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Inclusive instruction

location_on Helsinki, Finland

Ways to structure an inclusive classroom

An inclusive school welcomes all students. This innovation gives you concrete ideas on how to implement inclusive instruction in elementary and high schools.

Finland 100


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100






March 2017
Inclusivity forms the foundation for the whole school community: everyone must commit to the model.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

Inclusive instruction aims to create a feeling of belonging, a community in which all students are equal despite the needs they have and the support they receive.

The aim is to ensure support for every student within their group. This is a model in which students share their school day and belong to the same group. In inclusive teaching, all students work in the same group while taking advantage of different ways to utilize school spaces and classroom layouts.

The inclusive instruction model can be implemented with co-teaching, which benefits students and teachers as well as the quality of teaching. The aim is to get all kinds of students to work together under the guidance of a grade teacher and a special education teacher.

The inclusion model requires more from the school building than a traditional way of teaching does. The school’s classrooms have to make it possible to differentiate instruction and divide spaces flexibly. Spaces that are separate yet connected to each other are most useful. Be creative with how you use your school building: in addition to classrooms, you could use the hallways, the school yard, meeting rooms and the assembly hall as learning environments.

In inclusive instruction, the main criteria of forming student groups are group dynamics and the group’s ability to work together. Classroom and teaching practices are chosen based on the situation. This model could also be used with a syllabus based on courses and periods: groups can then be altered regularly to promote better collaboration.

Inclusive instruction can be implemented in many different ways. The following steps describe examples of how classes can be organized. They are based on the inclusive teaching practices used at the Pasila comprehensive school since 2009 and the training material provided by the Niilo Mäki Institute.

Try out the following experiments to find the methods that best suit your class!

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


Differentiation does not require separating students into different classes. All students can be part of one community if you use creative teaching methods.


The students develop a sense of belonging that is not affected by their skill level, special needs or background.


This innovation can be applied in all kinds of school environments as long as your classrooms allows for different types of student groupings.

Implementation steps

Changing your way of thinking
Inclusive instruction requires you to change your way of thinking and your teaching practices.

Teachers may have to redefine their own role as a teacher and challenge their classroom routines. What does it mean to have two teachers in a classroom? How can you take advantage of teachers’ expertise, for example a special education teacher’s, a subject teacher’s or a grade teacher’s? How can you utilize the spaces in your school, when the whole group won’t always work in the same space during inclusive instruction. How will the rhythm of the school day and lessons change?

Communication between staff and instilling the new way of thinking into your school are the keys to success. You could hold several staff meetings, where you discuss inclusive instruction and how your teachers think about it.

Two teachers in the same classroom
In this method, one teacher teaches the class while another moves around the room.

There could even be three teachers! The method has many benefits: students hear dialogue between teachers, the presence of two adults has a calming effect on the class, and it works especially well with group discussions.

This method only works if you have time to plan together. The teachers have to agree on who does what during class and how the work will be divided – this might also change quickly during class. Having good chemistry between the teachers will smooth things out.

Students will soon get used to having two teachers in the classroom, but it will take practice.

Two teachers and two groups in separate spaces
This works with big groups and with tasks that require peace and quiet to focus on the task at hand.

When teachers divide the students into two groups and work in separate rooms, you can ensure that every student will get attention and no-one can ‘hide’.

Dividing up into two spaces and two groups can work especially well with lessons where students will be building on their core skills, such as writing or elementary mathematics.

Students can be assigned to mixed groups or according to skill level or motivation. Groups based on skill levels can be useful in lessons such as mathematics, languages and reading classes. However, it can prevent students from learning from each other. If this approach is chosen, it’s best to mix the groups regularly so divisions aren’t created and everyone has a chance to learn from each other, no matter their skill level or ability.

It could also be helpful to note how individual students best learn. A pupil may enjoy competitive environments where their skill levels are matched by their peers’ and are therefore pushed by others in the class to better their understanding. Or a pupil may do better when they feel they have a stronger grasp on a subject than others, and learn best through helping and explaining to others how something works, improving their own knowledge through mutual discussion.

The whole group in the same room with work stations
This way of working is a great way to differentiate between different students needs, especially when you have students that need more advanced material.

The students can either move between stations freely or work in groups for the duration of the class.

Pay attention to the same things as in step 3: how you divide your students into groups and how you rationalize it to your students is key to the success of this method.

Two teachers in the same space, one of them working with a smaller group on the side
This method is a good way to take advantage of different teaching styles.

The smaller group can be used to add to the instruction given to the larger group, it can offer more personalized support to students that require it, or it can be used to teach more advanced topics.

Plan how you will pace the lesson beforehand: the danger of this method is having two competing lecturers in the same room.

Teaching in teams
Teaching in teams allows teachers to play to their strengths and promotes personal development.

Teachers will teach the class in turns, so the teachers must have a shared vision and be able to give space to the other teacher.

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