Establishing inclusive learning environments

Alberta's approach to inclusion within the education system is based on all children and students being meaningfully engaged in the program of studies. The goal of inclusion is to ensure that each learner belongs and receives a high quality education regardless of their ability, disability, language, cultural background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or other characteristic.

Inclusive education is not about rules or eligibility criteria. It is not just about learners with special needs. It is about making educational decisions based on the best interests of learners.

The principles of inclusion help guide and inform learner-centered decisions at every level of Alberta's education system.

  • Anticipate, value and support diversity and learner differences
  • Set high expectations for all learners
  • Understand learners' strengths and needs
  • Remove barriers within learning environments
  • Build capacity
  • Collaborate for success

Alberta Education resources

For further information and resources on establishing an inclusive learning environment see each topic area below:

Instructional supports - Planning instruction that acknowledges and honours diversity means thoughtfully selecting instructional supports that maximize student achievement.

Differentiation - Differentiated instruction is a philosophy and an approach to teaching in which teachers and school communities actively work to support the learning of all students through strategic assessment, thoughtful planning and targeted, flexible instruction.

Individualized Program Plan - Students are at the center of the Individualized Program Plan and Individual Student Profile (IPP/ISP) process. When the focus is on students' individual strengths, needs and participation, the IPP/ISP process can provide many benefits for all partners.

Transitions - Transitions are any events that result in changes to relationships, routines, expectations or roles. Although they are a normal part of life, these changes can be difficult for students.

Positive behaviour supports - Positive behaviour supports is a school-wide effort to promote positive social and communication skills, while reducing and preventing problem behaviours.

Assistive Technology for Learning - Assistive Technology for Learning (ATL) is a subset of a broad range of technologies that enhance students' learning.

Welcoming, Caring, Respective and Safe Schools - Students, parents and school authorities have responsibilities for ensuring welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.

Medical conditions - Teachers may need to access information about specific medical conditions and/or disabilities to better understand the learning needs of some students.

Gifted and talented - School-aged children who are gifted may have different strengths and needs, and may be very different from one another. Each student who is gifted has an individual profile of abilities, needs, interests and learning preferences.

Mental health - Just like physical health, everyone has mental health. It begins at birth and continues throughout life. Good mental health is not merely the absence of mental health problems.

Childhood development - The first six years of a child's life are important to their development and future education. Children who are cared for and have positive experiences during the early years are more likely to develop and learn in ways that help them meet their full potential.

English as a Second Language - English as a Second Language (ESL) programming helps students learn English while also learning about Canadian cultural values, customs and social expectations. (K to 6), (7 to 9), (10 to 12)

Inclusive Education Library

Information and forms in the Inclusive Education Library can assist in establishing an inclusive learning environment. The Library has sample forms for gathering information about students' strengths, interests, and learner preferences.


First Nations, Métis and Inuit

Applying foundation knowledge

The First Nations, Métis and Inuit competencies in the professional practice standards for teachers, school leaders, jurisdiction leaders, and superintendents are integral to Alberta Education's efforts to fulfil the government's commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

These standards set out clear expectations for what teachers, school leaders, jurisdiction leaders and superintendents need to know about the histories, experiences, cultures, contributions, and perspectives of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

This foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit is critical for teachers, school leaders and education stakeholders to understand and apply new ways of knowing necessary to advance reconciliation and shift thinking and attitudes. It will also help to ensure the education system continues to build capacity to include First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives in the classroom and curriculum.

Through the Joint Commitment to Action Alberta Education, the Alberta Teachers' Association, the Alberta Association of Deans of Education, the Alberta School Boards Association, the Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia, the College of Alberta School Superintendents, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation are collaborating to ensure that the professional learning needs of all education professionals related to First Nations, Métis and Inuit education are addressed. These organizations have developed numerous supports for professionals and are a source of understanding this competency.

Alberta Education resources

Walking Together: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Perspectives in Curriculum - This cross-curricular resource provides historically accurate and culturally authentic information about Alberta's First Nations, Métis, and Inuit for teachers to use as they bring First Nations, Métis, and Inuit perspectives and Indigenous pedagogical approaches into teaching and learning.

