Inclusive teaching practices for learning at home

In this blog post, Dr Carly Lassig and Dr Sofia Mavropoulou discuss strategies for applying inclusive teaching practices to learning at home, drawing on approaches such as Universal Design for Learning and differentiation, as well as adjustments for students with disability. You can download this information as a PDF – Inclusive teaching practices for learning at home (PDF file, 2MB)


During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have been working harder than ever to ensure that learning continues for their students at home. The challenges associated with teaching and learning at home ― including access to and use of technology; changed interactions with teachers, peers, and support staff; and the potential stress and anxiety experienced by teachers, students and families ― require creative, innovative solutions to ensure that all students are learning. An important consideration is addressing accessibility and differentiation for all students and ensuring that adjustments to curriculum, teaching and assessment continue for students with disability.

Even though many students are now learning at home, schools are still required to meet their legal obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and the Disability Standards for Education (2005). However, as an Australian Academy of Science (2020) report has cautioned, primary and secondary students with disabilities are among the most at risk of poor educational outcomes from learning at home for an extended period.

Although some states are starting to plan the reopening of schools, many students with disability will be learning at home for longer than their peers. Due to the higher likelihood of falling into high risk groups for COVID-19, some parents/caregivers of children with disability report that they are anxious about their children’s return to school and it may be some time before they feel safe to send their children back, even if schools reopen.

Designing and providing adjustments for students in the online environment requires additional consideration by the teacher, but it may also create unique opportunities for schools and families to learn a lot about each other and work collaboratively to focus on the most important learning outcomes. Parents/caregivers can also gain a unique insight into their children’s learning, and the new knowledge and skills gained by teachers and families can continue to be applied longer after COVID-19 resolves.

In this blog post, we consider the checkpoints that can help educators plan and review their strategies for continuing to provide universal access and differentiation for all students, and how to make adjustments for students with disability while they are learning from home.

Setting up the physical environment

Questions to ask Examples of effective practices
How can students plan their daily schoolwork? Teachers could:

  • Send a template for a daily schedule and visual schedules/choice boards or a link to one that students can print off and complete as part of their daily routine. This could include their schoolwork, as well as activities they will do before/after completing schoolwork.
  • Consider tangible daily schedules for some students to show how many activities they will do every day, in what sequence, and what happen after they finish their scheduled work.
  • Allow some choice for the sequence of activities and break times. This practice will help students make a smooth transition from one activity to the next, especially when easy tasks are interspersed with more challenging tasks. Use of the First/Then schedule can assist with increasing engagement, particularly for students with intellectual disability or on the autism spectrum.
Are the required materials clear and accessible? Teachers could:

  • Provide instructions about materials to be prepared before beginning each task.
  • Determine what materials families have access to at home.
  • Create an online space in your virtual class where your students can find useful digital resources for learning (e.g., online calculator, dictionary, online collocation dictionary thesaurus, games, websites relevant to current topics).
  • Ensure those without internet access have been provided with all the resources they will require for learning (e.g., physical calculator, hard copy of a dictionary/thesaurus, physical games and resources, printouts of website materials).
Are there ways to improve the accessibility of technological resources? Depending on the student, some strategies that might make technology more accessible include:

  • Teaching students keyboard command shortcuts to minimise use of the mouse.
  • Using touch screens to reduce use of keyboard/mouse.
  • Using an alternative keyboard or mouse/joystick.
  • Using speech-to-text software.
Will students and families understand how to complete the tasks? Tasks may seem self-explanatory to teachers, but without the usual presentation and explanation of them in a classroom setting, students might be unsure of what to do. Teachers can assist by:

  • Providing short, clear, step-by-step instructions for each task.
  • Using formats that students are familiar with to increase student independence in completing tasks.
  • Using plain language and images that will help all students to understand the instructions.
  • Including background knowledge (e.g., definitions, formulae) in the worksheet to help students recall important information, maintain their concentration and complete the task.
  • Ensuring the goal of the task is clear to students and their families. If the planned task doesn’t work, parents/caregivers might have alternative ideas about how their child might meet that goal.
  • Directing students and families to the chosen communication channel for your school (e.g., Class Dojo, Seesaw, email) for questions about tasks.
How are students learning to use technologies for their learning? Teachers could:

  • Provide a video of themselves explaining how to use technologies, devices or applications that students are using at home. These resources could be like quick “how to” guides for immediate and future use.
  • Teaching students to use voice memos to share what they have learned.
  • Teaching students to take and save photos of their work in folders (for each subject) and upload them in the school’s platform/noticeboard or attach them in an email to teachers.

