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. 

 

Differentiated Instruction and UDL. What’s the Difference?

A photo of a woman wondering different thingsSchools work hard to meet the needs of their learners. There are various frameworks of inclusivity, which sometimes can be confused. So what is the difference between Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

In Pathways to the Future report, the West Australian Department of Education explains,

“Inclusivity is not just for students with disabilities, but also for all students, educators, parents, families and community members. Inclusivity is an attitude or belief system that becomes embedded in policies, practices and processes. It needs to be nurtured in every educational setting.” (p.30)

The above quote is both an inspiring and practical statement of inclusivity, it is also embedded in global and national legislative obligations.

Australia signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. Together with the Disability Discrimination Act and the Disability Standards for Education, schools have a legal obligation to provide inclusive practices that ensure full equality and protection for persons with disabilities, under the law.

So what’s the difference?

So how do teachers and schools work to meet these legal/moral/social obligations? All teachers know that DI, or “differentiation”, is expected to meet the individual needs of learners. But when UDL enters the pedagogical mix, how do they align? 

UDL expert and author on the topic, Katie Novak, created a dinner party analogy to explain the difference. The illustration is that making individual meals for each guest is akin to DI. The host chooses what each guest will eat, despite individualising it for them. UDL, on the other hand, is a buffet. All diners have choice and the diner drives that choice.

The New Zealand Ministry of Education Guide, explains the two another way. It suggests that UDL is an “overarching approach focused on the inclusive design of the whole learning environment at the outset”. They state that DI, on the other hand, is a strategy that addresses “…each student’s individual levels of readiness, interest, and learning profiles”.

In the two minute video below, Katie Novak explains the dinner party analogy.

You can find more about UDL on the CUDA website

Online Learning Technologies and UDL

Image of a laptop computer in which an online learning lesson is taking place with a teacher standing in front of a chalkboard.Students around the globe are learning online. How do we make the most of online learning technologies and UDL?

David Rose, Jenna Gravel, and Yvonne Domings explain that UDL goes beyond digital technologies.  They discuss this on their question-and-answer on the CAST website. The team acknowledge that modern technology makes implementation and elaboration of UDL easier. Next, they remind us that the UDL principles are guides to successful teaching for all students. As such, educators apply the UDL principles with and without digital technology.

With students around the globe learning online, digital technologies in education have come to the fore. As a result, many resources and critiques of technologies have been shared. Find these on official education sites and social media.

A useful example is the ‘Resources’ section of the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA) website.  In addition, the Digital Technologies in Practice section contains a range of resources.

Without making direct links to UDL, there are many connections to the three UDL principles. One example is in the online information pamphlet called ‘A–Z Digital Technologies vocabulary F–6. For instance, this outlines the language of digital technologies, correlating directly with Checkpoint 2 in the UDL framework. Importantly, there are also new links to materials that may help you get a deeper understanding of the key ideas and key concepts of Digital Technologies.

In addition, if you are seeking a starting point for making a connection between online learning technologies and UDL, the article, Making Your Classroom Smart: Universal Design for Learning and Technology’ by Carrie Anna Courtad provides a match between technology tools and each of the three main principles of UDL.

Finally, read more on ICT and UDL on our website.

Smart Classroom Design

An example of educational software. being used in classWhen well implemented, the UDL framework and technology combine to assist in smart classroom design.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helps shape teaching and learning by focusing on flexibility. Making Your Classroom Smart: Universal Design for Learning and Technology discusses the three tenets of UDL. It then outlines how technology supports each of the areas to support smart classroom design.

The three tenets are Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression. The framework recommends providing learners with multiple options for each principle. The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) provides the UDL framework and related resources.

The article presents a variety of technology tools to support student engagement. The tools allow for students to self-monitor, attend to their focus and offer cognitive training. Additionally, the author suggests programs that support scaffolding for learning or make the curriculum more accessible.

Technology that provides for multiple examples of the same concept makes print materials accessible, highlights critical elements, and provides graphics or pictures when illustrating concepts are some features recommended to support Representation.

Offering a variety of ways a student can express their knowledge, serves the goal of the Action and Expression component of the UDL framework. Assistive technologies promote opportunities for some students in this area. The report highlights other programmes that allow teachers to build in reflection, and present their knowledge and skills verbally, in writing, or orally. The report provides examples of the technology, their function and cost.

Smart classroom design relies on curricular goals and material designed in a UDL manner before instruction, never retrospectively. The combination of technology to support students’ learning should also include a concrete framework to assist in the well-considered design of technology into curriculum goals and teaching and learning.

UDL vs Special Ed: Is inclusive education achievable?

A boy wearing a grey hoodie is wearing glasses and holding a pencil. He is sitting at his desk in the classroom. Other children are in the background.There are two points of view about universal design in learning (UDL). Some say it is the way to go, but others say it is not in the best interests of children. An article in the Irish Times presents both views. The National Council for Special Education supports the inclusive approach and cites the model developed in New Brunswick, Canada. Learning together helps create an inclusive society – it’s not just about education itself. Segregated children become segregated adults. 

The general secretary of a Catholic schools association makes the case against inclusion and maintaining segregated learning situations. He points to some of the issues not addressed by proponents of the New Brunswick model. These appear to be more on the basis of a philosophy not being a teaching method.

The National Council for Special Education is looking at the issues closely. In their Policy Advice on Special Schools and Classes, they explain the background work they have done on this topic in preparation for their report to the UN in 2020. This is a good reference document for anyone wanting to know more about the UDL approach to school learning.

