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HEQCO’s Key Recommendations with Rachel Courts and Ken Chatoor

Welcome to Episode 114 of the Think UDL podcast: HEQCO’s Key Recommendations with Rachel Courts and Ken Chatoor. Rachel Courts is a Researcher at HEQCO, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and Ken Chatoor is a Senior Researcher at HEQCO as well. Together with their co-authors Jackie Pichette, Ofure Okujie and Ryan Tischoff, they have extensively researched UDL in Higher Education in Ontario and written a fantastic and extremely helpful work for any UDL practitioner entitled, HEQCO’s Dialogues on Universal Design for Learning: Finding Common Ground and Key Recommendations from the Sector. In this episode, Rachel and Ken outline how they and their colleagues assembled the ideas for this practical work. We discuss the thoughtful ways that the authors and collaborators researched and collected stories and information from their colleagues about the use and implementation of UDL in Ontario’s higher education institutions including their challenges, opportunities and successes. And from this they have produced recommended strategies for others to implement and institutionalize UDL in their universities. You can view HEQCO’s full report in the resources section on the Think UDL web page for this episode along with the other resources that we mention throughout the episode. Thank you for tuning in to hear how you can implement UDL successfully in your institution with the help of my guests Rachel Courts and Ken Chatoor.


HEQCO’s Dialogues on Universal Design for Learning: Finding Common Ground and Key Recommendations from the Sector

This is the HEQCO blog post mentioned, which is how HEQCO’s UDL project began.

The resource by Darla Benton Kearney that Ken referred to is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) guide. This resource is widely accessible whereas the certificate developed by George Brown College can only be accessed by educators in Ontario.

This is the source cited in the report with information about the Circle Conversation.

Want to learn more about Texthelp? Have a look at what our sponsor offers at the link above.




UDL, institution, work, events, Ontario, research, faculty, approaches, learn, challenges, students, implementing, support


Lillian Nave, Rachel Courts, Ken Chatoor

Lillian Nave  00:02

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 114 of the think UDL podcast hechos key recommendations with Rachel Courts and Ken Chatoor. Rachel Courts is a researcher at HEQCO. The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and Ken Chatoor is a senior researcher at HEQCO as well. Together with their co authors Jackie Pichette, Ofure Okojie and Ryan Tishcoff, they have extensively researched UDL in higher education in Ontario, and written a fantastic and extremely helpful work for any UDL practitioner. It’s entitled HEQCO’s Dialogues on Universal Design for Learning, finding common ground and key recommendations from the sector. In this episode, Rachel and Ken outline how they and their colleagues assembled the ideas for this practical work, and we discussed the thoughtful ways that they spoke with collaborators and researched and collected stories and information from their colleagues about the use and implementation of UDL, in Ontario’s higher education institutions, including their challenges, opportunities, and successes, and from this, they’ve produced recommended strategies for others to implement and institutionalize UDL. In their universities. You can view hechos full report that we talk about in today’s episode, in the resources section on the think UDL webpage. And you’ll also find the other resources that we mentioned throughout our conversation. Thank you for tuning in to hear how you can implement UDL successfully in your institution. With the help of my guests, Rachel Courts, and Ken Chatoor. Thank you to our sponsor, Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. So welcome, Rachel and Ken to the think UDL Podcast. I’m very happy to have you both.

Rachel Courts  03:03

Thanks so much, Lillian. And we’re really excited to be here with you today.

Ken Chatoor  03:05

Thank you.

Lillian Nave  03:06

Great. So I’ve got a lot of questions about this incredible resource that I am very excited to share with our listeners. I know there will be a lot of folks who will find this extremely helpful. But the first question I have, I’ll start with you, Ken, is what makes you a different kind of learner. 

Ken Chatoor  03:27

So thank you for that question. I am a neurodiverse person. And this was something that I was able to fully understand a bit later in life. And it’s been interesting working on UDL. And reflecting on that, because it’s made me think about how I had to learn, especially when I entered university, because it was a very jarring shift from high school. And I realized that I just had to learn how to learn all over again. And I feel like I spent the first couple years of my undergrad just figuring out what that meant for me, you know, how do I gauge engage in the lectures and courses in doing assignments. And it was the way I describe it. It was like learning to hack my own brain to meet the context of what university was, which was very challenging, but I figured it out. And it ended up being pretty awesome. So yeah, that would be how my, how I learned to how I learned to learn.