Guiding Voices: A Curriculum Tool for Infusion of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Perspectives - Guiding Voices was created to guide the development and evaluation of provincially and locally developed curriculum (programs of study, assessments, as well as learning and teaching resources), and is intended to assist those involved in development to include accurate and relevant First Nations, Métis, and Inuit perspectives and content across curriculum.

Our Words, Our Ways: Teaching First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learners (PDF, 3.8 MB) - This resource offers information and sample strategies that classroom teachers can use to help their Indigenous students be more successful learners, and provides information on Aboriginal cultures and perspectives. Our Words, Our Ways discusses the importance of family and community involvement; includes shared wisdom from Elders and Aboriginal scholars and related stories shared by teachers of Aboriginal students; and provides information on learning disabilities and recognizing the gifts of individual students.

Facilitator Guide for the Impact of Residential Schools Workshop (PDF, 1.2 MB) - This workshop facilitator guide provides content and processes to support the Impacts of Residential Schools Workshop. The guide contains a variety of learning opportunities and is intended to be adapted based on participant and community needs.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit Collaborative Framework: Building Relationships (PDF, 3.7 MB) - The FNMI Collaborative Framework serves as a guide to strengthen collaborative processes between school authorities, parents, communities and other stakeholders as they work together to improve the educational outcomes of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students.

Aboriginal Collection: A Thematic Listing of Resources with Aboriginal Content (PDF, 2.2 MB) - This resource consists of bibliographic information and annotations for a selection of children's books and other resources containing Indigenous content. Resource listings are correlated with the Alberta Social Studies Program of Studies and are sorted by grade level. The listings include reviewer ratings and recommendations.

Teaching and Learning Through Culture: Incorporating Aboriginal Perspectives into the Elementary Curriculum (PDF, 2.2 MB) - This document provides teachers with background information and describes effective practices to support Indigenous perspectives within the Alberta Social Studies Program of Studies.

Additional competency resources

Teaching Quality Standard (TQS)

Quality teaching occurs when the teacher's ongoing analysis of the context, and the teacher's decisions about which pedagogical knowledge and abilities to apply, result in optimum learning for all students. This includes:

Fostering effective relationships

A teacher builds positive and productive relationships with students, parents/guardians, peers and others in the school and local community to support student learning.

Engaging in career-long learning

A teacher engages in career-long professional learning and ongoing critical reflection to improve teaching and learning.

Demonstrating a professional body of knowledge

A teacher applies a current and comprehensive repertoire of effective planning, instruction, and assessment practices to meet the learning needs of every student.

Adhering to legal frameworks and policies

A teacher demonstrates an understanding of and adherence to the legal frameworks and policies that provide the foundations for the Alberta education system.

Leadership Quality Standard (LQS)

Quality leadership occurs when the leader's ongoing analysis of the context, and decisions about what leadership knowledge and abilities to apply, result in quality teaching and optimum learning for all school students.

The Guide to Education is a useful resource developed by Alberta Education for the use of administrators, counsellors, teachers and other parties engaged in the delivery of quality basic education. It is consistent with the objectives and underlying principles of the Education Act and contains key requirements and other information for the implementation of education programming and the operation of schools.

Fostering effective relationships

A leader builds positive working relationships with members of the school community and local community.

Leading a learning community

A leader nurtures and sustains a culture that supports evidence-informed teaching and learning.

Leading a learning community

A leader nurtures and sustains a culture that supports evidence-informed teaching and learning.

Providing instructional leadership

A leader ensures that every student has access to quality teaching and optimum learning experiences.

Managing school operations and resources

A leader effectively directs operations and manages resources.

Understanding and responding to the larger societal context

A leader understands and appropriately responds to the political, social, economic, legal and cultural contexts impacting schools and the school authority.

Additional resources

Additional resources, separated by competency.

TQS: Fostering Effective Relationships

TQS: Engaging in Career-Long Learning

TQS: Demonstrating a Professional Body of Knowledge

TQS: Adhering to Legal Frameworks and Policies

LQS: Fostering Effective Relationships

LQS: Leading a Learning Community

LQS: Providing Instructional Leadership

LQS: Managing School Operations and Resources

LQS: Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context