How is material presented to students?

Questions to ask Examples of effective practices
Is the font and presentation of text accessible? It is recommended that teachers:

  • Use web safe, sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial).
  • Use at least 12-14 point font or larger.
  • Minimise use of italics, bold and all-capitals formatting.
  • Avoid underlining.
  • Use single colour backgrounds rather than background patterns or pictures.
  • Ensure contrast between background and text colour (e.g., dark text on a light but not white background).

See Vision Australia’s Online and print inclusive design and legibility considerations and the Dyslexia friendly style guide for more details.

Is there alternative (alt) text for images for those students with vision impairment or who turn off images to save data? Guidelines for writing alt text:

  • 1 or 2 sentences about what is important in the image.
  • You don’t need to state it’s an image or graphic.
  • If it is not informative, mark an image as decorative.
Are there closed captions on videos, and a transcript for videos/podcasts? If you create an online presentation using newer versions of Microsoft PowerPoint, there is an option to have real-time automatic captions displayed or even subtitles in another language. You can also write your own captions/subtitles and add these to your PowerPoint presentation.

YouTube has automatic captioning for videos, but those videos must be hosted on YouTube. There are other programs and apps that also add captioning, some are free if you allow a logo to be displayed on your video, e.g., Kapwing.

Do you have a video of yourself in your online classes or video recordings? While sharing their PowerPoint slides or other resources on their screens or in recordings, teachers can include a small video of themselves speaking in the corner. The video of the teacher’s face has two key purposes:

  • It personalises it and helps students to feel more connected to the teacher.
  • It allows for lipreading.
Are videos/podcasts short to maintain student attention and reduce the file size? Research shows that the optimal length for an educational video is 6 minutes or less! Chunk material into multiple short videos rather than one long video.
Are alternatives provided alongside auditory information? Alternatives to auditory information could include:

  • photographs
  • illustrations
  • diagrams
  • graphs
  • symbols
  • animations
  • transcripts
Are the materials available in multiple modes? Some examples of materials in multiple modalities include:

  • Where possible, providing multimedia presentations of ideas (e.g., illustrations/photos, videos, animations, comic strips, virtual manipulatives).
  • Providing audio or ebook versions of texts.
  • Creating audio books where they aren’t available for a particular text (e.g., teacher aides and peers are taking on this role in some schools).
  • Making paper copies available to be delivered to students for those without devices or printers.
Is there a choice of materials/texts to work with? For example, students might have choice in:

  • Content, where the task allows for this.
  • Complexity, by offering texts on the same content with different levels of complexity in language/content (or encouraging students to research their own sources of reliable information).
  • Use of text-to-speech.
  • Creating their own content (e.g., digital stories, creating podcasts to summarise and analyse texts they’ve read).
Are key vocabulary and symbols accessible to all students? Some strategies include:

  • Pre-teaching vocabulary and symbols, connecting with students’ prior knowledge.
  • Highlighting key words.
  • Embedding links to support for vocabulary, symbols (e.g., links to definitions, illustrations, examples, translations).

How will students be learning?

Questions to ask Examples of effective practices
Are there opportunities for choice in learning? Students might have choice in:

Are there different levels of challenge for students to choose from? Some ways to differentiate the challenge level:

  • Asking different levels of questions (e.g., using Bloom’s Taxonomy). All students should have opportunities to engage in higher order thinking; you can vary the type or amount of scaffolds that students use.
  • Varying the timing of moving from concrete thinking (e.g., the plot of a story) to abstract thinking (e.g., the themes in a story).
  • Varying the number of connections students make between ideas and experiences (e.g., thinking about one story’s theme versus thinking about relationships between themes and symbols).
  • Varying the number of components within a task (single component or multifaceted).
  • Varying the type of materials used to present concepts (e.g., concrete level – virtual manipulatives, 3d objects; pictorial level – graphics, students’ drawings, arts & crafts, written labels with auditory information; and abstract level – symbols, numbers, words, literal text, braille, audio recording.
  • Varying the leaps students make in their thinking (e.g., Students are learning about the formula for area. A small leap might be comparing the area of different rooms in their house. A larger leap might be planning a dream house and determining costs for building materials based on area).
  • Varying the amount of structure or scaffolding provided. Some students might benefit from step-by-step guides with visual prompts. Others might benefit from open-ended tasks with less guidance.