Lillian Nave  04:23

Fantastic, that’s very helpful with what you’re doing. Now. I really appreciate when we have that inside knowledge as we go about teaching others to learn. And those differences is very, very helpful. That’s what I’m all about. So thank you, Rachel, let me ask you the same question. What makes you a different kind of learner? Yeah,

Rachel Courts  04:43

thanks, Lillian. I also really appreciated this question. It really made me kind of pause and reflect on you know, what works for me what kinds of approaches work for me as a learner. So for me, what makes me a different kind of learner, I would say is that I’m a vivid doodler. So what I mean by that is I find it really helpful. To really see things or concepts like laid out, spread out across a page, I like to draw shapes around things, use arrows use different colors. All of these sorts of tools really helped me make connections between concepts or ideas, both of my mind, but also quite literally on the page as well. It’s really helpful for me to visualize my my learning, and, you know, thinking about UDL. I think that’s also something that works for other people I’ve heard to being able to express or demonstrate your your learning in a very visual way. So yeah, that’s that’s how I go about my learning.

Lillian Nave  05:34

I appreciate both of those answers. Because I know we have listeners for this podcast, who are administrators or who are designers and lots of different kinds. And we also have a lot of faculty who listen, and having faculty listen to how different their students can be. Because we really come into that thinking, here’s how I learned. And I did I expected my students to learn the way I did. And my first doodler, I remember thinking, well, they’re not paying attention. And it took me a while to come to the realization that they’re just learning differently than I am. And it’s changed, of course, the way that I teach. I don’t have to monitor I’d be like, Oh, this is great. This is a wonderful way to learn. So the next question I have Ken, I’ll throw this your way, at first, is about this incredible report that you have. And I wanted to ask how did this report come about?

Ken Chatoor  06:32

Thank you. So for us, this is a story to me of just something starting from a very small, almost random place. HECO had been publishing reports on accessibility and inclusion for many, many years. But in the years leading up to us doing this project, you know, myself, I worked on a project assessing the state of access for students with disabilities in Ontario, as were other teams at HECO. And one of those teams ended up doing a report on accessibility and higher education. And myself and this group, we both ended up recommending UDL as a best practice to support students with disabilities. So it really started off from that context. Now, we ended up putting out a blog, because we also have a blog and HECO. And we put this out in April 2021. So kind of like, you know, height of the pandemic. And we just had this call at the end, that was just if you’re interested in a community of practice, reach out to us. And this blog, I should mention, was focusing on the excellent work being done at George Brown College, which is in Ontario, Canada. And they do a lot of work on UDL. So we were just highlighting the work that they did. And we said, if you’re interested in this, if you’re also working on this, and you just want to talk to people just let us know. And I love telling the story, because it’s a case of government listening. So we’re an agency of the Ontario government. And we ended up getting so many people reaching out to us saying, Yes, we would love to be part of your community of practice, that we just kind of put out to see if anyone would be interested, and a lot of people were. And so that’s where this project started. And so we ended up realizing that a lot of different institutions across Ontario Colleges and Universities were working on this, the kind of on their own, and they really needed a space and a mechanism to talk to each other, figure out what was working for them and what they could share with each other. And so that was the very humble start of this project. And so we ended up having a little small team of us just figuring out what does the UDL project look like? And then from there, we’ll talk about later on in the design of our study, how we ended up actually going about meeting this challenge.

Lillian Nave  08:48

Great. Rachel, how did you get connected to this as well?

