learning is an essential part of human nature and every child wants to be part of a community. Last, but not least, every child has aspirations, dreams, hopes and a wish to become independent: an agent in his or her own right. The experience of competence, belonging and agency is essential for learning, because only children who are truly participating in an activity can learn from it. Module 3 seeks to illustrate how teachers can respond to these needs in their classrooms.

Traditionally, teachers’ attention is more on the group than on the individual child, and they consider the group’s interests and the group’s previous learning experience when preparing to teach. Because children are sorted into homogenous age groups, teachers expect homogeneity also in terms of knowledge, interests, learning styles and interaction styles, etc. If all children are the same, and want to learn the same at the same time, group instruction is the most effective and efficient method. But this is hardly ever the case and generally some children are left behind. In many school systems this is considered normal. Inclusive education challenges this belief and highlights the right of every child to learn. Because teachers’ beliefs and premises about learning have a significant impact on children, they have to be addressed and made explicit. The module addresses these, through examples and case studies that highlight these beliefs – without shaming participants. Because much of what is covered in this module assumes that the trainer has a deeply held belief that children are change agents, and are able to make (and convey) their desires, it is important that the trainer be familiar with the work of Save the Children UK related to child participation. Please see http://www.inclusive-education.org/publications/see-me-hear-me-guide-using-un-conventionrights-persons-disabilities-promote-rights.

Traditionally, teachers’ attention is more on tasks than on situations, and more on contents of the curriculum than on students’ competences. If students can complete the tasks and if the content of the curriculum is taught by the end of the school year, everything seems fine. But have students really learnt anything meaningful they can use in their lives? Evidence used in Module 1, and results from international student assessment programmes, have shown that traditional teaching methods are not effective, especially in diverse classrooms. Shifting the attention from isolated tasks to learning situations, and from content to competence, cannot be achieved in a few days. The situational approach to teaching and learning runs through all three modules, and is applied again in Module 3 that also highlights the importance of goal-setting as an act of envisaging the students’ future competencies to guide instruction. Participants are given the opportunity to practice goal-setting as this is one of the most important parts of planning for personalized instruction.

PDF Document:Module 3 - Enabling Environments for Personalized Learning

Supporting Power Point: Personalized Learning PPT

Supporting Document:  World Café