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EDAP612 Learner Differences and Learner Needs


EDIP607 Exceptional Learners and Learning

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit introduces students to groups within the population whose development is exceptional or atypical. The unit will explore major components of typical and atypical development. It will cover theories of growth and maturation, learning, and cognitive development with emphasis on individual differences and atypical development. Research from a range of psychological and educational fields will inform this unit. Models and theories explaining normal, accelerated, delayed, and exceptional development across childhood and adolescence will be discussed. It uses the framework for describing regular development in EDAP612 to analyse and understand various types of learning exceptionality. The implications for identification, measurement and inclusion will also be examined in this unit.

The aim of this unit is to support students in developing advanced knowledge, understanding and expert skills needed for enhancing the development of children atypical and exceptional development.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe typical and atypical development and how they relate to theories of growth, maturation, learning and cognitive development (GA1, GA8, GA9, GA10; APST 1.1, 1.2 (HA &/or Lead)

LO2 - Identify characteristics of specific atypical groups, understand the assessment involved in making a diagnosis and referral processes and be able to develop support plans for individual students and teachers. (GA1, GA3, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10; APST 3.7, 5.4,6.1, 7.1, 7.2, 7.4 (HA &/or Lead)

LO3 - Design inclusive practices, adjustment and support strategies for students with specific needs in the context of “Universal Design for Learning” and “Response to Intervention” (GA1, GA5, GA9, GA10; APST 4.1, 4.3, 7.1, 7.2 (HA &/or Lead)

LO4 - Communicate with parents and involve them in the decision making and information gathering in relation to inclusive practices, adjustments and support strategies including leading program support group meetings (GA1, GA3, GA5, GA9, GA10; APST 3.7, 4.1, 5.5, 7.1, 7.3).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.1     Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students (Lead)

1.2     Understand how students learn (Lead)

3.7     Engage parents/carers in the educative process (Lead)

4.1     Support student participation (Lead)

4.3     Managing challenging behaviour (Highly Accomplished)

5.4     Interpret student data (Highly Accomplished)

5.5     Report on student achievements (Highly Accomplished)

6.1     Identify and plan professional learning needs (Highly Accomplished)

7.1     Meet professional ethics and responsibilities (Highly Accomplished)

7.2     Comply with legislative, administrative and organisational requirements (Highly Accomplished)

7.3     Engage with the parents/carers (Highly Accomplished)

7.4     Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities (Highly Accomplished) 


Topics will include:

1.     Typical and atypical development using the synthesized framework for describing regular development in EDAP612 as a conceptual tool to explain atypical knowing:

  • broadening the framework to take into account sensory and motor processing difficulties
  • implications for identification, measurement
  • a systematic approach to understanding and identifying categories or types of atypical knowing:  DSM 
  • brain processing as a tool for understanding atypical knowing 
  • describing atypical or exceptional knowing in terms of the normal distribution; the concepts of central tendency and standard deviation. 

2.     understanding atypical development:  

  • causes of atypical development: growth and maturation, learning, and cognitive development that lead to individual differences
  • types of atypical development; accelerated, delayed, and exceptional development across childhood and adolescence 
  • factors that lead to atypical development; causes and mechanisms – genetic, biochemical and physiological, interactions with environment.  

3.    Identification and measurement of specific diagnoses. Inclusive practices for specific needs within contemporary pedagogic contexts Implications for intervention

  • Focus on literacy – causes of literacy and numeracy difficulties
  • Literacy and numeracy intervention
  • Inclusion through teaching. Mapping differentiated teaching into intervention.

4.    Academic exceptionalities

  • developmental dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia
  • Intellectual disabilities, fragile X, more severe
  • gifted and talented students

5.  Emotional and behavioural disorders

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • AD/HD

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in multi-mode and will be supported by a unit LEO (learning environment online) site. 

Engagement for learning is the key driver in the delivery of this curriculum. The unit will facilitate active participation in pedagogical approaches that demonstrate alignment of teaching, learning and assessment and incorporate:

  • Use of a core set of digital resources (including modules; readings; suggested websites and other electronic resources) to support learning and assessment;
  • Use of online tools to build a community of learners (e.g. forum; chat; podcasts; WIKI);
  • Engagement in reflective practice supported by the study of scholarly literature;
  • Critical analysis and applied learning to educational case studies for the purposes of assessment.
  • Classes may be face to face intensives and/or online

This is a 10 credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video, workshops, and assignments etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, postgraduate students need to complete and submit two graded assessment tasks. The assessment strategy used allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and skill related to exceptional children and atypical development. 

The first task (40%) requires students to examine critically the application of the framework describing the learning characteristics of one category of exceptionality. The second task (60%) requires students to apply an intervention model for teaching one category of exceptionality. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1

A critical examination of the application of the framework describing the learning characteristics of one category of exceptionality covered in lectures.  



GA1, GA8

Assessment Task 2

Application of the intervention model for teaching one category of exceptionality covered in lectures.  


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Berk, L. (2012). Child development (9th ed.)Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Hyde, M., Carpenter, L., & Conway, R. (Eds.). (2014). Diversity, inclusion and engagement. (2nd ed.).South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press

Kirk, S., Gallagher, J., Coleman, N., & Anastasiow, N. (2012). Educating exceptional children (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage learning.

Rix, J., Nind, M., Sheehy, K., Simmons, K., & Walsh, C. (Eds.). (2010). Equality, participation and inclusion (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge

Smith, C. M. M. (Ed.). (2006). Including the gifted and talented: Making inclusion work for more gifted and able learners. London, England: Routledge.

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