Rachel Courts  08:51

Yeah, so I kind of joined in at that phase that Ken was describing where a small team came together to kind of figure out okay, what can we do? What kind of project can we do about UDL, implementation and increasing institution wide uptake? So that’s why it jumped in, when we started doing that background work. And I would say to that, you know, when we got started, we found that there actually wasn’t that much research about UDL implementation at the post secondary level, especially, there’s a bit of a gap there. So I think that was also a goal for us with this report. It’s, you know, to be able to bring people together in the sector to talk about this, but also to kind of contribute to that research, um, hopefully set share some suggestions to the sector on how to move forward.

Lillian Nave  09:35

That’s great. Yeah, that’s one of the things I get asked a lot as a podcaster. on UDL is about research implementation, higher ed, we’ve got a lot more on K 12. So that’s why I’m really excited about this one. So you mentioned Canada about the design of the study. Can you explain what was the design of, of this study for our listeners?

Ken Chatoor  09:57

So the first thing that we realize I used as we decided to do this project because there’s so much public interest was we immediately recognized and acknowledged that we are not UDL experts. Certainly at the time, we were not UDL experts. So one of the things that I love to do when we ever we take on a new research projects is I like to call them reconnaissance meetings, where we just reach out to experts in the sector practitioners, researchers, academics, and just ask them, you know, what are your thoughts on the gaps? And what’s missing in research? What do we need? What do you want us as a government agency to be talking about and doing to support or evaluate this work? And so that was the first thing that we did. And we immediately realized that, again, to do this research properly, it needed to be dialogue and conversational focus, because one of the first things you realized immediately was that the main question that kept coming up even among UDL experts as well, what exactly is UDL? And what does that mean for different people? Initially, Rachel, our director, Jackie, as well as some of our amazing interns, we initially set out to do three events that were very focused on things like evaluation, and how do we build intersectionality into UDL. But our the sense that we were getting was that there’s this general issue of, you know, figuring out what is UDL actually mean to this province and for institutions in particular. So we ended up building for events that we would use as a way to conduct research through conversational means and different ways of conducting research than we normally would. Which was very exciting for us. In order to do this the best way possible, we really felt that we needed to have expertise on hand. And so we developed a steering committee of people across Ontario, which is a massive province of 14 million people spanning an incredible geographic area. And so we brought together people who were experts on UDL, but also people who are adjacent to UDL, but not maybe necessarily focused on UDL, so people who are experts on international curriculum design or indigenisation, or anti racism. And so we ended up bringing together a very interesting group of people who had either direct or adjacent expertise to inform what do those research questions need to look like? Who should be at the events? Who should we be inviting? How do we set the tone of the events and this was I cannot emphasize enough how much how instrumental having a steering committee to guide the work in the right direction was to make sure that they were bringing the expertise that we didn’t necessarily have at the time, and that really helped make this study. So robust and so interesting. And I’ll stop there for now.

Lillian Nave  12:56

Okay, and Rachel, can you pick it up there?

Rachel Courts  12:59

Yeah, sure. So I can speak a little bit more to what those events looked like and what we focused on. So there were four virtual events, each a bit different, but all incorporating discussion components, because like Ken said earlier, we really wanted to make sure we could engage folks in conversation to share ideas, practices, and challenges that they were experiencing at their institutions. So the first event was a dialog where we focused like Ken mentioned, looking at, you know, what does UDL mean, how are people defining it in the sector, and that was something like Ken mentioned, was recommended to us by our steering committee. And it really set the stage I’d like to set us up for subsequent events, I think, kind of laid laid some foundation before we jumped into, okay, well, how do we institutionalize it? How do we make it a broader effort across colleges and universities? So our our second and third event jumped into events or jumped into those kinds of topics. So those were town halls, they had slightly more people than our first one, had some presentations and then followed up with discussion after that the second event focused on approaches for institutionalizing UDL. And that was a discussion we actually connected to equity frameworks as well and looking at you know, what kinds of equity initiatives are underway at institutions? And are there any lessons that maybe UDL institution wide uptake could borrow from implementing those equity initiatives? And so there, there might be some similarities. And then our third event focused on approaches for evaluating UDL implementation. So how do we measure progress? How do we measure success with institution wide uptake? And then I’ll just speak to our last event, which was really I think, engaging and interesting, it was a design thinking workshop. And in the workshop, we asked participants to really consider the needs of faculty and UDL implementation and what institutions could do to support or address those needs. So design thinking was a really interesting, I think, useful approach for this topic because it’s such a complex problem. There’s a lot of different people factors issues involved to make something like UDL institutionalization work. So we had a really great facilitator who let us lead participants through different kinds of design thinking activities to brainstorm what institutions could do to support faculty in in implementing UDL.

