UNE Associate Professor Jeanette Berman expected her collaborative research in inclusive education to be a useful resource on her home turf of Australia and New Zealand. But she and her co-authors couldn’t anticipate the extraordinary impact it would have further afield, in South America.

Jeanette and two UNE colleagues at the time – Professor Lorraine Graham, and PhD graduate Dr Anne Bellert – penned the book ‘Sustainable Learning: Inclusive Practices for 21st Century Classrooms’, published in 2015, to share their knowledge on a topic close to their heart.

“Great teachers are inclusive teachers,” Jeanette says. “Inclusive education is not about sorting and separating students, it’s about building the knowledge of teachers and ensuring they are expert at responding to the learning needs of their students.

“I’m passionate about everybody being included as part of their community and in their local schools.”

For her part, Jeanette drew on her decades of experience at UNE, as Director of Educational Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand, as a teacher in Western Sydney and as a school psychologist across NSW and the ACT, as a starting point for her research for the book. It’s about best practice, she says, not a new way of teaching.

“It’s about recognising a class is full of individual learners, and teaching them in the best possible way so they become sustained learners throughout life, and meaningful contributors in our complex, dynamic world,” she says.

It’s a message the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education fully embraced.

“Our book, Sustainable Learning, was picked up by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education and has become the basis of a national professional learning program over four years. So far, 11,000 teachers have been involved in the program, and that is making a difference for many students with and without disabilities who are in their classrooms.

“We were lucky to be able to visit one school from which 10 teachers had participated in our program, and to hear about what a difference this professional learning had made to them and their students.

“This project has opened up an area of the world that I did not really think I would ever go to, but to be able to go to Ecuador to teach teachers has been an enormous privilege and honour, and I have learnt so much from this,” Jeanette says.

“Our work has been translated into Spanish to be used in schools in Ecuador. It’s just wonderful that the work has proven to be transferable to such a different cultural context from the Australian and New Zealand contexts within which it was written.”

Image: Dr Anne Bellert, Professor Lorraine Graham and A/Professor Jeanette Berman in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The banner reads: ‘A responsive teacher is fundamental to inclusive education’.