Wednesday, 10 June 2015

UDL in Higher Education (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning)

Why UDL in higher education?

As a recent immigrant from school to university, it was important to this educator that the pedagogical and curriculum content taught to pre-service teachers was evidence based and had been experienced by the academic during their time in schools. As a passionate advocate for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) while a teacher in schools, this educator included UDL as a content area for the Enhancing learning for Students with Disabilities (not its real subject title) university subject. UDL is a conceptual framework that assists teachers plan, deliver and assess learning by addressing “inflexible, ‘one-size-fits all’ curricula” (CAST, 2011, p. 4).For two semesters, the content of UDL was explicitly taught. The positive university’s systemic student feedback data confirmed the appropriateness of its inclusion. I embed principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into the units I teach. 

This includes planning multiple methods of presentation; multiple options for participation; multiple means of expression. The principles of UDL provide me with a well researched framework to design learning and assessment tasks for students (Burgstahler, 2007; Conn-Powers, et. al, 2007). 
Graphic of the UDL Guidelines
http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/4_udl_chart.png

Do as I do and as I say!

However, explicitly modelling the way in which I wanted teachers to teach the diverse range of learners in their class was absent. I was guilty of the ‘do as I say not as I do’ paradigm and sought to change this.

A qualitative single, descriptive, intrinsic case study (Creswell, 2007) was developed to answer the questions -
 
Does the application of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to a teacher preparation unit increase the pre-service teacher’s engagement with and understanding of how to teach students with disabilities?
 
Does the modelling of UDL principles by a teacher educator improve student perceptions of usefulness of the unit to prepare them for teaching?

Case study

The use of case study is well suited to scholarship of teaching and learning and has been encouraged in academic writing as a method for decision making that contributes to professional growth (Darling-Hammond, 2007; Scott & McGuire, 2009). Through a process of analysing teaching situations, applying strategies, and considering alternatives, instructors are provided with a model to “seek out and add knowledge of specific techniques throughout their careers” (Scott & McGuire, 2009, p.115). The use of case study specifically to promote application of UDL by academics “...should be tempered by the awareness that finding ways to engage faculty in a process of examining their views and approaches to teaching comprises a major challenge” (Bergstahler, & Cory, 2009, p. 142).In this situation, I was committed to examining my teaching processes and accepted my findings may not always be positive.

 
Further information about this project can be found on this blog on the 'Teacher Education and UDL" page.

References
Burgstahler, S. & Cory, S. (Eds) (2009) Universal Design in higher education: From principles to practice. Harvard Education Press: Cambridge, MA.
Gradel, K. & Edson, A. (2009) Putting universal design for learning on the higher education agenda. Journal of Educational Technology  Systems,38, (2), 111-121.
Higbee, J. (2009)Implementing universal instructional design in post secondary courses and curricula. Journal of College Teaching and Learning, 6, (8), 65-77.
Rose, D., Harbour, W., Johnston, C., Daley, S., Arbanell, L. (2006) Universal design for learning in post-secondary education: Reflections on principles and their application. Journal of Post Secondary Education and Disability, 19, (2), 17.
Rose, D. & Meyer, A. (2002)Teaching every student in the digital age. Universal design for learning. ASCD: USA.

Scott, S., McGuire, J. & Shaw, S. (2003) Universal design for instruction: A new paradigm for adult instruction . Post Secondary Education. 24, (6), 369-379.

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