Universal Design for Learning #1

“Can we take the longest walk in the world from our perspective to theirs, lay ours down for a minute and simply seek to understand another human being?”

Jennifer Garvey Berger

Three reasons why I value Universal Design for Learning

  • Adult Development. UDL is an entry point for conversations and engagement about adult development and adult learning. To understand and make explicit what have been and are our own barriers to learning. Learning about our students.  For us as educators to be explicit about  what it feels like to be wrong. (We were trained to know stuff and be right)  As discussed by Berger, J. G. (2019). The experience of being wrong is the experience of learning.  Implementing Universal Design for Learning is about adults learning to be able to design learning for others. To see what is possible.

  • Culturally sustaining pedagogies and practices are critical for student access to learning.  How does my culture values and beliefs connect to this learning?  How does my students culture values and beliefs connect to this learning?

  • Intellectual capacity / Diversity of ideas. If the purpose of education is  building intellectual capacity and diversity of ideas then this must be accessible to all. Whitehead, A. N. (1929) Dewey, J. (1938) Equity of access to building intellectual capacity. In other words - No barriers folks - access to building intellectual capacity and working with and valuing diversity of people and ideas is our work.

I’m wondering about...
For myself, the grit for UDL is for it to be applied to the actual purpose of education. It can be a lense from which we as educators can see, think, act and design  differently. For the purpose of educative value.  This idea of educative value comes from Dewey (1938) and Whitehead (1929). They identified the purpose of education was to have Educative value. For  Dewey (1938) and Whitehead  (1929) Educative value is about intellectual development. Gilbert (2017) outlines the features of what both Dewey and Whitehead consider for learning to be educative. For Whitehead educative features include exploring the relationships ideas have with other ideas and that these are complex and that learning is about ideas (Hipkins et al. 2014). For Dewey, educative features include an ability to think about complex and abstract ideas.  

If when we work with UDL and we  ignore ‘for the purpose of educative value’ then UDL may become nothing more than another 'once over lightly' contribution to our overflowing  ‘tool kit’  and a popular addition to an educators edition of  Buzz word bingo.

UDL Benefits for students
UDL Benefits for adults, educators
1.Way of thinking about teaching and learning that gives all students equity of opportunity to learn

2. Personalised learning

3. Student voice has value

4. Provide tools and supports they need to demonstrate their learning in ways that work for them across all classes

1. Supports us to practice being wrong
Rational: Educators are trained to be right, to hold tightly to best practice. But what happens when best practice isn't working for some students?

2.Supports us to work with uncertainty which is a requirement for working in complex spaces. Rational:  Best practice is based on certainty. Berger, J. G. (2019) suggests when we are certain we have a limited ability to notice possibilities. She refers to this as being  ‘Trapped by rightness’

3. Supports a shift in our practice
Bae, S., Ofiesh, N. S., Blackorby, J. (2018)
“4. Offers a framework to guide decision-making  ( Chrissie Butler, CORE Education)
5. Identify and minimise barriers to learning and wellbeing hidden in their teaching
6. Consider how to offer useful options and supports that can be built into the learning environment at the outset
7. Problem solve with colleagues, students and whānau using the shared language of UDL.” ( Chrissie Butler, CORE Education)
Benefits for Families
Leaders have a framework that will:
“1. Their ideas and questions will be welcomed
2. The uniqueness of their child will be valued and seen as a source of strength for the community
3. The learning needs of their child will be met their child will not be singled out or separated from their peers.”
1.support their growth and development as an inclusive school
2.support consistent, coherent inclusive teaching and learning practices across their school
3.guide the design of more inclusive systems and processes, community events and building projects
4.provide a shared language that can be used with all stakeholders, across all contexts. ( Chrissie Butler, CORE Education)

If you see other benefits please let me know and I will add them into the table.

Why am I blogging  about this? 1. I’m wondering about the  assumption in education spaces  that we all know why Universal Design for Learning is important. I hear oh we have done UDL. Done UDL? I’m not sure I understand this comment when I think of UDL as a way of living and seeing the world. Perhaps it is more Universal Design for Living? 2. Every educator I know is passionate about equal opportunity, equity of access. So why is it still so hard to design for equity of access? For myslef, UDL is a way of living.  Making decisions in the present about how we want to live in the future. It’s about social change. I've started asking myself….  Is it possible that each day as educators we make decisions and take actions that lead to futures we do not actually want?”  

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