Engagement, Equity, Promising Practices

Reconceptualizing Disability in Education

Luigi Iannacci’s Reconceptualizing Disability in Education elevates the discussion of how we “do” school for learners with disabilities and outlines pedagogical practices and discourses that favourably shape the identities of such learners.

Iannacci’s narrative style will appeal to all levels of educators, from elementary to graduate schools of teacher education, and to scholars working in the areas of inclusion, special education, and literacy. I have used this book in both an undergraduate class and a graduate class on personalized learning, to elucidate the connections among inclusion, 21st century notions of student-centered practices, and the implications of using multiliteracies to reach the needs of all learners. The pre-service teachers in my class were particularly moved by Chapter 3’s recounting of the story Evan’s Paper Crane, a transformative anecdote about a student who finds joy and empowerment in becoming the “knower” and “the skillful one.” My graduate class was taken with both the scope and boldness of the writing, as Iannacci explains why current practices for students with disabilities are woefully inadequate, and calls for a reconceptualization of disability in education

This carefully crafted book will inspire educators to develop an inclusive learning environment informed by multiliteracies. Eschewing prescriptive strategies for setting up such an environment, Iannacci points to foundational principles that involve immersion in a variety of multimodal texts that enable literacy development for all students by thinking about them in asset-oriented ways, then differentiating instruction to ensure their success.

The book’s special chapter for parents provoked a productive discussion in my classes of how to approach and support the families of these learners.

It is rare to find a “good read” that also serves as an excellent reference text for educators who are advocating for learners with disabilities. This book does just that.

Photo: Dave Donald

First published in Education Canada, June 2020

Lexington Books, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-1498542753

Meet the Expert(s)


Dr. Ruthanne Tobin

Associate Professor, University of Victoria

Ruthanne Tobin is Associate Professor of Language and Literacy in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. The focus of her research is on personalized learning models that consider the needs, strengths and aspirations of diverse literacy learners.

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