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EDAP612 Learner Differences and Learner Needs

Unit rationale, description and aim

At a time of rapid ongoing change in society and education, the role of an educator or allied professional with specialist knowledge and skills is critical to helping all children, especially those with diverse and/or atypical needs, attain the knowledge and skills they need for successful, lifelong learning.

This subject provides educators with a framework for understanding how students know and learn. The framework integrates and draws on contemporary theories of cognitive, emotional, social and cultural development. Educators can use the framework to unpack students' learning profiles and to make a range of decisions relating to effective inclusive practice. It applies the framework to literacy and numeracy learning, and to the development of autonomous self-managing learners. The knowing and learning framework is aligned with contemporary models of brain processing.

The aim of this unit is to support students in developing the required advanced knowledge, understanding and expert skills they need in address the differences and needs of individual learners.

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 - Demonstrate an understanding of contemporary theories of knowledge acquisition and learning (GA4, GA5; APST (Lead) 1.2)

LO2 - Demonstrate an understanding of the variables which can impact on the learning process and lead to individual differences in learning (GA1, GA4, GA5; APST (Lead) 1.2)

LO3 - Identify common learning difficulties particularly in the area of numeracy and literacy (GA1, GA5, GA8; APST (Lead) 1.2, 5.4, 6.4, (HA) 7.1)

LO4 - Develop and or identify appropriate and inclusive intervention strategies for students with learning difficulties and learning disabilities (GA1, GA5, GA6, GA8; APST (HA) 1.5, 4.5, 7.1, (Lead) 1.6, 2.3, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.6, 4.1, 4.3, 6.4)

LO5 - Analyse elements of and differences between key international, national and local policy frameworks and legalisation. which inform educational practice and pedagogical approaches to inclusive learning (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10; APST (HA) 1.3; 7.1, 7.2)

Graduate attributes

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

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively 

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

GA6 - Solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

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

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - Utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively


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

1.2 Understand how students learn (Lead)

Lead processes to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching programs using research and workplace knowledge about how students learn

1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds (Highly Accomplished)

Support colleagues to develop effective teaching strategies that address the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities (Highly Accomplished)

Evaluate learning and teaching programs, using student assessment data, that are differentiated for the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

1.6 Strategies to support full participation of students with disability (Lead)

Initiate and lead the review of school policies to support the engagement and full participation of students with disability and ensure compliance with legislative and/or system policies.

2.3 Curriculum, assessment and reporting (Lead)

Lead colleagues to develop learning and teaching programs using comprehensive knowledge of curriculum, assessment and reporting requirements.

2.5 Literacy and numeracy strategies (Lead)

Monitor and evaluate the implementation of teaching strategies within the school to improve students’ achievement in literacy and numeracy using research-based knowledge and student data.

3.1 Establish challenging learning goals (Lead)

Demonstrate exemplary practice and high expectations and lead colleagues to encourage students to pursue challenging goals in all aspects of their education.

3.2 Plan, structure and sequence learning programs (Lead)

Exhibit exemplary practice and lead colleagues to plan, implement and review the effectiveness of their learning and teaching programs to develop students’ knowledge, understanding and skills.

3.6 Evaluate and improve teaching programs (Lead)

Conduct regular reviews of teaching and learning programs using multiple sources of evidence including: student assessment data, curriculum documents, teaching practices and feedback from parents/ carers, students and colleagues.

4.1 Support student participation (Lead)

Demonstrate and lead by example the development of productive and inclusive learning environments across the school by reviewing inclusive strategies and exploring new approaches to engage and support all students.

4.3 Managing challenging behaviour (Lead)

Lead and implement behaviour management initiatives to assist colleagues to broaden their range of strategies.

4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically (Highly Accomplished)

Model, and support colleagues to develop, strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.

5.4 Interpret student data (Lead)

Coordinate student performance and program evaluation using internal and external student assessment data to improve teaching practice.

6.4 Apply professional learning and improve student learning (Lead)

Advocate, participate in and lead strategies to support high-quality professional learning opportunities for colleagues that focus on improved student learning.

7.1 Meet professional ethics and responsibilities (Highly Accomplished)

Maintain high ethical standards and support colleagues to interpret codes of ethics and exercise sound judgement in all school and community contexts.

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

Support colleagues to review and interpret legislative, administrative, and organisational requirements, policies and processes.


Topics will include: 

  • Current policies and priorities relevant to the promotion of inclusion in local schools and education systems and communities 
  • Contemporary theories of knowledge acquisition and learning. This includes multiple ways of knowing, short term and long term memory processes and structures 
  • Variables creating individual differences in the learning process.  
  • Theories of learning, maturation and cognitive development.  
  • Application to literacy and numeracy skill acquisition and intervention planning. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

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.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment will relate directly to the achievement of the outcomes above. Some flexibility may be exercised in the assessment tasks to align with the needs of the student cohort, for example, students may be working in a classroom, in an administrative role or currently on leave from teaching. 

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 in a creative and practical manner.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1 

Write a paper that evaluates the framework developed in lectures for describing regular human development from the perspective of contemporary educational psychology. 

 This task includes analysis of common elements of and differences between key international, national and local policy frameworks guiding inclusive education


LO1, LO2, LO5

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment Task 2 

Write a paper describing how you would use the framework developed in lectures and any additional content you see as appropriate to plan and implement an inclusive learning and teaching program for students who have particular learning exceptionalities.


LO3, LO4

GA1, GA5, GA6, GA8

Representative texts and references

Ashman, A. (Ed.). (2019). Education for inclusion and diversity (6th ed.). Melbourne, Vic: Pearson Australia. 

Flanagan, D.P., & Alfonso, V.C. (2018). Essentials of specific learning disability identification (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN: 1-119-31386-6. 

Foreman, P., & Arthur-Kelly, M. (Eds.). (2017). Inclusion in action (5th ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Cengage Learning. 

Hardy, I., & Woodcock, S. (2015). Inclusive education policies: Discourses of difference, diversity and deficit. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19(2), 141-164. doi: 10.1080/13603116.2014.908965Pennington, B.F. (2009). Diagnosing learning disorders: A neuropsychological framework (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press. ISBN: 978-1-59385-714-1. 

Margetts, K., & Hoy, A Woolfolk, (2019). Educational psychology (5th ed.). Melbourne, Vic: Pearson Australia.

Prior, M. (2002). Understanding specific learning difficulties (2nd ed.). UK: Taylor and Francis. 

Westwood, P. (2015). Commonsense methods for children with special needs (7th ed.).Abingdon, England: Routledge. ISBN: 978-1-31750-775-8. 

Westwood, P. (2005). Spelling: approaches to teaching and assessment. Camberwell, Vic: Australian Council for Educational Research. 

Westwood, P. (2008). What teachers need to know about reading and writing difficulties.  [online]. Camberwell, Vic: ACER Press. Availability:   

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