IKEA hack to promote student interest and choice

A boy and girl look at a children's wood spinning wheel.
Credit: ikea.com

An IKEA hack to promote student interest and choice. Intrigued? Read on to discover how a simple product is used to implement a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) checkpoint.

Educators with knowledge of UDL likely recognise its benefit in engaging students, supporting understanding and representing their learning. The challenge is found in finding the time to explore strategies to implement UDL.

We are here to help! This post commences a series that discusses simple tools or strategies, including the IKEA hack, to implement UDL principles into teaching and learning activities…right away!

First, some background orientation. UDL Guidelines assist educators to vary instructional methods to provide greater access to, and interest in, learning. The UDL guidelines work with three principles, including providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression.  Each principle in the guidelines is then divided into checkpoints that break the principles into meaningful descriptions with actionable parts.

This post focuses on the first checkpoint, ‘recruiting interest’ in the ‘engagement’ principle. One way to achieve this is to optimise individual choice and autonomy.

A simple strategy is to use choice boards. A choice board is a tool that provides options for students to choose different ways to learn about a particular concept. Choice boards are often presented as a 3×3 grid graphic organiser. However, to cater to different ages and interest levels, the choice board concept can be extended to clickable choices on a digital platform or a choice spinner. This is where IKEA’s LUSTIGT ‘Wheel of Fortune’ chocolate-wheel style spinner comes in. Cover the spinning wheel segments with student learning options to create a fun and interactive choice board-style tool.

For older or more experienced students, the ‘flipped classroom’ model is a strategy to optimise autonomy.  This is an approach where students are provided with content to consume independently prior to working with it in the formal learning environment. The approach supports students to prepare for the next learning sequence at their own pace. Multiple formats of presenting the content should be used. Ultimately, less formal class time is taken working through the initial content, allowing students to engage in deeper learning activities and apply their knowledge and understanding.

Return to Online Learning

A colourful illustration depicting a webinar on desktop and laptop computers.As schools and tertiary institutions in parts of Australia return to online learning, making the experience workable, inclusive and meaningful for all students is at the forefront of many educators’ minds.

Online learning requires educators to be active and directive in facilitating learning. Setting guidelines and expectations up front is paramount to include and engage all students. Just as in the face-to-face environment, when we educate online, relationships are still at the heart of learning. Creating a presence in the online environment is a key element.

Katie Novack and Tom Thibodeau share ways to create an online presence in their book UDL in the Cloud. They also show how to identify potential barriers to learning, develop a detailed syllabus that inspires and motivates students, and delivery strategies and help to scaffold students’ time management skills.

Inclusive Schools Australia has done some of the preliminary thinking with a one-page quick-start guide to inclusive online learning. It gives examples of specific activities aligned to UDL checkpoints.

Then, to go deeper, Educause provides the transcript and slides of a webinar they hosted by CAST. It aims to support educators to reach all students in the time of COVID-19. The learning shares how UDL can be applied to remote instruction. It discusses some best practices and provides resources to integrate UDL into courses and programs.

This is valuable for considering ways to address access, build meaningful learning, and support independence in course or program design under the current conditions.

The National Center for Assistive Education Materials has a dedicated resource hub for information on assistive technologies. This is useful information on how to use assistive technologies or other resources to support learners to access online learning. The site hosts webinars focusing on tools and resources to support the transition to remote learning in response to COVID-19. The list of resources is extensive. Of particular value are the webinars on making accessible videos, captioning videos and making documents and slides accessible. Recordings, slides and handouts are available to watch or download.

Read more about UDL and online learning in a previous post.

UDL in Occupational Therapy Education

A young man with crutches walks through a door held open by a clinician.Occupational therapists work with just about every human condition you can think of. Their clientele is diverse, but are their professional teaching methods suited to a diverse population? This question is the subject of a new article from the United States.

The article reports on a survey of occupational therapy (OT) educators. They found that while most respondents knew about Universal Design for Learning (UDL), less than half could define it. 

The article discusses how the respondents fared with the three tenets of UDL: multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression. They found that OT assistant education used some UDL techniques such as games, feedback and incentives. These strategies were not evident at higher education levels. 

OT educators focus is on ensuring all content is delivered. That’s because the content covers such a broad spectrum and is subject to accreditation standards. However, the American Occupational Therapy Association has identified research priorities to find teaching methods that maximise learning for practitioners.

The authors sum up that with the recent pandemic the “need for a greater understanding and implementation of UDL tenets is more important than ever.” It will ensure today’s students become competent practitioners.

The title of the article is, Implementation of UDL in Occupational Therapy Education. It is open access.

Abstract: This exploratory research surveyed educators’ use of universal design for learning (UDL) in occupational therapy education. Most common methods of engagement were displaying enthusiasm, providing examples, and offering learner feedback; representation was primarily offered through class discussion, lab experiences, and images; methods of action or expression were most frequently class discussion, projects, practicums and tests. The type of program, years of educators’ clinical experience and faculty rank influenced some factors of UDL implementation. Further use of UDL principles that could facilitate improved learning outcomes of diverse learners within occupational therapy education is discussed.

A short article by Bethan Collins looks at both sides of UDL – for OTs and for clients.

Functional Maths for Refugees: The Role of UDL

A woman using a claculator and computer for functional maths tasks.In a previous post, we explored the use of UDL in migrant and refugee education. The focus of this post is on functional maths for refugees and the role of UDL. Everyday maths is needed for things such as recipes and bus timetables. 

In her paper, Joana Caniglia, highlights both the necessity for and complexity of mathematics for everyday functions for refugees establishing themselves in a new country. She writes in the American context, but the maths skills noted are, of course, relevant in Australia. Some of these functions include navigating public transport timetables, buying groceries with a different monetary system, shopping for necessities, and applying for social services.

Caniglia says the complexity of the mathematics required by these activities poses a significant barrier for adult refugees with limited English and interrupted education. 

Identifying and overcoming barriers to learning lies at the heart of UDL. 

Caniglia‘s paper reports on a year-long project that sought to uncover a mathematics educator’s assumptions brought to the teaching of functional mathematics skills for small groups of refugee women. One of these assumptions is that maths is a universal language.

Although some mathematical calculations and strategies may be used universally, difficulties in academic language arises for refugee learners. Maths words and symbols have double meanings and English expressions can be confusing, just for starters.

In addition to a range of myths, Canigla also discusses a number of cultural themes that arise. One of the themes is that A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, But An Object and Gestures Are Worth More. She discusses how the UDL tenet of multiple means of representation supported refugee women in acquiring mathematics vocabulary. Using UDL, Canigla was able to guide the women’s development of vocabulary for measurement and cooking by using pictures, utensils, recipes, bus schedules, and newspaper advertisements.

For further reading on maths for English language learners, see the following references:

The papers above were written by Judit Moschkovich, who is a founding partner of Understanding Language. This is a workgroup of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.

UDL to Support Migrants and Refugees

A Class Of Diverse Higher Education Students Using Laptops In a LectureThis week, we take a look at using Universal Design for Learning to support migrants and refugees in English language learning in higher education.

A reader recently requested more information and references for using UDL on this topic. A great request! It is one that helps to highlight the flexibility and possibilities of UDL for making learning accessible to all.

All learners bring their own unique variability to their learning. Migrants and refugees may bring a learning profile with additional complexities. This may be due to their history, or priorities and experiences in becoming established in a new country. UDL principles provide a particularly appropriate design model, with their emphasis on design practices that cater for diversity. There’s more on this in a previous post.

An article by Katherine Danaher explores how to meet the learning needs of refugees and migrants. Her specific focus is in tertiary blended online English courses. With many tertiary providers moving to online courses during the coronavirus pandemic, this is of particular relevance.

A key feature of UDL is to consider barriers to learning prior to designing the course or lesson. Danaher explains the potential barriers of refugees and migrants in her paper. She highlights some of these barriers as being literacy, lack of prior experience, cultural factors and age.

Perhaps the most useful information in the paper is gleaned from the ‘Course Design’ section in the article. Specific pedagogies and frameworks are highlighted as being beneficial in teaching these learner groups in higher education. Flexible design, individualisation, a constructivist inquiry approach and UDL are all recommended.

Danaher quotes the National Center on Universal Design for Learning in explaining that the research-based principles of UDL are particularly appropriate for refugee and migrant learners, providing “. . . a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone – not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.” She argues that by using UDL the diverse needs of refugees and migrants with differing educational backgrounds, expectations and goals, can be catered for.

Other links to UDL for migrant and refugee learners include:

A paper by John Bensemen on the needs and responses to refugee learners with limited literacy.

Education, Immigration and Migration is a book by Arar, Brooks and Bogotch that explores how educational leaders face the issue of refugees, immigrant and migrants in educational institutions.

Refugee Background Students Transitioning Into Higher Education Navigating Complex Spaces “untangles the complex nature of transition for students of refugee background in higher education, locating it within broader social trends of increasing social and cultural diversity, as well as government practices and policies concerning the educational resettlement of refugees”.

And stay tuned for an upcoming post on UDL in mathematics teaching and learning for refugees and migrants.  

Getting Started with UDL

Illustration of five people in an open-plan office with some principles of universal design evident, including alternative seating options and wide spaces between furniture.My pathway to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was long and winding. I first came to Universal Design (UD) through architecture and the built environment. Discovering universal design felt like a deep breath out. It is all about designing with respect and consideration for all – designing with accessibility, usability, pleasurability for all who may use the building. It. Just. Made. Sense.

Naturally, the application of UD to learning makes sense as well. If you value the diversity that each of us brings to our teaching and learning, it’s good to have a tool that frames and guides teachers and learners. It helps maximise and utilise this diversity.

UDL aims to change the design of the environment rather than to change the learner. When environments are intentionally designed to reduce barriers, all learners can engage in rigorous, meaningful learning. CAST

The UDL framework is a three-part guideline. It promotes multiple options for key parts of a learning experience:

    1. engaging students
    2. explicit teaching
    3. students’ action and expression of their learning

UDL celebrates learner variability. It supports practical, realistic and achievable means of providing learning experiences that cater to a broader range of students. 

Getting Started with UDL

Universal design for learning can be implemented in any learning scenario: pre-school, school, higher education, online or face-to-face.

Due to the depth of the framework and changing existing practice, getting started with UDL can be daunting. However, some simple steps can help you get started. First, clearly define the learning goal. Next, consider learner variability and identify barriers that learners may face in reaching the goal. Then, plan flexible and meaningful assessments. Actively design the learning experience using the UDL principles of Engagement, Representation and Action and Expression, and finally, reflect on the learning engagement.

The CAST website is the birthplace and home of all things UDL, including suggestions for implementing each of the UDL framework checkpoints. You can also read more widely on the premise and goals of UDL so that for you, too, IT. JUST. MAKES. SENSE!

See more on Universal Design and more on Universal Design for Learning on the CUDA website.

Posted by Lizzie Davis

How Does UDL Support Cultural Diversity?

A montage in the shape of the world, captuing the diversity of humans.In a time when cultural diversity and the recognition of systemic inequity is in our shared consciousness, how does UDL support cultural diversity?

Joni Degner cites a range of measures in her article, How Universal Design for Learning Creates Culturally Accessible Classrooms, including:

    • co-designing learning and seeking student input and feedback,
    • seeking out students’ lived experiences and personal stories,
    • recognising students as cultural resources in developing culturally responsive learning,
    • developing a culture of connection, and
    • considering the language and discourse in which our students are immersed

Drawing on the UDL framework, embracing diversity in content and practice is the recommendation in the article, Diversity and Equity in Learning. Key suggestions include:

    • Assume students are diverse in ways that you cannot see. This may be related to race, national origin or socioeconomic status. Or it may relate to ethnicity, physical and neuro-disabilities, sexual orientation, or spiritual beliefs. There are many other possibilities, too.
    • Design group assignments and intentionally mix groups. At times, require students to work purposely with others they may not know. Ensure students in the minority are not isolated. Encourage or help set up diverse study groups.
    • Examine and consider revising texts, resources, guest speakers, examples, and authors. Include contributions from diverse scholars.

Against these suggestions, how do your teaching and learning experiences shape up?

To further your practice or understanding, read the article Culturally Responsive Teaching and UDL. It explains key terms and theories and links to the research. The article supports the understanding of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) in addition to UDL. Loui Lord Nelson and Patti Kelly Ralabate also focus on CRT and UDL in their book, Culturally Responsive Design for English Learners.

See more on UDL on the CUDA website.