Students who were accessing curriculum at an alternative access point at school should continue to have these adjusted tasks (and scaffolds) while learning at home. Link these to the overarching goals and understandings that the rest of the class is working towards, and ensure the learning is age appropriate.

Some students might need some guidance about selecting the right level of challenge. If you have students who need encouragement to select more challenging tasks, you can ask them to reflect on questions such as:

  • Am I bored?
  • Do I already know this?
  • Did I finish the task quickly?
  • Did I learn anything new?
  • When did I need help?
Are adjustments made to how the teacher communicates in online learning classes? Depending on the task and the level of adjustment typically provided to the student, during online classes, teachers might:

  • Prepare and use visual communication cards.
  • Provide plenty of wait time for students to respond.
  • Adjust the pace of instruction.
  • Adjust the amount of information (written, oral, visual) presented at one time.
  • Break down instructions into smaller steps.
  • Check students’ understanding of instructions (e.g., have students repeat instructions back to you; use a thumbs up, thumbs down check in).
  • Consider how students’ AAC devices can be incorporated in online learning.
Are there opportunities for students to reflect on their learning? Students can reflect on their learning throughout the week/term/semester using strategies such as:

  • Reflection questions for different stages of learning that students can answer in a chosen way (e.g., written, visual, discussion with a peer/teacher)
  • Teacher or student designed quizzes, e.g., using Kahoot, Socrative, Quizlet, and Quizizz (with hard copies for students who can’t access these apps).
  • Reflective journals (students can record their reflections in writing, orally, visually, with multimedia)
  • Learning journals to help students extend and deepen their learning.

Teachers can lead a group discussion after collecting students’ reflections and guide students on the next step of their learning.

If all else fails, do families have suggestions of educational activities (online and offline) they can engage in with students? Example lists of online and offline educational learning activities:

Resources with suggestions of activities that don’t require technology could be printed and delivered to families without access to a device/internet.

How will students show what they have learned?

Check point Examples of effective practices
Are there opportunities for students to choose how they show their learning? Students are more motivated to complete tasks that allow them to have choice and that link to their interests and strengths. Offer variety in how students present their learning.

Try non-traditional formats for students to show their learning, for example:

  • Building a model and taking photos of it.
  • Composing and performing a song/rap (and perhaps recording it).
  • Conducting an interview.
  • Creating a graphic novel.
  • Creating a photo book/essay.
  • Creating a play or skit (perhaps asking parents/caregivers or siblings to join in as actors).
  • Creating a podcast.
  • Creating a wiki, blog or website.
  • Creating a YouTube video.
  • Creating an animation or comic book.
  • Creating an art piece and taking photos of it.
  • Designing a game for peers to play.
  • Designing an experiment.
  • Developing an advertising campaign.
  • Making a diorama.
  • Participating in an online debate.
  • Performing a dance or movement piece.
  • Planning and teaching an online activity for peers or younger students.
  • Preparing an infographic or a poster.
  • Presenting a news report or writing a news article.
  • Writing a children’s book.
  • Writing a poem.
Are there adjustments to the task requirements or format? Teachers might adjust the:

  • Length of tasks.
  • Number of questions/tasks to complete.
  • Complexity of language used in the questions and task/criteria sheets.
  • Format (e.g., changing a test from short answer to multiple choice; allowing students to orally report their findings instead of writing an essay).
  • Use of technologies or manipulatives.
  • Time allocated to complete the task.
Are there varied amounts of supports and scaffolds offered to complete the task? Teachers can vary:

  • How the task is presented: as one open-ended task, or broken up into a series of smaller tasks.
  • The timeline for the task: one final due date vs a series of regular due dates for smaller sections of work.
  • The frequency of check-ins with students about their progress.
  • The type of formative feedback to guide student progress.
Are there challenging learning goals for all students but different ways of meeting those goals? All students can be working towards the same essential understandings, but show these understandings with different levels of content or skills.

