Welcome to Episode 36 of the ThinkUDL podcast: Design for Learning Equity with Kevin Kelly. Kevin is a Faculty Lecturer in the Department of Equity, Leadership Studies & Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University. I talked with Kevin at the Teaching for Active and Engaged Learning Lilly Conference in San Diego, California, February 27-29, 2020. I was so excited to get a chance to sit down with Kevin to talk about creating equity in learning environments, especially in online learning environments.
Our conversation is filled with an almost overwhelming amount of resources from Kevin’s encyclopedic grasp of equity and online learning studies and materials that he applies to his courses and graciously shares with us in this conversation. The resources mentioned in this episode are available on Episode 36 of our ThinkUDL.org resource page. If you want to look further into anything we discuss in today’s episode, you can follow up there. I am so glad to share this convicting, interesting, and information-rich conversation with our listeners!
TILT- Transparency in Learning and Teaching Kevin and Lillian have both incorporated this excellent template
Examples of Mid-semester feedback from Brown and Yale and UNC-Charlotte and ThinkUDL Episode 2: How UDL Values Learners with Jen Pusateri was all about mid-semester feedback at the university of Kentucky.
Peralta Community College District KEvin has been working with Peralta on designing this equity rubric
Kevin’s guest blog post series on online course design rubrics:
Peralta Community College District Equity (definition): freedom from bias, assumptions, or institutional barriers that negatively impact online learners’ motivations, opportunities, or accomplishments
Peralta Community College District Equity rubric LINK.
Gloria Ladson Billings From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools (2006)
Equifinality (definition) – multiple pathways to reach the same goal
Learningequity.org (future website, keep checking the space for updates), but Advancing Online Teaching: Creating Equity-based Digital Learning Environments by Kevin Kelly and Todd Zakrajsek explains many of the research and strategies that Kevin enumerates during this conversation. Expected release is September of 2020.
J. Luke Wood’s contributions to success in higher education for black males are also part of the equity perspectives that Kevin Kelly uses in his Design for Learning Equity
Anindya Kundu’s web page explains his interest in agency and mentions his forthcoming book The Power of Student Agency: Looking Beyond Grit to Close the Opportunity Gap. And here is his TED talk on agency for a quick reference.
Some resources from Kevin on Image and Representation bias:
Kevin also created this Creative Commons document of diversity-friendly images
International Teaching Learning Cooperative: Look here for all of the opportunities that ITLC provides for faculty!
Lilly Conferences: Take a look at all of the Lilly Conferences available year round and somewhere within a drive to you since they are held from coast to coast and in between! These are fabulous, friendly teaching and learning conferences that give you actionable items that you can use right away, and inspiration for more!
LinkedIn Learning Course: Learning with your Mobile Device
LinkedIn Learning Course: Applying UDL Principles: Motivating and Engaging Learners in Multiple Ways
[Lillian] Welcome to Think UDL, the Universal Design for Learning podcast. Where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind.
I’m your host, Lillian Nave, and I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding, and facilitating, but how you design and implement it, and why it even matters.
Welcome to episode 36 of the Think UDL podcast: Design for Learning Equity with Kevin Kelly. Kevin is a faculty lecturer in the Department of Equity Leadership Studies and Instructional Technologies at San Francisco State University. I talked with Kevin at the Teaching for Active and Engaged Learning Lilly Conference in San Diego, California February 27 through 29, 2020. I was so excited to get a chance to sit down with Kevin to talk about creating equity in learning environments, especially in online learning environments. Our conversation is filled with an almost overwhelming amount of resources from Kevin’s encyclopedic grasp of equity and online learning studies and materials that he applies to his courses and graciously shares with us in this conversation. The resources mentioned in this episode are available on episode 36 of our ThinkUDL.org resource page. If you want to look further into anything we discussed in today’s episode, you can follow up there. I’m so glad to share this convicting, interesting, and information-rich conversation with our listeners.
We are at the Lilly conference in San Diego today and we are doing a live interview here so you may hear some noise some ambient noise here while we are at the Doubletree here in San Diego. But I am very excited to welcome to the podcast Kevin Kelly, who is at San Francisco State University and we were lucky enough to hear his keynote or plenary presentation yesterday on equity and Universal Design for Learning. In fact, he is going to be talking to us about his design for learning equity and thank you so much for joining us today!
[Kevin] So happy to be here and it’s fantastic to get to participate in such a great podcast.
[Lillian] Well, thank you so much! And the first question that I ask all of my guests is what makes you a different kind of learner?
[Kevin] I would say a couple factors. One: I’m tenacious. So, if there’s something I don’t know, I don’t stop until I know everything it. There’s a philosophy of personality types called the Enneagram
[Lillian] I’ve heard of that one.
[Kevin] And so there is a type that dives deep, it’s called the observer. It’s not me because I’m what’s known as the adventurer but I think I tap into that concept of really trying to know everything. And you alluded to something off mic. When I reply to people on a listserv for the professional and organizational development network–
[Lillian] I have learned so much from your replies, I have, and there are so many great questions and I’m sometimes I’m just waiting for you to answer because your answers are amazing.
[Kevin] Well, and part of that is I will put what I know first, but then I will wonder if that’s complete. And again, it’s based on the principle of pay it forward. I really want to make sure that I honor the fact that I have stood on the shoulders of giants and colleagues, and hopefully they don’t feel pain in their shoulders, but I did. And so I wish to do the same.
[Lillian] Yeah, I I must say I had heard of you through two different means. One, you had a great UDL course on lynda.com which is now on LinkedIn which is on Microsoft, maybe?
[Kevin] Microsoft now owns LinkedIn, but LinkedIn Learning is the space.
[Lillian] So, folks can find your LinkedIn learning course, and then also in hearing you answer these really fantastic questions in such a broad way. So, you look at the original question but then you bring in a lot of perspectives too about can we think about it in in these multiple layers and I’ve always appreciated that about what I’ve seen in the way that you’re speaking and is certainly in the plenary presentation yesterday. You are so expertly building layers upon layers of looking at a particular situation. And it looks like that’s what you’ve done in this design for learning equity project that you’re working on and talking about and that’s what I’m so excited about hearing about.
[Kevin] Fantastic. Well, before we get to–I think what you just said helps answer that first question because in addition to the tenacity, I think it’s that multiple perspectives that’s something that’s driven me for a long time. When I was getting my master’s degree in instructional technology and design, we had to come up with a final project. And I started by wanting to create an online game, before online was possible. So, it was going to be a CD-ROM and then online came out while I was starting. And so it was because of a friend of mine taught history at the middle school level, and what I was helping that person look at the standards and one of the things was students must be able to understand things like the Civil War from multiple perspectives. And so I was going to create this adventure game where students had to go into an environment, find artifacts like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or have an interview with Harriet Tubman and you know a video-based interview. But then cobble together some sort of reflection where they have played different characters based on the time. So, they could be a slave owner, an abolitionist, a soldier from the north, a soldier from the south, and some other characters so that they get to understand that set of experiences through different lenses. The same way at a conference last year when I was talking about equity, a woman said one way we help students see the world from other perspectives is they use a virtual reality game where they have to walk through the environment wearing a hijab and they get to see what it’s like to be treated differently based on that cultural experience. And so to go back to the question about how I learn, I think it’s partly–it’s not enough to see the world from my perspective, but I want to see the world from multiple perspectives. It’s why I have learned several languages, because I feel that language is a way to understand the world from a different point of view. The words that they choose to express things, sometimes you can’t have the right phrase in English. So, you have to say je ne sais quoi, or que sera sera, or whatever because that’s just better captures the spirit of what you’re trying to say.
[Lillian] Right, exactly. I think you explained how you learned by exactly showing us just now in that in that answer, which was multiple perspectives in multiple layers exactly. What I’ve really found super interesting about all of my interactions with you, which have been virtual until I’ve been able to meet you face to face at this conference, and I think that that language idea and multiple perspectives is something that has helped me understand Universal Design for Learning because I’m interested in intercultural perspectives and one of the things I’ve read–you made me think about this–is how different languages will have even different genders, too for a word and people will think about if a bridge at like a bridge over water in one language might be given a male pronoun, and in another language might be given a female pronoun. And if you ask people to think or talk about it, they might give it male qualities like strong, versus or female qualities like beautiful, let’s say. And language really does influence how we think about something. In America, it’s a bridge which is neutral, we have neutered pronouns. But thinking about somebody talking about or envisioning something from another culture in another language, will impact how they think. So, it’s–there’s so many small parts that are important to our teaching. So, if we’ve got somebody who is speaking English as a second language and it’s coming into our classroom and we’re not thinking about those things, we’re missing out just a little bit. So, I am very excited then to find out about this design for learning equity and tell our listeners a little bit about what you’ve been thinking about and explain some of how Universal Design for Learning is kind of layered with this equity focus you have.
[Kevin] Sure. Well, and I think I can start by giving a brief history of the course that I teach which is also a LinkedIn learning course.
[Lillian] Great, we can have some links so our listeners can find out about those on our web page.
[Kevin] Fantastic. So, the class that I teach at San Francisco State University is–I’ve been teaching it for 10 years–it’s called how to learn with your mobile device and students have commented that I’m the only instructor who understands them because in the course catalog, I’ve written it as if you were texting it to a friend so it’s how number 2, “LRN,” “W” for with, “UR” for your, and then mobile devices spelled out. So, when they go through the catalog, they see something that looks like they would see on their phone and they are drawn in. Little do they know that I’m hiding the broccoli under the cheese because the whole course is about metacognition and improving learning by thinking about thinking and then using a mobile device just to implement the metacognitive strategies. And so, in the context of my course, it started as a hybrid class, and my instructor, my department chair said “hey, there are classes on this campus that are serving 1,500 students. We need a high enrollment undergraduate course so that we can start using what’s called FTE or full-time equivalents to support some of the graduate classes.” Now, he’s retired, so if he gets in trouble, it’s too late. But basically he wanted to have 100 students a semester in this class. And so I told myself well that’s like a small village and so I can’t just use one way of looking at the world to teach 100 people. And so I turned to UDL which I had been using to support instructors in my role in the faculty Development Center, which had an academic technology focus. We were in charge of the learning management system and other things, and so I was familiar with UDL but I hadn’t really infused it into my own course until I said you know what moving from 30 students in a hybrid class to 100 students online, I have to use UDL. And so that was what I would call version 2.0 of my class is the UDL-ified if that’s a word, now it is, version of my course. And so I went through and created every instance that I could. I went through all the checkpoints of the guidelines. Back then I think it wasn’t even the version that we have now. But I went through and really–how do I create multiple pathways for students to reach the learning goals. And so then if we take a couple more steps, the next thing I did was I applied for my course to become a general education course. And so the area that it fits best in is called lifelong learning and personal development. And so, I had to adapt the course to meet certain things, and I think one of the requirements was that by the end of the course in order to meet this GE requirement, students must be able to describe themselves as a physiological, psychological, and social being. And I said the same thing but with a couple expletives, like what the–what is that? And so I said–
[Lillian] That’ll be easy, said nobody ever.
[Kevin] But, like literally within one second of laughing at how absurd that was, I said oh but what if we said–because this is learning about learning–how do we affect ourselves as learners through our body related habits, our mind related habits, and our social network related habits? And I was like Bing! Or as Emeril Lagasse would say BAM, kick it up a notch. And so that’s what I did. And so that was version 3.0 of the course. And so now we’re all the way up to version 5.0 after version 4 was gamification because I wanted to increase motivation. I found that a lot of students were–the course is not hard, but students stopped doing the work at a certain point. And when I sorted the gradebook one semester at the end by their score, highest score to lowest score, it was almost x equals y if you looked at where the blank spaces were in the gradebook. Not the zeros from me assigning low scores or whatever, but blank spaces where they just didn’t turn in an assignment. So, the people who got straight F’s, got zero on the class, actually may have done like one activity the first week and then stop. And then some people stopped in the middle. There were a couple outliers where they had done maybe one activity every other week or something like that and just earned enough to get a D or a C. But for the most part X equals y. So, I was like okay, that means there’s a motivational barrier. Because it’s not ability, its motivation, and so I gamified my course. Some of its just using gamified language, like I use the word “quest” instead of “module,” but I also ask them to do things that will slide into this equity work which is version 5 of the course. Like, avatars are a gamification element, but I don’t want students to be walking around a 3D environment with some sort of World of Warcraft character. What I did ask them to do is choose a role that aligns with their learning goal. So in my class you’re either a learning warrior, which means that you want to take a deep dive into a topic and apply it to your own life. So, you’re– it’s personal learning goals are important to you and you want to walk away having applied something that you learned in the class. You could be a learning sage, which means, hey you know what, I like the idea of learning with technology but I don’t know enough about technology or learning so I just want to get this broad strokes overview of everything in your class. What is it like to learn with a tablet versus social bookmarks versus social networking sites versus you know an app for writing or what-have-you. And then the third role that you can choose aligns with the goal of being social learner. So it’s called a learning guide and you try as much as you can to work with others in small teams, you try to support other learners in the discussion forums by providing additional resources that would help them get a better understanding of a topic and things like that.
[Lillian] Yeah, and so do they choose that for the whole course or each module or something?
[Kevin] For the–at the beginning of the course they choose it, but I tell them they are free to switch in the middle. And so at the end I ask them how did that role work for you and things like that. And so these gamification elements have helped and I have–and I would say that probably the biggest factor is more high touch approach to online course, which is tough with a hundred students, and again when we start talking about the equity framework we’ll talk about some of the strategies that you can use to keep your workload reasonable, but also be equitable on how you’re working with the students. But I wanted to kind of give that flow because I’ve been teaching this course for ten years. Your listeners will probably say holy moley, he’s done a lot! Well, it’s been over ten years. Like, I literally–every summer I’m making moderate tweaks to my course or in some cases large ones like that the GE requirements, the gamification, but in other cases it’s smaller tweaks. Like I’m applying Mary-Ann Winkelman helped come up with the transparent assignment template it’s called. And the initiative at a university in Nevada, Las Vegas, its called transparency in learning and teaching or TILT. And so one summer I took those principles and take that transparent assignment template and I applied it to every instruction in my course. Not just for the assignments of things they had to turn in, but also for the content that they had to consume. So, giving prompts and when it’s like–because they answer the same questions I like to answer: what, why, and how. What are you supposed to do? Why are you doing it? And how can you be successful? And so when we provide content, it can’t just be a link to a PDF and a learning management system. There has to be some sort of preface like this aligns with this learning outcome, this is why you’re doing it, you’re going read this because it’s going to prepare you to do X. And then how do you do it? Well, I want you to be thinking about these questions as you read this text, or I want you to be able to answer these questions after you watch this video, and so on.
[Lillian] You know, we can have a link to that. I’ve used Mary-Ann Winkelman TILT criteria in my class and I need to be doing it to our learning activities as well so they know why am I engaging in this learning activity, what the purpose is, what the task is supposed to be, and splitting those goals up into understanding and skills. You know, those types of things and then the criteria, that’s the last part I need to do is show them what does it look like to be successful? And all of those things are so helpful for all of our students because some students will know right away what a good paper’s supposed to look like, and some will not at all. So all of those things you’re–that’s a big you know brain explosion right there is wow that’s one thing. And I will be starting to teach of my first online course after about 15 years not teaching online and this will be like drinking from a firehose. So, I’m hoping to take maybe one or two of the things we’re going to talk about and I think our listeners can too.
[Kevin] Well, and that’s the point I wanted to make is that don’t expect that–you know, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and it’s, this course has evolved over that time. When you’re just beginning the smartest strategy is to pick one or two things that you can do well and start there. And let your students know that you’re trying this activity or this approach for the first time and ask for feedback. Whether it be doing anonymous mid-course evaluation or mid semester feedback, or just after a couple weeks. The one-minute paper, if you’re familiar with that classroom assessment technique. For your listeners who aren’t, you ask three questions: what was clearest from this activity from this module from this X? What was the least clear or muddiest? And then what questions do you still have after finishing it? And so you can tweak those questions to say what was the most helpful aspect of me doing this strategy, what was the least helpful, and then what comments do you have or what feedback do you have?
[Lillian] And that’s so important to do early on or in the middle of the class. I still struggle with–I get great feedback at the end of class because I’ve got a whole lot of questions I ask them and if I’d just done that halfway through, I could have changed things for the better. So, a couple episodes of our podcast have talked about mid semester feedback how important that is. So, that’s another one thing somebody could take away is find out how they can tweak–especially with the learners they have that semester–like what is working for those learners and what they can do better.
[Kevin] And if you’re familiar with Michael Pollan, who writes books about food, he recently published one about mushrooms and psychedelics. But the reason I bring this up is because he talks about macro dosing and micro dosing. So, your end of semester feedback is a macro dose of feedback of students just laying out there, this is what I feel, I’ve had a whole semester to build up these ideas. But if you micro dose it, hey after I tried this activity I really want to know how you think it went for you as a learner, then you can start applying it because the worst thing you can do is ask students in the middle of a semester for feedback and then not let them know how you’re going to apply it, not take any of it and use it, you just shut them down, they’re not–not only are there no longer interested in giving you valuable feedback, but they’re no longer interested in the class because they say well what’s the point?
[Lillian] Right, you’ve shown them you’re not listening to them.
[Kevin] Or, that you’re greedy. That you want all the feedback, but you’re not going to do anything about it, so be prepared, again, limited say hey I received a ton of feedback about this activity we just tried and I am prepared, you know, we’re in the middle of the semester I can’t change the whole course, but I am prepared to do X. Students said they wanted more resources so I’m going to assign at least one more article or create an activity where you all find the best ones and we get to vote on which ones are the best and we can assign points for that work. Just giving students an idea that you’re ready to use the feedback that they gave to improve the course and to improve your practice as a teacher.
[Lillian] That’s great. Well, fantastic. So, now we know that this is a ten year on course and the most recent lens or way you’ve been thinking about it is in this learning equity idea. So, can you tell us more about how Universal Design for Learning and learning equity has brought you to where you are now?
[Kevin] Sure. So, again another story, I’m sure your listeners are–
[Lillian] We love stories! It’s a podcast, that’s what we want to hear is stories.
[Kevin] So, I–in addition to teaching my own class, I work with colleges and universities around the country as a consultant. And so I luckily I am so honored to be working with Peralta Community College District in Oakland, California. And so it started as an effort to help them move from Moodle to Canvas since I’m familiar with both I again that faculty development role was largely related to academic technology and then also classroom technology as well. And when we went through that we were preparing for the eventuality that they might need to join a system-wide effort called the online education initiative. And they–the online education initiative came up with a rubric for course design and so when I came up with these classes helping people construct–move from Moodle to Canvas, I gave them the criteria from this course design rubric as a way to think about improving their course as they do this big change. Because when you’re going through a transition from one learning management system to another, it’s kind of like moving from one house to another. So, you’re either going to pick up that entire house, put it on a flatbed truck, and drop it off in the new lot and hook up all the pipes and cables and then you’re ready to go. That’s often what people do when they create an archive of a course and then upload it or import it into the new shell. But sometimes that doesn’t work. Or, you decide hey this is a different room now so I need to go to Ikea and I need to build a bookcase or I need to insert something and some people decide they want to start from scratch. And so whatever the pathway is that you choose in terms of moving from one learning management system to another, I always ask faculty to reflect because we know many faculty haven’t learned how to teach and it’s even tougher if they’re being asked to teach online because you don’t know it’s hard that you don’t get that glazed look on students faces, you don’t get the anxiety that they might be showing because they don’t understand something. So, I offer it up as an opportunity to rethink how you’re teaching that online course and this course design rubric actually is a great way to do that. And so–and as a sidebar, I wrote a blog article about online course design rubrics and compared them and talked about some of the things that we could be doing to improve them from the vendor side, from the faculty side, and institutional side and so on.
[Lillian] So, we can put a link to that as well on our resources page. We’re going to have a bunch of resources for this episode.
[Kevin] So you’re going to be–its going to be Wikipedia.
[Lillian] It’s going to be great.
[Kevin] So, anyway, this experience with this group led to them asking hey you’ve been so helpful with all this, can you help us write a distance education plan because we don’t want to be haphazard about this and we’ve never had one for our district before. And during that process of working with that district-wide committee they said one thing that’s really important to us is we want our values to be infused in this document. And their two values they chose are the learners themselves and equity. And so we decided as a group we can’t just have those values be something that sits in a document on a shelf. We have to figure out a way to operationalize that. And so we decided well, we’re using the online education initiative rubric, let’s go out and find an equity rubric that would help faculty members think about how to infuse or increase the equity in their online course. And it turns out there were none.
[Lillian] Oh, wow! You get to make one.
[Kevin] Well, that’s the challenge, right? And I think it was Flower Darby, she was at a conference the online teaching conference last year and she actually challenged the audience hey if it doesn’t exist, go make it yourself. And so we–it was before she said that, but I loved that thinking and so we did. And so I–because I was not a full-time employee at the district–was nominated, volunteered–
[Kevin] No, I actually wanted to do it but–to do the research–because we wanted to make sure that the rubric was based on evidence as opposed to hey these are great ideas that people have done in their courses and we think they’re equitable. We wanted to go through the research and identify what our equity issues that are negatively impacting students in the online environment, you know what are equity strategies that help students succeed? And I think now is probably a good time that–since we’re talking about the rubric and everything–to have an operational definition of equity since we’re talking about it a lot, but not everybody in your audience might have the same definition. So, in the dictionary I liked the shortest version of the definition who has freedom from bias. When I brought that to the team at Peralta, they said that’s a good start. But we’ve expanded it over time for their distance education initiative to mean freedom from bias, assumptions, and institutional barriers that negatively impact students’ motivation, opportunities, and achievement. And so I think that more accurately reflects when we’re talking about teaching and learning, how equity plays a role. And when we talk about things like achievement gaps, if you’re familiar with Gloria Ladson-Billings, who writes a lot about culturally responsive teaching, she has an article from 2006 which I can send you the link–
[Lillian] And we will put it in the resources page.
[Kevin] Which talks about the concept of shifting our framework from achievement gaps to education debt. Because if you heard that definition from Peralta, freedom from bias, assumptions, and institutional barriers, these are all things that the teacher or the institution itself lay on top of that student that prevent them from doing well. And so it removes us from thinking that we just have a bunch of lazy students or even if we’re being kind hearted and say we’re working with a bunch of working adults who just don’t time to do the work. We need to reframe it as it’s not a shortcoming on the students’ part, we have a role in this equation. So, it’s that multiple perspectives and merging again, but now in the framework of teaching and learning. So, with that concept of equity, maybe now’s a good time to shift to what I talked about yesterday at the plenary, which is hey how do we apply Universal Design for Learning in online courses, and then how does that tie to this design for learning equity framework so that we can kick it up a notch as we’ve already said with Emeril, we’ll throw in a couple BAM’s. So, when I think about teaching and learning I, you know, the backward design processes is a great way to go. You develop, oh–
[Lillian] Yeah, I know it’s the–backwards design is the way to go.
[Kevin] Yes, I wish I had chimes every time I said something thoughtful. But so I view the world through once we’ve created strong and measurable learning outcomes, we think about how we’re going to ask students to demonstrate it in multiple ways because Universal Design for Learning does prescribe that we have multiple pathways for students to achieve. I like to use the twenty five cent word from the dictionary equifinality which means multiple pathways to reach the same goal. So, if you can ever play Scrabble you’re going to have to work really hard to spell because it’s more than seven letters. But the concept being that once you’ve designed that pathway for students to show what they know or multiple pathways, then you have to go and figure out how am I going to help them work with the material and practice to prepare for that. And then last but not least, what resources do they need in order to get ready for everything. So, I see it as, in my own mind, concentric rings maybe like moons around a planet or atom electrons around the core nucleus, whatever metaphor you want to use.
[Lillian] Right, all those things are essential to that.
[Kevin] And so I’m going to do the same here. I’m going to work backwards from the Universal Design for Learning guidelines and give some examples of ways that we can think about constructing our course with UDL in mind and equity in mind.
[Lillian] Perfect, thank you.
[Kevin] And I won’t belabor the point and go through the entire set of guidelines for either framework, but know that mentally, I probably have.
[Lillian] Yes, and we’ll have a link to that, we usually have that linked on our resources, too so everybody can be looking at this while they’re listening to our podcast.
[Kevin] Yes, perfect. So if we start from the farthest ring out, that content that we create for our students, and work our way back toward the center now that we’ve developed what we need, Universal Design for Learning has some prescriptions or ideas, what they call checkpoints that align with providing content. Three of them that come to mind are that we should offer alternatives for audio information, conversely offer alternatives for visual information those two go hand-in-hand, and then illustrate things through multiple media. And so, what’s one way that I do that in my course which is probably similar to many who have applied UDL to any course frankly, I will create a screencast of my mini lectures usually under ten minutes because we know the human attention is around twelve minutes is the max I think. But then I’ll provide the PowerPoint slides with notes under each slide so students can consume it as a set of ideas with bullet points if they choose rather than listening through a whole thing. I know some instructors that create podcasts or enhanced podcasts so that students can consume it when they’re on mass transit like in the San Francisco Bay Area where I am its BART or UNI, and then and so on. And so then I also provide a HotList if you’re familiar with that 80s or 90s term of basically a list of links, but they’re the links that I use the–its basically like a references section but in URL format so that students can start diving more deeply into the concepts that constructed this summary of ideas around a topic.
[Lillian] So they can choose if they want to listen to it, watch it, watch and listen or kind of skim through, look through, explore yeah.
[Kevin] And then I even with respect to those multiple media, I’ll create a PDF and a PowerPoint format. So again if they don’t have Microsoft Office they can still can view and I give that link to the free viewer which is an equity strategy as making sure that students have the technology as well as the ability to use the technology. So, it’s not enough to provide a link to you know adobe reader that’s free, but it’s also important to let them know hey here’s a tutorial on–
[Lillian] How to open it, how to get to it, yeah.
[Kevin] Stuff like that. So that’s the UDL concept in action of multiple means of representation or what I like to call just multiple pathways to review your materials and things like that. So when we get to that design for learning equity framework, we can build on that. So I like to think of it as layers like if you’re familiar with Photoshop they use layers a lot. You’ve used the word several times in this interview or even if you’re an artist taking that watercolor, putting down the blue will be the Universal Design for Learning, and then if we add some yellow we–that would be the equity framework, and then voila we made green.
[Lillian] Yes so, ready to go.
[Kevin] Exactly. We’re now in a calm zen space, we’re painting a garden. So, the equity principles that align with this idea of multiple formats for our work is now how do we provide multiple perspectives? So, what I mentioned in my talk yesterday, I asked students who are learning how to learn, to think about the growth mindset. It’s a work by a woman named Carol Dweck and others, and it encourages students to challenge their assumptions about learning that with effort and time they can increase their abilities, they can improve their chances of success. And so she’s got some great work, but so does a gentleman named J. Luke Wood out of San Diego State University who’s done a lot of work around supporting men or students in general of color in the community college setting. And so he challenges the work by Dweck slightly by saying hey it’s a great framework, but it’s not enough to apply that the same way to everybody. And so let’s think about how we consider supporting African-American students or Latino/Latina or Latinx students so that they’re equally successful. And that might imply that we do need to tell certain people that we believe they have the ability to do something as well as that they should consider adopting this growth mindset. And so then another person we might pull into the mix is Angela Duckworth who talks about grit and it’s tangential or I would say maybe even some overlap if you drew a Venn diagram with the growth mindset, but it’s another way of looking at it. And finally, there’s a gentleman named Kundu as his last name, I don’t want to mangle his first name, I think it’s Anindya, but he talks about the concepts from an agency perspective and also pulls in socioeconomic factors as something to consider when helping students think through their role as learners. And so by presenting not just this one idea of growth mindset, and I ask my students to take the little quiz do you have a growth mindset or fixed mindset and yeah and have them you know challenge their current thinking if necessary, but also look at these different lenses and see if that helps them make a better understanding of the concept but also apply it to what might be more meaningful for them. That act of providing multiple perspectives means that we’re being more equitable because students can relate to the content and also understand that not every perspective is a hundred percent right or wrong and hopefully bleeds into at some point encouraging students to share their perspectives as well which is another thing we’ll talk about. Another aspect of that multiple ways of presenting information is considering something called image and representation bias. And so when we look at the textbooks that are created, the publisher created PowerPoints and other materials, even sometimes the works that we as instructors make ourselves, we often turn to limited image galleries that may have preconceived notions or let’s just say limited sets of images and how people are represented. Usually young fit white people are what you see in pictures. Similarly, in textbooks it might be a stereotypical white male in front of the room speaking to everyone else, as opposed to an African-American woman or a woman with a head covering or anything else that you might conceive as hey there are many leaders out there and not all of them are white men. And so when we think about providing content to our students, possibly either choosing or creating open educational resources that would allow us to start augmenting those ways that we’re representing our students. We want to make sure that students can see themselves in the picture, or they may not be able to keep going. We want to prevent stereotype threat where we’re perpetuating the myths through and I would just say a lack of awareness that the pictures that we’re using don’t speak to our students that if they don’t see themselves, they may not choose that major in STEM or what have you.
[Lillian] Right, more of a sin of omission rather than a sin of commission. Just not realizing that we are not providing that representation. One thing I think of is in looking at assessments or asking other professors when I was working in faculty development to think about being a coach to your students rather than a judge. Take off the judge’s wig, instead put on like a coach’s outfit to say how can we do more formative assessments rather than a summative assessment, and I was very intentional about choosing women’s teams for sports thinking that oftentimes we will see men and that’s what we think about when we think about athletes. But thinking that was something that we just we didn’t see as much or don’t think about and asking when I’m asking them to try a different perspective, to be mindful of how somebody might be seeing that. Well, I’m not an athlete or I’m not a coach, but let’s think about all the different options of how we can see that. It’s really important and it was just a few years ago that I started to think about how that perception is. And if you’ve got a hundred students in your class, chances are you’ve got a diverse population
[Kevin] Oh, yeah. At San Francisco State, yeah there are 108 languages other than English spoken at home. So I just automatically think I have–
[Lillian] Diversity is the norm.
[Kevin] Diversity is the norm. So, yeah, that’s that first
[Lillian] Yeah, that’s a lot of layers that you’re putting on.
[Kevin] And so–and again, for our listeners, it’s not something that you have to do all at once. Pick one thing. If you pick maybe just one piece of content and that–for which you can find some alternative perspectives, great, that’s a start. You don’t have to do that for every single thing you provide, for every book chapter. And similarly with the concept of creating or revising open educational resources, a great example from Laney college in the Peralta district, this sociology instructor has a book that she likes, but she doesn’t like how the images are not representative of the students she teaches, and so she–rather than change the book or do all this extra work, she makes it a conversation with the students. Which is an easy way to step into it without having
[Lillian] To do all the work.
[Kevin] Yes, but to step into the pathway of equity without having to do a lot of extra work. And so she has these online discussions what–how does it make you feel not seeing yourself in these books? And then she has an assignment, I don’t know if she does it as extra credit or not, but she asked the students to write a letter to the publisher saying why it’s important for them to be able to see themselves. And so that’s getting into that agency and giving students the idea that their voice is important. So she’s taking it the same path of trying to increase equity in her course, but she’s doing it without creating a lot of development work, you know, she doesn’t have to go photoshop–
[Lillian] And really bringing the students into that conversation, that’s great.
[Kevin] So, the next ring in our course design metaphor is how do we engage students. And so in Universal Design for Learning it’s multiple means of engagement which involves motivation and other factors. And one of their check points is to foster collaboration and community and they give some ideas about how to do that. And some of it, if you look at just distance education literature, I believe student-to-student interaction is one of the top three or four factors in student success. Students in online environments can feel alienated because they are going through the experience–I say we’re doing this together alone. And basically I have a hundred students in my class and I could make it very easy for it to be a self-paced, you don’t ever talk to anybody else, and students have told me they have experienced that. Where they go through, they read a bunch of chapters, they take quizzes and then they don’t get feedback from the instructor. It’s a very isolated, alienating experience where they feel they’ve just checked off boxes but its not motivating at all. And so ways to increase that motivation are to increase the chances for interaction which UDL prescribes. And so for me, in every one of my quests in my course, there are discussions related to the topic where they’re building on what they’ve learned from mini lectures and kind of expanding their thinking before they go off and try it themselves. And so when we start thinking about adding equity as a layer to that, then the literature also shows that we want to let students know we value diverse perspectives. And so one thing that I have tried to do–and I admit that in the past I have done what I’m about to talk about–you may, if anybody listening to this podcast has created a discussion forum, it’s very easy to have a wonderful prompt for what students should create as a reaction to what you ask, and then put and reply to two other students. And so, that–
[Lillian] Yes, I am guilty of that myself, a long time ago.
[Kevin] Yes, me too, yeah. And so that doesn’t give students very much to go on. And we wonder why the students’ conversations fall flat, that people don’t participate, that what they say is good job smiley face and stop there. And so my–after doing all this work investigating equity, I’ve started to challenge students, okay I want you to find one student with whom you agree, and one student with whom you disagree, and I–and here’s what you’re going to do in each case. With a student where there’s agreement, I want you to find a resource that would help support what they’re doing, what they’ve said, something they haven’t seen that would expand their thinking in that same direction. And then the–for the opposite, ask questions to understand better why they came up with that particular response that you don’t necessarily agree with. So, it’s not–so it’s generating positive discussion around just lack of common understanding, and so–and I’m still tweaking that. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement because I’m just I’m still a novice at all this.
[Lillian] Wow, and so has that transformed what those discussions look like?
[Kevin] I–well, just looking at the length of passages but also the human connectedness where students say like oh I totally–just being given the freedom to say you know it’s okay to have diverse perspectives, but it’s also–it’s important to understand those diverse perspectives. I think it’s still early because I’ve only been doing this for a semester or two, but the concept of having the students be more thoughtful about their responses and giving them ideas of what to include in those responses or how to approach it has definitely helped.
[Lillian] Wow, and is that–I am so impressed and amazed that you have a hundred plus students–is that something where all 100 are working on the same discussion board or do you put them in different groups or tell me a little bit about that.
[Kevin] Great question. So, early on, I did make the mistake of making all the discussions whole-class discussions.
[Lillian] Okay and it sounds like you’ve changed.
[Kevin] I have, because I have learned that it’s hard to keep track as the instructor or as a student of what’s going on and students often end up replying to the one on top, the most recent post, because we are using Moodle at San Francisco State, so the most recent post goes up to the top of the list. So the people at the bottom don’t get any responses. So, A) this has helped stretch out the responses because people now have to find someone they don’t agree with yeah more find someone they do agree with so there’s poking around and reading more threads. But also for me as an instructor, something that I have had to do to address another kind of bias which is called interaction bias is–and I’m going to make a segue for a second to the research from Stanford in 2018 I think it was and we can provide the link to the article–
[Lillian] We sure will.
[Kevin] But it was a study that found that the majority I believe it was 94 percent of instructors in this study responded to people whose names look like white male names. And so more than–
[Lillian] Without knowing that they were doing this.
[Kevin] Most likely it’s unconscious type of bias but it’s specific it’s called human interaction bias. And in classrooms if you teach face-to-face that bias may take other forms. You may always call on dominant speakers because you know they’ll have an answer and you want to make sure you keep moving to cover all the material you need to cover, or you may call on white males or if these things are not conscious but they are impeding the ability for every student to participate equally, or equitably, which are two different things. And so in the online environment the way I’ve decided to at least start tackling this is I’ve created a Google spreadsheet. So, I’ve got a hundred rows all my students–101 if you count the header row–and then I’ve got a column for every discussion in my class which is you know probably about 20 here so over a 17 week semester, and then I put my initials if I’ve replied to that student in that discussion okay and then I’ve got a column right next to their name so I don’t have to scroll to the end to see it that adds up the number of times you see the letters KK in that person’s row yeah. And so if they have–in the beginning of semester if they have a zero they’re the first people I look for in the discussion forum to make sure that I’m answering students and roughly and I would say an equal, not necessarily equitable, way so that by the end–and I tell them that in my syllabus I cannot reply to 100 students every week so I’m going to choose let’s say 20, but I am going to reply to everybody an equal amount throughout the semester. So you will get feedback from the instructor about your ideas. And so–
[Lillian] So, you provided a mechanism to counter whatever unconscious bias you might have.
[Kevin] Might have, and I didn’t even analyze my previous discussions to see if it was true, but with a hundred students it’s easy to just miss people and I in the past had a strategy where I would always start with I would answer every student who had zero replies from another student. Because you don’t want anybody to put something out there–it’s like going to a party and being in a room by yourself and there’s a bowl of chips but there’s nobody else to talk to and so–
[Lillian] Its no fun.