 

Higher Education: Digital equity and autism

A view of Griffith University building which is new and about seven storeys high.Beware the diagnosis – it leads to stereotypes and misplaced assumptions. This was one of the findings from a research project at Griffith University. A common assumption is that people with autism find it difficult or stressful in social situations. For example, university discussion groups and making presentations. An assumption that follows is online learning would be their preferred learning method. Turns out this is not the case. Indeed, they had difficulty with online content for three key reasons. And these are also experienced by neurotypical students:

    1. Students had problems identifying which parts of the online content were most important
    2. They needed clarification of content by instructors to aid their online learning
    3. Students found it helpful when the instructor communicated links between content across the weeks or modules. 

So, the diagnosis is not the person. The research paper includes a literature review and a survey of students who identified as having autism. The paper has much useful information regarding the design of teaching and learning. The major point is that what’s good for students with autism is good for everyone. 

The title of the study is, “Online learning for university students on the autism spectrum: A systematic review and questionnaire study”. It was published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology – special issue: Digital Equity. It’s open access.

Abstract: Online course delivery is increasingly being used by universities to deliver accessible and flexible learning environments. As this mode of delivery grows it is important to consider the equity of the learning experience for all students. As online delivery may reduce challenges and stressors present in face-to-face delivery, it could be suggested that it may promote student learning for specific student groups, including those with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. However, little is known about the experience of learning online for students on the autism spectrum. This article presents findings from two studies: a systematic review of the literature and a survey of students on the autism spectrum studying online. From the systematic literature review, only four previous studies were identified reporting on this topic. Findings from two studies identified that the online environment provided both facilitators of and barriers to the learning experience for students on the autism spectrum. Although the online environment provided flexibility for learning, how design factors are employed in online delivery may unintentionally create barriers to the learning experience for students on the spectrum. An outcome from this study has been the creation of a suite of resources to assist with course design and delivery. Implications for practice or policy:

•  Consider the impact of course design on students with diverse learning profiles.
•  Not all students disclose their diagnosis, so ensure methods of accessing support are clear.
•  Work proactively to ensure that interactions with instructors and are responsive and flexible to facilitate the online learning of all students.  

DI and UDL: Is there a difference?

A woman in a blue shirt and a long pig tail has her hands upturned and eyes wide in a pose of confusion.Confused about the differences between Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)? A previous post explains the two concepts in basic terms, and from two perspectives – one from Katie Novak and the other from New Zealand Ministry of Education. But what about the literature on this topic? 

 A recent systematic review provides an insight into the views of the two approaches to inclusion. And yes, there is a bit of “fuzziness” between the two.

The systematic review confirmed that confusion exists when examining the two frameworks. They explored twenty-seven peer-reviewed articles and found three interpretations of the two approaches. One was to diminish one approach in favour of the other, another was to include DI within UDL, and incompatibility was the third approach.  

The authors conclude the approaches are complementary theories; DI is embedded within UDL and that DI is a model independent of UDL. However, descriptions of the interrelationships in the literature tended to rely on perception rather than evidence. 

The authors reference studies that show they are both are inclusive pedagogical models. They have the potential to transform education systems by counteracting the existing one-size-fits-all approach. 

The article provides a salient overview of the importance of pedagogical approaches that aim to reach all students, as a foundation to truly inclusive education.

The title of the article is, ” Exploring the interrelationship between Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiated Instruction (DI): A systematic review”. It’s open source from ScienceDirect.

See more on UDL on CUDA website.

Moves to online instruction: accessibility cheat sheet

A computer screen shows a man in a blue jacket standing in front of a blackboard.The sudden move to online instruction runs the risk of forgetting accessibility features. A cheat sheet on making a quick move to online instruction has some handy tips. Some are obvious, but of course, they are obvious once they are mentioned. Basics such as, make sure you don’t have a bright light behind you. But other tips are not so obvious for accessible online instruction:

– Don’t try to do anything you are not comfortable with
– Focus on the essential learning
– Keep lectures shorter
– Make documents accessible and caption videos
– Allow a range of assignment options
– Find ways to work out what works and what doesn’t
– Make expectations clear

This one pager has a brief explanation on each of the tips and should help give confidence to instructors making the change. Many tips are good for video meetings as well. The cheat sheet comes from Disability Compliance for Higher Education.