Example from Digital Technologies, linked to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • All students are working towards the understanding that different technologies meet different community needs.
  • Some students might show their understanding by describing how their families and friends use technologies to meet their communication needs (e.g., different ways people are communicating when they need to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Other students might be analysing how one type of technology/information system can be applied in new ways for a community need (e.g., using location data and bluetooth technology in the COVIDSafe app).
Are there tools to help students compose work that shows what they know? Students could have access to:

  • Spell checker, grammar checker, and word prediction software.
  • Speech-to-text software.
  • Calculators, preformatted graphing paper.
  • Sentence starters.
  • Graphic organiser templates (e.g., concept map, Venn diagram, paragraph structure template, cause and effect chart, fishbone, timeline).
Are there supports to help students manage assessment deadlines? Teachers could:

Are there supports to help students cope with anxiety and fear of failure? Teachers could nurture persistence and help students build resilience, by:

  • Strengthening students’ belief in their own capabilities: ask students to complete a template/a poster/chart with their learning struggles and how to reframe these (e.g., “When I …. I can say to myself …”).
  • Reading inspirational books to/with their students (e.g., The Dot) and planning activities that encourage students to take risks and trust their own abilities.
  • Assigning cooperative, heterogeneous groups to work on activities that teach students about how their thoughts affect their learning.
  • Using social stories to help students regulate their emotions (e.g., anger) and follow a “calming plan”.
  • Encouraging students to create their own quiet area or calm zone at home.
  • Encouraging students to ask for a break using verbal or non-verbal (e.g., Break card/Pass) communication.
Do students understand how their learning will be assessed? Teachers can:

  • Use plain language in task sheets and criteria sheets.
  • Provide video/audio descriptions that break down the task sheet and criteria sheets.
  • Involve students in writing their own criteria sheets.
  • Provide options for students to engage in self assessment.
  • Provide strategies for peer assessment, and encourage constructive feedback relating to the assessment criteria. Students might then explain how they have used peer feedback to improve their final product.

Every student still matters

During and post COVID-19, we will observe changes in the ways we teach and in the ways students learn. Dealing effectively with a crisis requires a return to our values and principles that guide our thinking and practice. Embracing student differences and ensuring equitable learning opportunities for all are core values and principles of inclusive philosophy and practice. Teaching inclusively in these circumstances requires creativity, innovation, agility and an open mind. We are taking this learning journey together and this resource is designed to support teachers so that they can maintain and strengthen these values in their inclusive teaching. We also hope that this resource continues to assist teachers in implementing inclusive practices once all students have returned to school.


Our acknowledgements. We would like to thank the parents/caregivers and teachers who have shared ideas with us about what’s happening in their schools and what they are aiming to achieve for all learners.


Scholarly Bibliography and Educational Websites

Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education. (2020). Providing inclusive education for children and young people with disability in a ‘time of crisis’. Retrieved from:

CAST (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. (n.d.). About accessible educational materials. Retrieved from:

Swancutt, L. (2019). Matrix of quality practice and adjustments: Students with disability. Retrieved from:

Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners (2nd. ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2016). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Dr Carly Lassig
 is a Lecturer in the QUT Faculty of Education with a passion for social justice, equity, and inclusion. Her research and teaching interests include inclusive education, differentiation, Universal Design for Learning, educational experiences of children with disability, gifted education, and creativity. Carly is passionate about reimagining schools to be places that are inclusive of all students and supporting teachers, families and students in achieving this goal.


Dr Sofia Mavropoulou is a Senior Lecturer in the QUT Faculty of Education. Her research and teaching are focused on inclusive strategies, educational supports for social understanding, social inequalities and parenthood in autism. Sofia is very passionate about creating autism-friendly environments to accommodate the strengths and preferences of persons with autism to promote their inclusion, independence and well-being.


  • shahuda kedhera

    I would like to thank you both for the information provided. Useful tips that can use in the current situation. Look foward to reading your next one.

  • Margarita Riolobos

    Thank you for the opportunity to read this blog.
    Great ideas and strategies.
    We need lots of ideas, strategies with the aim to better ourselves in the way we can teach our students during this period of time.
    All these are valuable to assist me in assisting my students to achieve.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *