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.

To disclose or not to disclose

A distance view of Miami University where the study was carried out.How likely are university students to disclose their disability? The answer is related to whether the disability is visible. The concern of being stigmatised is real and is a form of exclusion. Of course, if the disability is visible then stigma is already part of the student’s life. A recent study found students with invisible disability will be less likely to make use of the institution’s accommodations for disability. However, if the teaching staff were helpful and accommodating anyway, the need for seeking institutional support was reduced. An interesting and relatively easy read for a thesis

The title of the thesis is “Effects of Institutional Factors on College Students’ Self- Disclosure of Disability Status and Their Utilization of Disability Services“. Here are two excerpts from the discussion section.

“Students with invisible disabilities in the current study were less likely to use accommodations and self-disclose their disability status to the institution, and students with visible disabilities had used accommodations more often than their peers with invisible disabilities. Research has indicated that students with invisible disabilities perceive revealing one’s disability status as an important decision because it moves the person from a non-stigmatized identity to a stigmatized one.

“This study also found that when professor knowledge and understanding were well-received, students were less likely to self-disclose. This is consistent with research that has indicated students who did not disclose said they felt they didn’t need accommodations because their professors were helpful and accepting of their disability without needing institutional documentation (Cole & Cawthon, 2015). When students do not feel supported by professors, they are more likely to advocate for their rights and self-disclose to the institution, which occurs more regularly for students with invisible disabilities (Marshak et al., 2010).

 

Two people, one UDL story

A silhouette of a person between two rows of books on library shelves.Two people give their perspective on inclusive (or not) education. One is a teacher, the other a student with a disability. Their opening statements provide a context for the article. They trace some of their experiences seeking to overcome barriers to inclusive education, classrooms and teaching. The teacher’s experiences show that colleagues were, and are not, interested in inclusive education. Students with disability lack a voice and are separated into special education classes. The student story includes an action project – taking fellow students to the streets to photograph barriers to inclusion and making a case to the mayor. Both the teacher and the student conclude by saying they want to find ways of helping people with disability advocate for themselves. Clearly, no-one is listening at the moment. Bottom line: there is much academic writing about universal design for learning (UDL), but it seems policy and practice still lag far behind.

The title of the article is, A Duoethnographic Journey of Inclusion to Access.
By Ashley Cartell Johnson & Courtney Hineman of  Miami University.

 

e-Learning for everyone

Shane Hogan is speking at a seminar. He dressed in a grey shirt and tieE-learning is taking off in this new digital age. Shane Hogan from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design based in Ireland shows how to make sure the maximum number of people can access and participate in e-learning programs. Using the example of creating e-learning for the public sector on disability equality training, Shane explains the steps they took in the development, and the ways in which content was presented. For anyone involved in e-learning, the 18 minute video is well worth watching to the end. He also addresses employee industrial issues and concerns over privacy and successful course completion.

 

Teachers perceptions of UD for Learning

A collage of words relating to universal design for learningTeachers who have embraced UDL are great advocates for the process of designing learning programs that include struggling learners. However, not all teachers like 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.

 

School Librarians as Equity Warriors

Librarians Journal front coverValerie 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.”

 

UD and ICT for improved teaching and learning

UDL Jeff SouterThis slideshow by Jeff Souter is titled, Universal Design for Learning: An Approach to Maximise Learning for All Students.  He brings together UDL and ICT and lists 3 principles for UDL for learners of all ages:

Multiple means of representation – providing learners with various ways to acquire knowledge and information.  Multiple means of expression – providing learners with alternatives to demonstrate what they know and what and how they think. Multiple means of engagement – providing learners with appropriate means of engaging and interacting with the learning environment. 

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