Lillian Nave  15:20

Great, this sounds like you had a lot of feedback kind of in all of these Yeah, areas like the dialogue and having feedback loop, keep to keep improving, right, as you went along.

Ken Chatoor  15:32

I want to shout out the UDL community of Ontario just for what you’re talking about. You know, at every event we had we told people, you know, if you have feedback, this event can be more accessible. If there are things that we can do, please let us know. And they did, and always in the kindest, most constructive way. And you’re absolutely right that each event because everyone was so open minded, and everyone was really coming to share ideas, it really helped us design our events themselves. And we’ve actually applied a lot of what we’ve learned through these UDL events to other stuff that we do at Petco, which has been really awesome. And I’ll just add one thing about how we did this research. For folks who are curious about, you know, how did we make sense of all of this. So we had over 103 attendees, we had no takers at every breakout room for every event, paired with a facilitator, and we ended up having, I’ll just describe it as lots of notes. And I will also shout out Rachel, who led the qualitative analysis of all of these notes. So we used a qualitative approach to do coding to identify themes. And then from there, we tied it to different policies that were going on in Ontario to really ground what we were hearing in practical approaches and what the government was doing and what the sector was doing at large. And from there, we ended up writing a report. So that’s a bit about our research process as well.

Lillian Nave  17:03

Wow, I must say, the feedback and the kindness of the UDL, folks in Ontario, I’ve interviewed quite a few folks there, and George Brown College, etc. And just the whole UDL community is so amazing, like, going from a discipline, hard discipline, like art history, where I’m from, and then going to like teaching conferences, which are very different than an academic conference, they’re a lot better. They’re a lot kinder, you know, it’s not the gotcha questions after your paper, like, Did you cite Smith and Wesson in 1974, you know, and then you go to the teaching conferences, and it’s so much more giving and kind and hey, have you tried this, and here, let me share this. And then you get to the UDL people. And it’s like, it’s even a whole other step forward into this kindness and really seeing, are you okay, like, how can how can I help you? How can we help each other to be better learners all around. So it’s just it’s such a wonderful spot. So thank you for explaining that to and, and hoping that if anybody else decides to use this as a template, they, they should be excited to to find that this is such a really rewarding process along the way.

Ken Chatoor  18:22

I’m wondering if we can, if we can talk a bit about one of the means that we used to do this research, which is called the circle conversation. Is that okay? Yes. Okay, Rachel, or would you like to take this or I can start it off. Okay. Thank you. Okay. So one of the things that was one of the most effective ways of doing this work came from one of the members of our steering committee, who’s at Lakehead University. Her name is Jerry Lynn, or n is an indigenous curriculum specialist. And she introduced us to the circle conversation, which is an indigenous way of sharing knowledge. And we ended up using that several times, during our events to both have a conversation, but also as a way of doing research, which is really important when we talk about indigenizing our institutions, that also means in the way that we approach research as well. And, you know, using this way of having conversation brought so much empathy and compassion, and genuine sincerity and emotion from all of our participants, including ourselves. And I just really wanted to highlight that approach to having these conversations in doing this type of research and just as a way to encourage people to, you know, think about other ways of both conducting research and just engaging each other. It was something that we now apply regularly in a lot of our work, and even just in things like staff meetings, so just something I really wanted to mention that we found particularly Be powerful and effective.

Lillian Nave  20:02

Thank you so much for for adding that. And Rachel, did you want to add to that as well?