Incidentally, UDL in higher education is taking off. To an outsider, it is not clear why schools are not following suit. Both institutions are obligated under the UN Convention to establish inclusive education. 

The Iris Times article is titled, Is Ireland at a Crossroads of Inclusive Education?  An article of the same name can be found on EBSCO Information Services by the Irish Association of Teachers in Special Education.

Not sure what UDL is about?  Have a look at CAST information – it is a leader in this field or go to their website for more. There are related posts on UDL in the UD for Learning section on the left hand menu of this site.

 

Videoconferencing: Zoom in to hear

Nine people are shown on a computer monitor.Online communication is great for staying connected, but it is not kind to people with hearing loss. A great blog post gives some excellent tips that everyone should consider when using Zoom. You just don’t know who in your group is finding it difficult to hear. There are two main issues: One is clarity of speech due to inadequate microphone, sitting too far away from the screen, background noise and/or the echo from the room (like the bathroom sound). The other is the delay between sound and vision so lip reading is impossible. And of course, talking across each other because of the transmission delay.

The blog post, Making the Most of Zoom, explains how the features can be used to best advantage for everyone to hear what’s going on. For example – how to change the video layout so that the active speaker is the largest view to make lip reading easier. Using the chat facility, lighting, muting when not speaking, and using the wave-hand function to get heard in turn. While this is focused on Zoom, many of the tips can be applied to other online apps and programs. There are links in the article to other resources and Zoom information.

You might also be interested in The Conversation article, How to help students with hearing impairment as courses move online

Thinking UDL for all learning situations

Adults seated at tables in a classroom setting looking forward to the instructor at the front of the roomWhether doing on-the-job training or giving a seminar presentation, we should all think about utilising the principles of universal design. Universal design for learning (UDL) isn’t just for schools and universities. The aim is to get the message across as clearly as possible – but our audiences are diverse. A resource that has a set of universally designed slides as well as the academic version in a paper is a refreshing change. The link to the resource begins with the slides about universal design and applying it to learning. Showing an example of a wordy slide and how to turn it into a slide with just key take home messages is very useful for anyone that makes presentations.

The academic paper covers the basic ground of UDL, which is familiar territory to experienced practitioners. The focus is on including people with disability rather than creating separate material. However, there will always be some people who will need separate or additional learning material. As with universal design in the built environment, all learners benefit regardless of the learning context. Good for anyone new to the topic.

The title of the academic article is, “Tips for Creating Inclusive and Accessible Instruction for Adult Learners: An Overview of Accessibility and Universal Design Methods for Adult Education Practitioners”.

Cartoon drawing shows a person shovelling snow from steps next to a ramp. The text says, clearing the path for people with "special needs" clears the path for everyone.Editor’s comment: I look forward to the day when all presenters take the time to create slides for learners instead of slides for their own teaching benefit. I shake my head when a speakers says of a slide, “oh I guess people can’t see that” and then goes on to explain it. They lose me at that point.

Hearing loss makes it harder to remember

Adults seated at tables in a classroom setting looking forward to the instructor at the front of the room Shari Eberts explains in her blog article how people with hearing loss use most of their brain capacity to interpret sounds. Consequently there’s not much left over for remembering.This is particularly the case where there is a lot of background noise. In information situations, such as fire training, this is an important factor. Everyone will need to remember what to do. In learning situations it’s also a significant consideration. 

This finding supports the case for instant captioning of live events and closed captioning in pre-filmed situations. A study on student learning also found that captioning helped learning. Where captioning is not possible, reducing cognitive load is another strategy. That means selecting places where background noise is minimal, speaking clearly and not too fast, using a microphone, and allowing sufficient time for questions. Other studies have found that visual information is more easily remembered by everyone, so pictures and videos would work well in information sessions and instructional situations. The title of the blog article is, Does Hearing Loss Make it Harder to Remember Things

Creating videos for learning

A woman is fixing a camera to a tripod.Many teachers and instructors are making their own videos for their learners. With today’s technology it’s becoming easier. But how to make the videos universally designed for online learning? A paper from Ireland gives really practical advice from preparing videos to editing for universal design. It lists step by step activities for planning and preparation, script writing, filming and a detailed section on equipment. The key concepts for editing are also included.

Captioning used to be very expensive when done by outside contractors, but YouTube and Google have improved their technology and made it possible for do-it-yourself captioning. This is a big step forward and really no excuse for not doing it. We know that captioning helps many people to better understand content regardless of their level of hearing. It’s also handy when you can’t have the sound on or if it’s not in your first language.

In summary, videos allow educators to engage with students and prepare learners for practical sessions. Inaccurate or poorly designed videos can confuse and cause disengagement. Educators often lack time as well as training, but with the practical advice in this article, they can improve and thereby save time in the long run.

The title of the article is, Practical Recommendations on the Production of Video Teaching Resources.  

Abstract:  Instructional videos are widely used and potentially highly effective and flexible teaching tools. They are increasingly employed in practical skills training in the fields of science and healthcare. However, educators may struggle to source suitable videos demonstrating safe and suitable techniques. In addition, academic staff may lack the resources and expertise needed to produce and edit effective video in-house. This article provides an overview of the planning, shooting, editing and sharing of video footage to produce effective teaching resources. The aim is to provide guidance for academic staff who wish to develop customised teaching videos and successfully integrate them into their teaching.