[Kevin] It’s no fun. So, I definitely reply to every student who has no replies. But now I do that and I look for those names who have zero replies from me period so that I can make sure that they are feeling they’re getting feedback from the instructor. Because again not only a student to student interaction important for student motivation and persistence, but student-instructor interactions. And so the more I can do that, the better and I think one way–and I haven’t quite figured this out and maybe some of your listeners will send me emails saying here’s how you can improve, I definitely know I need it–but I think to make it more equitable is to not only give equal amounts of feedback, but provide additional feedback to learners who may need help understanding the topics or things like that. And I definitely go out there and similar to my emails to the pod Network, when I see a student doesn’t understand a particular topic, I’ll either refer to one of the resources that form the foundation for the mini lecture for that module, or I’ll go out and find a new resource to help them understand the topic better, usually both a video and a text so that way they have some options. And then something that I’m working toward but I haven’t gotten to yet is providing that feedback in video format as well as text because I know that students are consumers of video, but I also want to recognize that not everybody has a device. So I have to figure out a way to equitably provide multiple forms of feedback which will touch on when we get to assessment in more detail. But those are some of the things I’m grappling with in terms of increasing the equity as having the students be more intentional. So we’re building again on that UDL principle of increasing collaboration and community. One way to do that and to answer your question which I think I was supposed to answer 15 minutes ago, I did break the class of a hundred into ten groups of ten because there is literature that shows that roughly eight to ten is–not a magic number–but it’s a number where you can increase the number of quantitatively how many times the students reply to other people, but also qualitatively the depth of their responses gets more because there are fewer students to react to. And then I’ve taken, not for every discussion but for a couple and especially one on belonging where we ask students to think about the three most important values to them right now, I have a list of 50 but they can come up with others if they want and then they talk about how either that value is going to help them succeed in the class, or how the class is going to help them live their value. So that really making a strong connection between what’s valuable to them at that moment yeah and the class. So that increases the sense of belonging in the class but also helps with motivation. And so the next step is having students work as a team. So, in this particular instance I have the first week of the discussion be everybody share your ideas and discuss. And so they’ve got this personal layer about belonging, it’s called the values affirmation strategy. It came out of literature by a guy named René Kizilcec, but that second week they work as a team to construct a summary about how the diversity of values in their small group is going to help them be successful. And so they take different roles which they’ve chosen for themselves in the very first week of class. Am I the devil’s advocate because we don’t want to have everybody saying the same thing, so they’re interjecting new ideas if no one’s coming up with them. Am I the facilitator to make sure that we’re finishing this summary in one week’s time. So I’m going to send an email through the Moodle quick mail tool to make sure everybody’s participating. Am I the writer so to speak who’s going to take all these ideas and synthesize them into one argument at the end. Whatever role they choose, they all participate in constructing this summary of how their values are helping them with this class or how the class is helping them link their values. And so I again I don’t do that every time but I think that’s that next layer on top of UDL is the equity layer where social belonging is such a big factor in equity. That sense of connectedness to the other students where you can see the empathy pouring out of these students when someone says my value is family and my parents didn’t go to college and I’m the first one and so I can’t afford to not do well, and so I’m working like crazy to afford it and all these things. And so people are just like oh I’m in the same boat, or I totally get that and we want to support you and so–
[Lillian] And that’s creating community amongst those students that aren’t ever going to really see each other or inhabit the same room, but they’re creating that community online.
[Kevin] Exactly and so I see it as both. And the UDL and the equity layer make this experience, hopefully, better.
[Lillian] Absolutely, wow. This is this is, again, we said this at the beginning, this is a lot because every time you’re looking at a student interaction, every time you’re looking at an assessment or at a learning activity, you are thinking about those layers because well that is who you are. But it also can benefit all of our listeners. It’s certainly benefiting me, I’m really–there’s so many of these things that I’m going to be implementing, especially that smaller groups for students to really get a sense of that engagement and belonging. And from the UDL guidelines, that affective part of the brain is so important in saying why am I even learning this you know what connecting that value to what they are learning is it’s going to motivate those students to not drop out after that first quiz, right, that they’re going to persist in the course. So, this is mind blowing that I’m going to try to you know keep taking small things as I’m learning from this.
[Kevin] Consider this, listeners, a buffet and you are free to choose one or two things from this panoply of ideas, this gourmet–we’ve talked about Emeril, so yes just don’t use too much, there’s a lot of salt in there. So, I guess that does bring us to that third part of the Holy Trinity of learning, right,
[Lillian] Exactly, the assessment part, right, having multiple means of assessment, and I am going to guess you’ve got some layers for this, let’s hear them.
[Kevin] I do, if I were a baker, it would be a layer cake. So, if we think of UDL again under action and expression, which I closely tie to providing multiple pathways for students to show what they know, they suggest to vary the response and navigation methods. Some of that’s how people get around the course, but you also want students to have multiple ways to respond to prompts. And they also suggest allowing students to use multiple tools to compose things. And then–and last, they also talk about scaffolded support, and so when I saw all that in my course, before we get to the equity layer, I constructed these quests. Which are roughly three week modules in the scaffolded sense. Week one they watch my mini lectures and then they take some quizzes that basically help them demonstrate to themselves–because it’s a very low point value–that they understand the concepts and can work with them.
[Lillian] Just short recall exercises, right? Get it in there.
[Kevin] And then–and some people who already know the stuff maybe able to skip it because my class uses at that point accrual system, which means like a video game they start with zero and they earn as many points as they want. They can earn up to 3000 points, but they only need 1250 to get an A+. And so the idea is, because another UDL principle is to offer choice and levels of challenge, which we’ll get back to with the scaffolding, but that means that students can choose the things that speak to them most strongly and have the most meaning to them. And so week one, they do mini lectures and take a quiz, and they also write a plan about how they’re going to apply what one thing that they learned to their own life and basically explore that on a personal journey. Week two, they engage in these discussions which help them kind of think through these concepts of learning with technology, but then they also are enacting their plan. So, earlier we were talking about the idea of body, mind, and network-related habits which is, just as luck would have it, the quest that we’re going through right now in the online course. So, students are choosing to do one thing, like our listeners are going to do after this podcast.
[Lillian] Yeah, just one.