Rachel Courts  20:07

No, I’ll just echo what Ken said, you know, we found it was a really, really special approach for us and, and for our participants, we received a lot of really great feedback about how much they appreciated being able to engage in conversation that way. And I’ll also just mentioned to like the great thing about doing this kind of research, where we’re holding events and engaging in conversation with people, we got to hear from so many more people than we would have been able to hear from from just doing, you know, like individual one on one interviews, but we also get to see that collaboration and connection happening in real time between folks colleagues across the sector. And I think that was really a goal for us in it with this project. So yeah, it was really great to be able to have this kind of design, event focused research methods to accomplish multiple goals for our project.

Lillian Nave  20:59

You know, there’s a lot can when you bring up the circle conversation, and using other methods, like indigenous methods to do research, there’s just a lot of humility there, as well. But that idea that we’re open to new ways of learning new ways of doing things. And I, I’m always encouraged by that. And I’m always like, very, very humbled like, wow, I never would have thought to do that. That’s not what I was taught. I didn’t do that before. But here, yeah, we’re finding this completely different way of knowing and of being and seeing that it has so much to bring to the table. And gosh, so often, when I’m doing UDL focused work, I’m learning so much, and the stuff that just existed outside of what I really had been taught, and and how much richer that class that workshop, that thing this report is, by being humble enough to include all of the things maybe we didn’t even expect. So I guess we should say that to to others who might want to reproduce this to expect the unexpected and, and be ready to be surprised in a joyful way. So you had some challenges and some successes with this with this study. And I’ll switch and start asking Rachel first on on this next question about the what challenges did you find upon doing this project and research?

Rachel Courts  22:37

Yeah, so um, you know, at our events, we had asked participants about the challenges they were experiencing with implementing UDL across the institution. So it seems like there’s a mix of challenges, I would say some that are happening at more of like a higher institutional level, some happening at more than individual level. So at the institutional level, we heard that there’s a lack of support or a commitment to UDL, sometimes higher up at the institution among senior administrators. And in some cases, you know, there might be some acknowledgement of UDL as being an important framework and something to implement. But there might not be that much happening in practice, or actions being taken to kind of encourage UDL uptake more broadly. And then, without that, you know, communication and clear direction, we heard that the work of implementing UDL, it’s often happening through these grassroots kinds of approaches being taken up by faculty and staff. Another challenge we heard about is that there’s siloing happening in institutions where departments who, you know, might be able to collaborate on this might be working on some similar initiatives, or not maybe connecting, they might not be aware of work that might be happening across the institution, where they could kind of jump in and collaborate. And so that siloing kind of stalls progress with with making this more institution wide effort. Then I guess, going down to at the individual level, as I mentioned, you know, moving UDL forward, it’s often falling on the shoulders of individual faculty members and staff without that commitment or direction from leadership. But you know, especially after the pandemic, we heard participants were, you know, folks at institutions, they’re, they’re burnt out, they’re feeling overwhelmed, and so implementing UDL can feel like this is taken from our event, it can feel like one more thing to do. And fact you feel like they just don’t have time to do this, or maybe even that mental space to be able to do this work. Which you know, UDL being something that really does require that deeper, like inner work and reflection. Another challenge that we heard, going back to what we were saying earlier, but there being you know, different understandings and definitions of UDL, we heard that sometimes faculty, they might not be sure what UDL entails, maybe not sure even what their role is in implementing it, and they might have some, maybe misconceptions or assumptions about it. Well, One that we heard was that, you know, using UDL makes assignments less challenging. So instead of seeing it as something that, you know, no, that’s not the case, it actually provides alternative pathways for students to complete an assignment. So these were some of the challenges that we heard about from folks at our events.

Lillian Nave  25:19

Yes, Ken, do you have more to add to the challenges?

