Congratulations, you've just completed Module 1!
We all take notes differently. Some of you may have been jotting down what came to mind as you reflected during this module. Giulia Forsythe uses doodles as a tool for learning saying that “doodling helps her to be a better listener, problem solver and communicator.” Here is Giulia’s summary of the Introduction to UDL and Equity Education Frameworks module.
In this module we developed a broad understanding of Universal Design for Learning, UDL. UDL is a framework for improving and optimizing teaching and learning for all people. It is based on scientific research into the variability of human learning and seeks to promote equity across the curriculum using a variety of teaching methods.
UDL can remove barriers to learning, proactively respond to learner variability, and support the development of learner expertise by encouraging educators to reflect upon their practice and deliver curriculum that is learner-centered.
The UDL guidelines encourage designing curriculum that ensures access to, and participation in, meaningful and challenging learning opportunities. The three UDL principles are Engagement, options for learners to engage and persist, Representation, options for educators to communicate course concepts, and Action Expression, options for learners to demonstrate what they have learned.
Educators must ask themselves, how are learners engaged? How can they manage themselves when they get stuck, collaborate with others and focus on a task? How do we create and deliver content? Can learners find and curate information, connect ideas to create new understanding, and transfer knowledge across contexts? How do students express what they can do, know, and believe? Do they practice strategies to break down a task, manage deadlines, organize resources, and communicate critical thinking?
The diverse lived experiences and intersectional identities of our learners bring meaning to the collective learning spaces. Applying the idea of average to students is highly problematic as learners are not all the same. Instead of expecting students to learn in one way in a one-size-fits-all model, a flexible learner-centered curriculum is more accessible and allows learners to set their own goals for how they navigate their own learning.
Advances in neuroscience have confirmed this. Contrary to popular belief, our brain is not fully pre-programmed at birth. Instead, it is shaped into complex interconnected web. As we interact with the world around us we constantly grow and rewrite our brain circuitry to tackle challenges, leverage opportunities, and understand the social structures around us.
Variability is not just an important consideration when thinking about differences between learners, it is also helpful when considering how individuals learn differently in different contexts. Arthur Chan says, "Diversity is a fact. Equity is a choice. Inclusion is action. Belonging is an outcome." An example of this is design of a pilot's chair. If a plane manufacturers designed a seat for the average pilot, the chair would in fact fit no one because there is no such thing as an average person, requiring that all the seats be able to fit all. Pilots creates innovation like adjustable seats so that pilots of all sizes are able to safely maneuver a plane. That shows with variability, individuals are able to get what they need and meet the goals to find success in the tasks they are completing.
Variability extends beyond our physical measurements. It also includes our various social identities. Individually, our identity has a powerful influence in our learning, collectively, social identities also continuous influence by our external environments.
Professor Kimberly Crenshaw coined the term Intersectionality in 1989 to describe how race, class, gender, and other socially constructed identities intersect with one another and overlap to create a unique experience. Educators must examine the ways that intersecting experience of privilege and oppression impact students in the learning environment. This should inform the curriculum we design.
Designing with a student-centered approach means we honor students lived experiences, their unique strengths, and challenges to create spaces where all students belong and thrive within the hierarchy that is assumed through education. Teachers are incredibly influential to the dynamics within the learning environment. An example of this is by acknowledging traditional Indigenous territories to recognize the contemporary and historical Indigenous presence and land rights, it is a small step towards dismantling the continued impacts of colonialism and undoing Indigenous erasure in our everyday lives. Thus we acknowledge that there are 46 treaties and other agreements that cover the territory we now call Ontario. As educators, taking small but progressive steps such as acknowledging the land draws attention to the opportunities and privileges we have.
This is imperative to the UDL framework as we intentionally take actions to create safe spaces for our learners. Learners are central to all UDL curriculum design. Surrounding the learners are the three key principles of UDL: Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression.
Summary of Module 1: Introduction to UDL and Equity Education Frameworks - Runtime 5:05 min
You can go back through this and any module as the course continues.
- You’ve posted in Collaborative Learning Activity 2, and you may want to check back on “Meet Your Learning Community” to see who has joined or responded since you last checked!
- The Concept Quest is an example of a mastery oriented multiple choice questionnaire! Did you have a look at the coaching notes in the wrong answers?
- Have you checked out the Glossary yet?
- You can download a pdf of this module by returning to the main page.
The next three modules will offer opportunities to explore and apply all of these frameworks more deeply in the contexts of learner Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression.
See you in Module 2!
Battiste, M. (2013). Decolonizing education: Nourishing the learning spirit. UBC Press.
Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1), 139-167.
Davin, N:F., (1879). Department of the Interior. "Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds". Canada. [Annual Report]. Department of the Interior, Canada.
Dolmage, J. T. (2017). Academic ableism: Disability and higher education. University of Michigan Press.
Eagleman, D. (2020). LIVEWIRED: The inside story of the ever-changing brain. Pantheon Books.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. Ramos, Trans.). (Original work published 1968).
Hills, M., Overend, A., & Hildebrandt, S. (2022). Faculty perspectives on UDL: Exploring bridges and barriers for broader adoption in higher education. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(1).
Lowman, E. A., & Barker, A. J. (2015). Settler: Identity and colonialism in 21st century Canada. Fernwood Publishing.
McIntosh, P. (1989). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Peace and Freedom, July/August, 10-12.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (Eds). (2006). A practical reader in Universal Design for Learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Tobin, T. J., & Behling, K. T. (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal Design for Learning in higher education. West Virginia University Press.