[Kevin] Just one, and they’re going to apply it to their lives. And so, some students are choosing to get more sleep or better sleep because college students often will stay up playing video games or whatever or so we have students who they commit instead of getting five hours of sleep, they’re going to get eight on a regular basis and then they’re going to use technology either with a Fitbit or an app like some of those apps that help you determine your sleep patterns, things like that–I’m blanking on the name of a couple of really good ones but–and then two weeks later, they write a reflection about how it went. And so, that scaffolding is you know learning about a concept, talking about a concept, and then applying that concept to your life and seeing how it went through some sort of reflection. So that’s the kind of the pattern and that follows the UDL principles of scaffolded support, but then I also want them to be free to use different tools to express how it went. So, I tell them that they do have to write a one-page essay for that reflection, but if they wish, that essay can become the script for a video that they create, that essay can become the outline for an infographic. I want the writing part because often, and this is again, listeners, something a mistake I made, learn from it– I gave them the freedom to use whatever format they wanted to turn in their work. And I would get these 20 minute rambling videos where they hadn’t thought through everything already. So, having them write that one-page reflection first where they’re crystallizing and they’re answering certain questions, then now they’ve got a script which could act as a transcript, but also it also saves me from having to listen to 20 minutes of yeah there’s some good ideas in there, but I don’t have 20 minutes to find them. And so, that’s helped and it also speaks to the iterative nature of our work where electronic portfolios, which I asked students to use to demonstrate their knowledge, they get to choose which artifact shows that they’ve reached each learning outcome at the end of the semester. And I have them thinking about it from the beginning and say which artifact works right now, and then at the end they pick. So they get to pick. They can do an infographic, a screencast, a video straight up, podcast and so on. And sometimes it’s a reflection on how something went, and sometimes it’s an artifact that they created in the act of doing the exploration. So I have a student who used a CAD drawing tool for a class but learned some techniques on how to use that tool, and so the artifact they produced is evidence that they learn something and applied it. And so, to me, that’s just as rich as having them reflect because it’s evidence that they were able to improve their success by trying something new. So, that wraps up the UDL way I handle assessment. When we add some of those equity layers on top of that, we can think about how the instructor provides feedback and there’s some good literature that shows that video-based feedback is valuable because students may be more likely, at least some students, to watch a video where you’re–maybe a screencast where you’re going through their work and highlighting a passage and saying I really like this sentence, I’d like to see a transition here and so on. And again, it’s early research and there’s–I wouldn’t say it’s highly conclusive, but I am ready to do a study to see if it’s going to motivate students to make changes to their next work compared to just text-based feedback and a rubric because I do use a rubric and written feedback where I try to personalize it and say I’m really glad that you brought in this example from your life and blah blah blah, here are some things I’d like to see next time and I don’t necessarily know that they go back and read that feedback. And so we don’t see those changes over time where the papers are getting better toward the end of the semester. And so it’d be interesting to see if the video feedback does do that. But it’s definitely an equitable way of providing feedback to meet students where they are. Also, it may be easier for them to listen to that feedback again on public transportation, or standing at the sink washing dishes after putting the kids to bed, or all the different things that today’s students bring to the table. And then another equitable aspect is when we’re providing instructions for these assignments, in addition to that transparent assignment template from Winkelman and UNLV, I like to provide additional supports. So, it might be hey this is a writing assignment don’t forget we have a Writing Center on campus and here are ways that you can connect with them without having to come to campus because I know you’re distance learners, some of you commute over an hour to get here, or you may be–I have actually one student who’s studying in Spain this semester but wanted to knock out a GE and so she’s taking my class from Spain. So, every time I write her its hola, que tal? But providing those additional resources, links to a librarian if it’s a research project and so that they know how they can connect using the library’s chat tool or something like that.
[Lillian] Because students don’t automatically know this. Some students may, they may have had some sort of predecessor who’s introduced them to it or they’ve known, but there are a lot of students who don’t. So, how is it that we address that inequity at just in familiarity with the things that happen in higher education, so knowing that our students are diverse.
[Kevin] And, because of the layers, these are things that people often put in their syllabus, but I think that just-in-time approach where hey we’re meeting students where they are right now, with the relevant resources that they need. So I’m not going to put every resource in there, but I will put a link to hey if you need help with captioning your video or use flipgrid which I’ve checked the box that says any video you create will be captioned automatically or what have you. Starting to think through those ways that we can support students not only with links to being successful using the technology, but being successful academically and all that.
[Lillian] Great, yeah, it’s a lot and it’s–but it’s really fantastic thinking and you’ve done the hard work of synthesizing all of this thinking around equity. You’ve done the research and really have provided me and our listeners with such a great framework from which to kind of pick and choose the ones that are going to work at least the first time we implement it. And then we can go back again the second time and see what’s going to work best for our students in our community. And slowly over time–you’ve been doing it 10 years, so you’ve got a lot of layers, yeah, I keep thinking of baklava that even more than layer cake you’ve got you know what 30 layers of all this really good honey goodness of a wonderful dessert for your students to really be supported. And that’s what you’re doing is you’re supporting them and you’re offering access to all of them in a way that everybody can fully participate as their full selves. So, but that’s what we can learn from your expertise from doing this for so long and implementing it for so long and you’ve learned and revised and taken all of your student feedback in order to make this something that we all can learn from. So, thank you very much for explaining this and for providing the resources which we will put on our webpage ThinkUDL.org and as you are, I know this is a somewhat newer project that you’re getting running and going, as more of those resources become available, we will add those to our webpage so, our listeners are going to get a treat when they look at our resources for this one.
[Kevin] Well, I really appreciate the opportunity. I’ll put in the caveat that maybe expertise is just defined as someone who has made all the mistakes already and has learned from them, which is a growth mindset, right? Mistakes are an opportunity for learning. And I will just put out there that I’m happy to converse with anyone, any listener who has a direct question can contact me, and so we’ll make sure that my San Francisco State email is on the set of resources as well, and so I love meeting new people and helping people overcome challenges, so let’s do it.
[Lillian] That’s great. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it.
[Lillian] You can follow the Think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the ThinkUDL.org website. The Think UDL podcast is made possible by College STAR, the STAR stands for supporting transition, access, and retention in post-secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aids based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the CollegeSTAR.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University, where, if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple at you! The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey Quartet, comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell, and Jose Cochez. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones, and I am your host, Lillian Nave, thank you for joining us on the Think UDL podcast.