UDL supports Indigenous culture

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) fits well with Indigenous ways of teaching and learning. That’s what Liz Stone discusses in a podcast – how UDL supports Indigenous culture. Liz is a woman from Turtle Island – the name that the Algonquian and Iroquoian speaking people call the north-eastern part of North America.

A bright yellow background with the words Think UDL.

The cultural iceberg – the feelings we can see at the top. What you can’t see is much bigger: the cultural beliefs, knowledge, and ways of being. They impact the way we learn.

Liz tells the story of when she was hired to provide Indigenous input to academic teaching. She found herself in a team who were using UDL principles in their teaching methods. This was a nice surprise because Indigenous ways of teaching are very similar. She says both are about meeting people where they are and making sure nobody gets left behind.

UDL is often only associated with disability and accessibility, but it is much more than that. Liz found that people with disability experience the same oppression as Indigenous people. Indigenous learning, knowledge ability is minimised similarly to people with disability.

After interacting and learning from the team Liz was set to teach her first class. She felt competent in the role. That was until she saw a student walking towards her who was blind. That was when she realised she had focused on visual content – another learning experience for her. With relief the student walked on to the next class.

UDL disrupts teaching culture

UDL disrupts the culture of academia by offering lots of options and valuing different things. It isn’t just for the classroom either or the written word. It should be looked at when we build our institutions and at times of crisis like COVID. Liz asks “Why aren’t we looking at Universal Design for Learning when we are creating contingency plans for example?”

If we don’t recognise the diversity of UDL and argue there is only one right way, we fall into Western ways of doing things again. Communities differ in the way they live and learn. So there is no one right UDL method.

The hour-long podcast has a transcript, which isn’t perfect because it is auto-generated. There is a long introduction before getting to the UDL content and discussion. It’s a refreshing take on UDL and how closely it links with Indigenous ways of living and learning.

The title of the podcast is Supporting Indigenous Culture with Liz Stone. There are links to other resources for teachers.

This website has a section on Universal Design for Learning where you can find out more.

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