Feeling heard: Inclusive education, transformative learning, and productive struggle

Diana Murdoch (Lead Author), Andrea R English, Allison Hintz, Kersti Tyson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Developments in international inclusive education policy, including in prominent UN documents, often refer to the aim of a quality education for all. Yet, it remains unclear: What exactly is meant by quality education? And, under what conditions are quality educational experiences possible for all learners? In this essay, Diana Murdoch, Andrea English, Allison Hintz, and Kersti Tyson bring together research on inclusive education with philosophy of transformative learning, in particular John Dewey and phenomenology, to further the discussion on these two questions. The authors argue that teacher–learner relationships, of a particular kind, are necessary for fostering environments wherein all learners have access to quality educational experiences associated with productive struggle as an indispensable aspect of transformative learning processes. They define such relationships as “educational relationships that support students to feel heard.” In developing their argument, the authors first analyze the concept of productive struggle, an aspect of learning increasingly recognized in research and policy as an indicator of quality education. Second, they discuss three necessary, though not sufficient, conditions for the teacher to cultivate educational relationships that support students to feel heard. Third, they draw out connections between environments that support feeling heard and those that support productive struggle, and they discuss teachers' challenges and risk‐taking in creating such environments. The authors close with a discussion of implications for international policy, practice, and research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-679
Number of pages27
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2021


  • transformative learning
  • inclusive education
  • productive struggle
  • John Dewey
  • reflective teaching
  • teacher listening
  • educational policy
  • educational relationships


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