Social inclusion as an unfinished verb: a practice-based approach

Lynne Maree Keevers, Paula Abuodha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Australian Government has embarked on a social inclusion agenda that includes ambitious targets to increase and widen participation in higher education. From the evidence to date their approach to social inclusion in higher education focuses attention on statistical indicators of "proportional representation". Most of the available measures of social inclusion and exclusion have an individualistic focus and tend to characterise social exclusion as a "state" in which people are assumed to be "excluded" from access to higher education. Such a perspective focuses attention on the point of entry but backgrounds how the relational experience of under-represented groups in learning environments impacts on their engagement, participation and success in higher education. In this paper, we advocate an alternative, expanded, conception of social inclusion as situated, engaged, relational, ongoing practices rather than end-state orientated. We present, in a practice-based study, a framework in which the "doing" of social inclusion is conceived as a dynamic complex of practices of respect and recognition, redistribution, representation and voice, and belonging and connectedness. In this paper we suggest that the focus of social inclusion should not stop with the student. Our empirical work demonstrates that the students' learning experience and their sense of inclusion are entangled with the sessional teachers' experience of respect, recognition and representation and belonging - they are co-constitutive. We conclude that a practice-based approach broadens the focus of social inclusion beyond access and achievement to include the relations that both create and are created by institutional practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Academic Language and Learning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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