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Student diversity

Overview

ACARA is committed to the development of a high-quality curriculum for all Australian students, one that promotes excellence and equity in education. All students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning programs drawn from a challenging curriculum that addresses their individual learning needs.

Teachers will use the Australian Curriculum to develop teaching and learning programs that build on students’ interests, strengths, goals and learning needs, and address the cognitive, affective, physical, social and aesthetic needs of all students.

Purpose

These materials are presented as a resource for principals, schools and teachers. They are intended to:

  • help ensure that all students are able to access and participate in the Australian Curriculum
  • provide advice as to how the three-dimensional design of the Australian Curriculum may be used to address the learning needs of all students
  • provide specific advice with regard to meeting the learning needs of students with disability, gifted and talented students, and students for whom English is an additional language or dialect
  • provide examples illustrating how students with diverse needs can access and participate in the Australian Curriculum.

An Australian Curriculum for all students

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA, 2008) (Melbourne Declaration) provides the policy framework for the Australian Curriculum. It includes two goals:

Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence.

Goal 2: All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.

The ways in which the Australian Curriculum has been designed to address these goals are detailed in The Shape of the Australian Curriculum Version 4 (ACARA, 2012). The propositions that shape the development of the Australian Curriculum establish expectations that the Australian Curriculum is appropriate for all students. These propositions include:

  • that each student can learn and that the needs of every student are important
  • that each student is entitled to knowledge, understanding and skills that provide a foundation for successful and lifelong learning and participation in the Australian community
  • that high expectations should be set for each student as teachers account for the current level of learning of individual students and the different rates at which students develop
  • that the needs and interests of students will vary, and that schools and teachers will plan from the curriculum in ways that respond to those needs and interests.

The Melbourne Declaration emphasises the importance of knowledge, understanding and skills from each learning area, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities as the basis for a curriculum designed to support 21st-century learning. The Australian Curriculum is formed by these three dimensions, and it is the relationship between these dimensions that provides flexibility for schools and teachers to ‘promote personalised learning that aims to fulfil the diverse capabilities of each young Australian’ (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 7).

The online format of the Australian Curriculum provides flexibility in how the curriculum can be viewed: by learning area, by multiple year levels or by year level across learning areas. The curriculum may also be filtered to show where general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities are embedded in learning area content. While the general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities are embedded in learning area content descriptions, they can also be viewed separately.

The relationship between the three dimensions (learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities) provides teachers with flexibility to cater for student diversity through personalised learning. Teachers can help meet individual learning needs by incorporating specific teaching of the general capabilities or cross-curriculum priorities through the learning area content (for example, teaching targeted literacy skills through a history lesson, providing opportunities to explore sustainability in a science lesson, or scaffolding language specific to mathematics). 

The following flowchart has been developed to illustrate the process for using the three-dimensional design of the Australian Curriculum to meet the learning needs of all students. The process applies to all students, regardless of their circumstances, progress in learning or the type or location of school they attend. The process reinforces every student’s entitlement to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning experiences across all areas of the curriculum and ensures that all students have the same opportunities and choices in their education.

More detail in relation to applying this process can be found under the sections Students with disability; Gifted and talented students; Students for whom English is an additional language or dialect and Illustrations of Personalised Learning.

Using the Australian Curriculum to meet the learning needs of all students

Teachers refer to the Australian Curriculum learning area content that aligns with their students’ chronological age as the starting point in planning teaching and learning programs.

Teachers take account of the range of their students’ current levels of learning, strengths, goals and interests, and personalise learning where necessary through adjustments to the teaching and learning program, according to individual learning need, by:

  • drawing from learning area content at different levels along the Foundation to Year 10 sequence to personalise age-equivalent learning area content
  • using the general capabilities and/or cross-curriculum priorities to adjust the learning focus of the age-equivalent learning area content
  • aligning individual learning goals with age-equivalent learning area content

Teachers assess students’ progress through the Australian Curriculum in relation to achievement standards. Some students’ progress will be assessed in relation to their individual learning goals. Approaches to assessment and reporting will differ across the states and territories.

The purpose of this section is to support teachers in meeting their obligations to ensure equity of access to the Australian Curriculum for all students and to promote excellence.

The flowchart Using the Australian Curriculum to meet the learning needs of all students broadly outlines the process teachers follow in meeting their obligations and is applicable to every student across all educational settings and contexts, without exception.

Starting with learning area content that aligns with students’ chronological age enables teachers to:

  • plan dignified teaching and learning programs that are respectful of their students’ age
  • develop rigorous teaching and learning programs that will challenge and engage all students
  • ensure that all students progress through the Australian Curriculum.

Personalising the teaching and learning program enables teachers to:

  • select age-equivalent content that is meaningful and respects students’ individual needs, strengths, language proficiencies and interests
  • provide stimulating learning experiences that challenge, extend and develop all students
  • use their knowledge of students’ individual needs, strengths and interests to ensure access to the teaching and learning program.

Personalised learning may involve one or a combination of approaches in relation to curriculum, instruction and the environment. Detailed examples can be found under the Illustrations of personalised learning.

Personalised learning using the curriculum

Approaches may include:

  • drawing from learning area content at different levels along the Foundation to Year 10 sequence to personalise age-equivalent content (for example, some Year 6 students will be able to plan and conduct a specific investigation making decisions about variables, while others may take part in the same investigation but at a less complex level by exploring and answering questions)
  • drawing from and emphasising specific aspects of one or more of the general capabilities to adjust the learning focus in a particular learning area (for example, teaching targeted numeracy skills or ethical understanding through a science lesson)
  • drawing from and emphasising specific aspects of one or more of the cross-curriculum priorities to adjust the learning focus of a particular learning area (for example, providing opportunities to examine historical perspectives from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander viewpoint)
  • aligning individual learning goals with age-equivalent learning area content (for example, incorporating communication goals into a problem-solving task in a maths lesson).

In all of these examples, the integrity of the learning area content must be retained.

Personalised learning using instruction

Approaches may include:

  • scaffolding student learning through guided practice and support
  • modelling and demonstrating skills, knowledge and cognitive strategies
  • explicit and systematic instruction
  • identifying key vocabulary for explicit instruction
  • organising and connecting knowledge, skills and values to promote generalisation
  • motivating students through engagement with personal interests
  • levels of prompting
  • modelling problem solving
  • providing opportunities for the student to think aloud (verbalisation)
  • providing feedback and correction
  • using cross-curricular and naturally occurring learning opportunities to enhance individual learning goals
  • providing alternative representations of teaching and learning materials (for example, using multimedia, Braille, illustrated texts, simplified texts or captioned video)
  • providing alternative opportunities for students to represent their learning (for example, using technology and augmentative and alternative communication systems)
  • frequent cumulative review
  • providing opportunities for generalisation and maintenance
  • providing opportunities for the student to work at a faster pace (acceleration, compacting), at greater breadth (enrichment) and in more depth (extension).

Personalised learning using the environment

Approaches may include:

  • providing peer assistance (for example, using buddy systems, peer-assisted learning and peer tutoring)
  • use of support personnel
  • scheduling (for example, a sequence of events)
  • use of technology and augmentative and alternative communication systems
  • providing access to alternative equipment and furnishings
  • providing physical access to the teaching and learning environment
  • changes to buildings and classrooms.

Illustrations of personalised learning are short videos of authentic educational practice that bring the student diversity advice materials to life. They illustrate the different approaches described in the flowchart 'Using the Australian Curriculum to meet the learning needs of all students' across a range of contexts.

Illustrations of personalised learning promote equity of access to the Australian Curriculum for all students.