Ken Chatoor  25:23

Yeah, sort of on a high level, something that came up, I was going through some of our notes from this from these events. And one of the things that came up is this concept of progress versus perfection, which is often a challenge and a lot of like wicked policy problems. And it’s also something that you’ll hear a lot about, especially in equity spaces, for example, is, you know, really wanting to get it right, which in some ways can sometimes actually stall any progress at all. And so, one of the things that someone said that I thought was so interesting was, we also must need to help people overcome the concept of progress versus perfection. We can’t achieve perfection right away. But if we make small gains, it’s still better than nothing. There’s no way we can do everything at once. And we still don’t know what everything is. And I love that acknowledgement, just and we don’t actually necessarily know what right is yet. And that was something that came up several times throughout these events, I believe it was, God black, we talked about the concept of just planting a tree, you know, that tree will be very small in the beginning, but eventually it will grow into something robust and beautiful. But you just have to start small and see where things go. So I also want to share that as it’s kind of a higher level challenge, I would say, but, you know, it’s sort of that thing of you just have to take the first step, which can be the hardest step. And so providing means and ways for people to be able to take that, I think is something that we heard a bit about, too.

Lillian Nave  26:55

Yeah. I appreciate the all of these practitioners who are bringing back the criticisms that the challenges because I do hear them a lot. And as Rachel mentioned, that whole idea about making things too easy or dumbing down or reducing rigor. And there have been so many talks lately about rigor, right? And in higher ed. And I think recently, and I can add this to our resources, I think it was Kevin Gannon, who talked about a wrote a little article about, you know, we don’t need to reduce the rigor of an assignment. But it’s the logistical rigor, it’s, it’s things like having a particular arbitrary deadline, let’s say something like that, or some more arbitrary logistical things that make it difficult rather than what do we really want? And that’s what you DLs like, what’s the real goal, and then making the assignment fit the real goal, not all of those false barriers? And, and that seems to be something that a lot of practitioners get a lot of bounce back about, like, Wait, what are you? Are you saying, I just have to make things easy? Oh, no, no, no, no, we are not saying that at all. So I really appreciate that. This is also you know, part of the study. That’s one of the main things that we hear a lot about, and you’ve you’ve got that in the study, and I so appreciate it. But besides the challenges, you also had quite a few successes and opportunities, I guess, we could call them. So Rachel, I’ll start with you to tell us about what those successes and opportunities were.

Rachel Courts  28:37

Yeah. So participants at our events, you know, as you mentioned, their faculty, their staff, their practitioners, they made some really great recommendations for approaches for encouraging or advancing UDL uptake. I’ll just note that, you know, institutions are, they might not all be at the same stage with this, some might be very early on in doing some, you know, faculty individual implementation, and so might be at that stage of, of institution wide uptake. So, sometimes we heard, you know, possible suggestions that could work. And other times we heard approaches that have worked have been successful at institutions that are further along in this process. So one strategy that participants spoke a lot about was integrating UDL into what I would say are existing structures or processes. So things like strategic plans, onboarding for faculty, program review or approval processes, so that has to do is more embedding UDL within the institution. It’s making it part of the day to day operations, making sure it’s something that you know, people across the institution encounter in their roles and are thinking about, and that can help establish it as a collective responsibility. It’s something everybody’s doing. We also heard that having senior administrators on board with UDL can help generate buy in at the faculty level. So an example that participants gave was, you know, modeling it in meetings and staff meetings. So that fact will take and actually experience it, see it for themselves. And then that also helps communicate or sort of signal its value and the institution’s commitment to UDL, which, you know, I spoke about before that that’s a challenge. Another strategy that we heard was appointing UDL champions at different levels, faculty level administrator level, they can also help communicate the importance of UDL and spread awareness about it and engage faculty and implementation. Another opportunity for institutionalization that we heard about was the importance of building connections within and between institutions. We heard that, you know, it’s important for faculty to have and staff to have that opportunity to come together, share knowledge, engage with and support one another through this, and share what’s working for them, what challenges they’ve encountered, and so on. So some of the kinds of opportunities we heard were, you know, peer support, mentorship, so someone who might be might have been implementing UDL for many years, maybe they can help someone who is just starting out to to, you know, give that support. Also an ongoing community of practice, where folks can share challenges and solutions, maybe within the institution, but beyond as well across the province. So going back to some of the challenges that we heard about, that sort of collaboration can help break down the silos, in institutions by you know, encouraging supporting folks across the institution to collaborate. And one other opportunity I’ll I’ll talk about two is providing training and learning opportunities. So we heard a lot about professional development workshops or courses. You know, these can help faculty gain a deeper understanding of UDL, but also feel more confident and comfortable with applying it. And also potentially address or counteract some of those misconceptions or those assumptions or uncertainty about UDL, again, addressing some of those challenges I mentioned.

