Teachers who have embraced UDL are great advocates for the process of designing learning programs that include struggling learners. However, not all teachers are amenable to the ideas – resistance to change being a major factor.
Mary E. Jordan Anstead from Walden University investigated the issues and presents them in her doctoral dissertation Teachers Perceptions of Barriers to Universal Design for Learning.
On page 64 she writes, “Research has shown that students at-risk benefit socially, emotionally, and academically from implementation of UDL. Yet, successful implementation and application of UDL are rooted in teachers’ perceptions. Educational reform that promotes the use of Universal Design for Learning on behalf of equitable instruction for all students requires a positive perception of the UDL model. Teachers need to see evidence of student success rather than being forced to implement the instructional model of the year. Real systemic change calls for work designs that permit teachers to learn, plan, and implement UDL strategies through means such as shared planning schedules to allow department or grade level collaboration, Professional Learning Communities (Hirsh, 2012), administrative modeling, peer modeling, and formal professional development.” She adds that perceptions are unlikely to change by mandating instructional changes and consequently other methods need to be found.
While the principles of universal design resonate with many, it still has its detractors. The authors of this article quote art critic Brian Sewell as saying “Had the disabled of the past been as noisy as the disabled of the present, none of the temples of ancient Greece and Rome would have been built… I am convinced no worthy building of the past should be altered to ease the passage of the rare disabled visitor, nor any of the present be designed specifically to accommodate the wheelchair.” (Sewell, 1997). This view is shared by many who would give precedence to heritage or other design values over inclusion.
Such antagonism for inclusion might stem from high profile examples which are ugly either because of poor design or because they were tacked on as an afterthought. However the authors, Jim Harrison, Kevin Busby, and Linda Horgan, argue there are some design tutors who perpetuate such attitudes and hence influence their students.
This paper provides an interesting and comprehensive discussion on ways in which architecture and design schools can include universal design into their curricula, and how they can work with other professionals such as occupational therapists who can explain the functionality of designs.
The Eurpoean Union’s Europe 2020 Strategy recognises that students with disability are still chronically at high risk for school failure and under performance. The aim is not to change the students but to redesign, adapt and personalise instructional methods. If you’ve wondered what Universal Design for Learning is about – the introduction to this article should help.
From the Abstract: “Grounded on new research in neuroscience and the Design for All principles, Universal Design for Learning constitutes an educational approach that promotes access, participation and progress in the general curriculum for all learners. UDL recognises the need to create opportunities for the inclusion of diverse learners through providing curricula and instructional activities that allow for multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement. Yet, these developments do not necessarily result in significant, widespread changes in practice – that is, in how schools actually organise and provide learning experiences for pupils. The difficulty is in all cases translating these policies into practice. Though the policy context supports a shift to inclusion, professionals need more support to develop their practice. In order to bridge the gap between policy and practice the UDLnet network aspires to address this necessity collecting and creating best practices under the framework of Universal Design for Learning. UDLnet is a European network that aims to contribute to the improvement of teachers’ practice in all areas of their work, combining ICT skills with UDL-based innovations in pedagogy, curriculum, and institutional organization. This paper presents the UDLnet project, its aims, the methodological framework, as well as the description and documentation of a case study from the field of science with application of the UDL framework on the Inventory.
This conference paper from the conference proceedings book, Open Discovery Space Conference held in Athens, Greece 18-20 september 2015
It’s buff. Get over it!
This short opinion piece highlights the attitudinal hurdles towards inclusion within higher education institutions in the UK .
“Some, though by no means all, staff in Higher Education seem to take the view that the language of inclusivity is somehow Orwellian in nature and that ‘reasonable adjustment’ is in fact rather unreasonable. Concepts such as inclusive practice or universal design are often regarded with suspicion both in principle and in practice. It is sometimes argued for example that it will be too time consuming and impractical for staff to undertake such measures. Others have protested that it is also unfair on the very students it aims to support because it results in ‘molly coddling’, a failure to ‘prepare them for the real world’, and a slackening of ‘academic standards’ … The fact is that more inclusive practices very often improve the experiences and opportunities for all students as well as being much more manageable for staff.”
Student Engagement and Experience Journal Volume 4, Issue 1 ISSN (online)
Mark.O’Hara@bcu.ac.uk O’Hara, M. and Egan, H.