- Flexibility wherever appropriate
- Provision of student choice
- Greater access to course materials and activities
- Use of scaffolds and progressions
- Embedding learning in authentic and contextualized experiences
- A commitment to remove or reduce barriers to learning as much as possible
- Appropriately challenging all students (no upper limits)
- Integration of technology to help facilitate these strategies
This approach to planning and facilitating learning for all students is called Universal Design for Learning and Instruction (UDLI) which is a philosophical perspective for designing curricula and courses. It emerged from Universal Design for Learning (CAST, 1999-2015) and Universal Design for Instruction (Scott, McGuire & Shaw, 2001). UDLI (Davies & Lane, 2015) acknowledges that higher education has many variables and environmental conditions that impact what pedagogical strategies are possible. Subsequently, what may be possible differs greatly from one course to another. To design instruction with UDLI in mind requires the constant application of this philosophical perspective during the design of curricula and courses to identify the strategies and opportunities that will best provide learning equity for all.
To better understand learning equity, let’s consider an example of flying coach on an international flight. Obviously, there are numerous factors that impact the comfort of a flight in coach class, but for this example, I will focus on just one aspect. Aside from the exit rows, the seat width, legroom, and comfort for each seat is typically exactly the same for everyone, regardless of height or leg length. Therefore, seating in coach class would be referred to as seat comfort equality. Unfortunately for me and many others who are tall, we do not experience the same degree of comfort as shorter flyers. I often need to sit at awkward angles and maneuver my body in a variety of ways seeking some degree of comfort. Yes I am complaining!
Comfort equity (UDLI-zing of this challenge) would be achieved if all passengers had the same space between our knees and the seat in front. Potential solutions to “UDLI-ze” the comfort for all passengers could include:
- Aircraft designs that offer greater variety of seating options (e.g. seat spacing reflective of the typical height profiles of passengers on flights, provision of adjustable seat spacing)
- Airlines that assign seats based on height using a computerized algorithm of passengers booked on these flights
Implementing UDLI is always an ongoing quest as students will always be unique in different ways and the teacher can always improve as new technologies, strategies and ideas develop. This is a critical concept to acknowledge when a teacher first “UDLI-zes” a course; he/she should consider:
- Starting with what can be easily done to enhance learning;
- Addressing areas of primary challenge or concern from instructor/course reviews and self-reflections; and
- Building from there to continue constructing and refining the course design across semesters and years.
To see UDLI in action, please visit the International Lilly Conference presentation website that my colleague, Dr. Sandi Lane, and I developed. We utilized a UDLI approach to designing the presentation to meet the unique needs of the attendees, anticipating the potential contextual limitations that would be present. We offered the attendees choices for how to engage in our presentation including the standard verbal presentation, individual 24/7 access to the website, individual and small group discussions, etc. The website has numerous links, images, graphs, examples, resources and a broad PowerPoint of our presentation. Interestingly, most attendees stayed within the ‘traditional’ paradigm of such presentations, choosing to listen to the verbal presentation option. This is a challenge for teachers whenever they implement a new approach to teaching and learning until the students become comfortable and finally expect it.
What UDLI principles or strategies might you use in your teaching?
Please post your comments below.
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