Lillian Nave  31:56

Great. It can do you have more that you want to add?

Ken Chatoor  32:00

I can talk about some of the potential areas of opportunity that we allude to in the report that we’re very excited about, which is that we’re seeing UDL show up more and more in government policy. And you know, when you get leadership from the top levels, whether it’s government or institutional leadership, that does have an effect on, you know, people making the decision to take up UDL. And so I want to shout out two particular things. One is there’s a something called the post secondary education standards development committee, government, we love our long names for everything. And there’s also a K to 12. Committee, that’s basically with a similar purpose. And the purpose is to develop and recommend new accessibility standards for students in K to 12. And in post secondary, and one of the things that’s recommended in the K to 12. One is that UDL training be mandatory for all educators at the pre service level and ongoing throughout the year, and that that training not be delivered solely online, but in a combination of online and in person, and in consultation with people who would benefit the most from UDL. So we are seeing the effect of UDL, now in government policy, which is very exciting. Right now, these things are still in committees, and they’re still in motion. So they’re not, you know, properly mandated yet. But the fact is, is that it is starting, and we’re seeing movement on it, which is really exciting. So I think that to me, is, you know, when it’s like a seat of opportunity that and we’ll see how that affects things down the line.

Lillian Nave  33:38

That’s really great. That’s so fantastic. And I do appreciate how this is a mix of the universities and the the government working together. And as you said, at the very beginning, they listened, people listened and you’re putting this into practice is such a great template for others to follow. That’s why I’m really glad we’re going to send this out for other people to hear about the successes and opportunities. So the you have also have three recommendations at the end of this HECO report. And so I’ll start again with you, Rachel, what are your recommendations that come from this report?

Rachel Courts  34:18

Yeah, thank you. So the recommendations are based on you know, what we heard from participants or our stakeholders that are events, but also just note, they’re drawing from the literature we reviewed as well. And something that is talked about in the literature is having this combination of top down and bottom up approaches like having a balance. So that’s something we also tried to, to balance we tried to strike in our own recommendation. So having things that, you know, institutions can do to embed UDL, in everyday practices, but also things that can be done to support faculty to grow their understanding, and their capacity to implement UDL. So our first recommendation was for institutions to establish UDL as institutional policy. So that being one of the kind of top down kind approaches that would really help address the challenge that I spoke about earlier relating to having that clear support for or commitment to UDL at a higher level. So having that buy in at the top to show that yes, UDL is valued, something that’s important to the institution that can really help communicate to faculty and staff that it’s something that the institution is on board with. And something is back in triplet have trickle down effects as well. So yeah, our second recommendation was for institutions to create or facilitate opportunities for folks to connect to share practices and support one another, as well as though to learn either from one another or through things like courses or resources that they can be connected with. So we talked about, you know, within the institution that might look like creating working groups or committees, so people can come together to discuss this issue. Or it might mean, you know, connecting faculty to external support, like with indigenous centers, for example, to learn how to incorporate indigenous pedagogies, or content into their courses. Also, just note, George Brown College and are in Ontario, I think Ken already shouted them out earlier in this podcast, but they have a really great certificate or online course that staff can complete to learn about UDL. And it also does a really great job of connecting UDL to equity frameworks, like anti racism and anti oppressive practice. So these are just some ways, you know, to one connect with one another, but also to understand deepen understanding about UDL and how to implement it. Our third and last recommendation has to do with evaluation. So we recommended that institutions evaluate their progress with implementation to understand, you know, how UDL uptake is looking at their institution monitor to monitor its impact, and to see where improvements might be needed. So that involves, you know, identifying what metrics to use, how will you measure what UDL implementation? How will you measure UDL implementation and know whether it’s been successful. So we recommend using a combination of quantitative and qualitative metrics or approaches to really get more of a holistic understanding of UDL is impact. And we recommend involving multiple stakeholders. So having faculty and students students is actually that’s something we heard a lot from. In our events, there was a really big, there was a lot of conversation around engaging students in implementation and evaluation efforts to really understand their experiences in kind of being on the receiving end of UDL. I’ll stop there and see if Ken has any Yeah.

