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Watch the presentation about examining our beliefs and assumptions about disability. Read the discussion on the next pages for further information.

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Meet the presenter

Hi, I’m Etta. I’m one of the people who got teacher aide support at school.
M4 10 Narrator Etta Bollinger

M4 What do we think about disability and diversity?

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Examining our beliefs about disability and diversity

Why this module?

We each bring our own values and beliefs to our work. We may not even be aware of the ways we think about people and how these thoughts can affect what we do and say. Thinking about and recognising our assumptions about disability and difference can strengthen our work in schools – with students and with colleagues. Our assumptions about disability and diversity can support inclusive practice, but they can also create barriers to students participating and learning.

Examining our beliefs

All learners are active, capable and competent. If we think a student is not capable, we tend to remove opportunities for that student to try the same activities as their peers. Recognising beliefs about disability and diversity can strengthen educators’ work. When teachers and teacher aides think everyone is a capable learner, they provide opportunities for everyone to participate and learn. Doing this well may require changes in people’s attitudes, behaviours and ways of working.

Ask yourself: Are there times when I have prevented a student from trying the same activity as their peers? How might I have done that?

Getting to know students

Some students may learn differently to their peers but they are still active learners. When teachers and teacher aides get to know and develop a relationship with each student, they tend to look past a student’s disability and see them as a whole person who is competent and capable.

Ask yourself: How do I create opportunities for students to show me what they can do and what they love to do?

Having high expectations

The principles of inclusion align with the guiding principles of The Māori Education Strategy: Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013–2017. Ka Hikitia states:

Students who expect and are expected to succeed are more likely to succeed.

— Ministry of Education, 2012, p. 38

Teachers and teacher aides who have high expectations believe that all students can be successful, regardless of background or disability. This belief shows in their behaviour: they find ways and supports to help all their students grow and progress.

Where teachers and teacher aides are aware of low expectations, they work through a process of examining and changing their beliefs.

Ask yourself: What are my expectations for students with additional learning needs? If they are less than for other students, why do I expect less? How can I show students I expect them to succeed?

Valuing diversity

Diversity is about ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender and first languages, as well as disability. When we value all people, we value difference as a strength. It’s about acknowledging that identity, language and culture count.

Students do better in education when what and how they learn builds on what is familiar to them, and reflects and positively reinforces where they come from, what they value and what they already know.

— Ministry of Education, 2012, p. 38

Ask yourself: How are students’ identities, languages and cultures reflected in the way I work with them and what we do? How do I connect with what they already know?

Ako: everyone is a teacher and a learner

When teachers and teacher aides recognise they are learners too, they recognise opportunities to learn from each other and from students and families and whānau.

Ako describes a teaching and learning relationship where the educator is also learning from the student in a two-way process.

— Ministry of Education, 2012, p. 38

Ask yourself: How can we learn from each other? How can we learn from our students?


Ministry of Education. (2012). The Māori Education Strategy: Ka Hikitia. Accelerating Success 2013–2017. Wellington: Ministry of Education.