The latest edition of the Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education includes papers from the International Conference held in 2015. All articles include the concept of universal design in learning with a focus on neurodiversity. It covers methods and research in higher education and transition to work. Contributions to this journal encourage emancipatory methods with neurodiverse people, particularly involving their personal experiences. The Journal is published in Word format therefore making it widely accessible.
For anyone who has not encountered the term Universal Design for Learning, this is an instructive 4 minute video. It links the concepts of an inclusive built environment with inclusive learning programs and practices. Good for teachers, trainers, lecturers and anyone interested in inclusive practice.
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.
This video is a supplement to an academic paper by Rebecca King and is a good example of how to present research in a way that is congruent with the topic. Too many academics write for other academics and consequently their knowledge is rarely translated for others to use. Even if you are not interested in UD for learning, the short video is worth watching to see how creatively the information is presented.
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
The authors* of this chapter examine how to blend universal design (UD) with e-learning tools used by post-secondary faculty and with information and communication technologies (ICTs) used by students in traditional classroom, hybrid, and online courses. The focus is on how instructors can design and deliver their courses in an accessible way using e-learning. The authors conclude: “Considering UD when selecting and using e-learning materials in traditional, hybrid, and online courses can ensure an accessible learning experience for the diversity of students in today’s colleges and universities. Collaboration between the wide array of stakeholders is needed to design, implement, and support accessibility and usability. This includes the students, instructors, ICT vendors, institutional IT procurement specialists, and campus disability service providers.”
*In S. E. Burgstahler (Ed.), Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice (2nd ed.), pp. 275-284. Boston: Harvard Education Press.
Valerie Hunsinger is a school librarian. Her article is a thoughtful piece about equity in terms of access to knowledge and information, particularly in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Some children have never been to a bookstore or bought a book, so the library is a very important part of their overall education. In talking about another librarian introducing UD she writes: “Everything from the layout and furniture to the shelves and technology was adapted to fit all learners. For a student born with shortened limbs, she found funding to buy a specialized wireless computer mouse, and her library’s flexible floor plan allowed this adaptive tool to be easily accommodated. Another student arrived with a back injury, and Aponte found funding to purchase a special chair. For students who have difficulties turning pages, Aponte purchased special board books that allow them to experience the feeling of reading. She truly shows how libraries can serve all learners.”