Lillian Nave  37:40

Yeah, go ahead. Good.

Ken Chatoor  37:41

I’ll just start off by emphasizing what Rachel said about mixed methods or using quantitative and qualitative research. I came from a STEM background and was absolutely at quant snob for many years. But one of the things that I’ve realized the more I work in this space is they’re simply things that numbers can never tell you. There are stories in those numbers in between those numbers that you simply will not learn unless you also conduct qualitative research. And that is especially important when you’re doing research on something that UDL and where there are issues of equity and access involved. So I just really want to emphasize that. What I also would like to talk about a little bit is around, one of the things you write about is approaching UDL through an intersectional lens lens and connecting it to equity frameworks. And there are very legitimate questions and concerns about how to go about doing this. And I want to share a couple of quotes that kind of get to the heart of this, which is, one person said, we have to think about the way our systems are designed. But how do we think outside of the current systems and initiatives? If and if we design things differently? What does that mean for students? And the second one is around just knowing what the barriers are. So a good first step is to operationally define barriers. But how do we know that there’s a barrier? What does it look like? How do students know there is what and if we can’t measure these terms to begin with, we can’t measure its removal. So we can’t measure something if we don’t know what it is. So the reason I mentioned this code is because it demonstrates why collaboration with other institutional departments is so important. So this includes offices for students with disabilities, anti racism, equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization. And also, international offices in Ontario, for example, we have a lot of internationalization happening, and a lot of international students have unique challenges. And a lot of UDL approaches work really well for these students. And so it’s important to bring all of these different groups within institutions together, to have a conversation to see where collaboration makes sense, but also maybe where it doesn’t. And I also include wellness officers in there as well who do a lot too support student mental health, all of these groups have a light that they can share and benefit each other from and it connects with one of our main things that we talked about, that Rachel talked about, which is just breaking down the silos, you know, I have an image of a bit of a big farm with a lot of silos, and it’s just, we just need to take them all down. And then the very last thing I will talk about is we talked about evaluation. But sharing those results that other people can see and hear about it is so important. You know, a lot of the times the opposition or discomfort with UDL is often due to a lack of what some people will see as their idea of strong research. And I think that is something that is so important disseminating this research, having conversations like this developing community of practice, the more people are aware of what UDL is, and addressing some of those misconceptions, the easier uptake will be at a systemic level, which is what we’re looking for.

Lillian Nave  41:00

Look at you bringing in those qualitative quotations from changed. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, I’ve I’ve I do come from the humanities background. And so it’s always been my, you know, conversations with people, I guess, maybe that’s why I’m a podcaster. Now, that make, it’s, for me a much more nuanced understanding of whatever the problem is, or I never would have thought about it this particular way without all the input from, you know, from students abroad, that I’m working with, or from different faculty members in different subjects. And so part of UDL, I think, is being open and pulling all of those different voices in in order to make a real understanding of what the problem is. And I definitely saw that in the hecho report. So it’s just such a great template. It’s such a great learning mechanism and way for other folks to follow. I hope in other areas, not just Ontario, but all over the world, we can learn a lot. So I wanted to thank you both so much for sharing your expertise for sharing your findings for taking your time to talk about this report, which will be on our resources for this episode. So everybody can read the full report and see everything else. All those other qualitative parts that Ken didn’t have a chance to bring in, in today’s episode, but I want to thank you both for joining me on the think UDL podcast.

Rachel Courts  42:41

Thank you so much delay, and this has been so much fun.

Ken Chatoor  42:44

Thank you so much. It’s awesome to have this opportunity to speak with you and just share more with the UDL community.

Lillian Nave  42:52

Thank you. 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 think website. Thank you again to our sponsor, Texthelp Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include Read and Write equate to an orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez as an I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The Think UDL podcast

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