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Implementing a UDL Practicum for Faculty with Jim Stachowiak

Welcome to Episode 109 of the Think UDL podcast: Implementing a UDL Practicum for Faculty with Jim Stachowiak. Jim Stachowiak is the Accessible Technology Strategy and Operations Lead in the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Jim brings a depth of knowledge in disability services and information technology to the creation of a very successful UDL practicum at Northwestern University that has brought really fantastic results. In today’s episode, we discuss how this came about, who all is involved, how to implement it, and how others can replicate a UDL Institute successfully on their campuses. And what is really exciting is that Northwestern has made this UDL Practicum free and available for anyone else to use! You will find a link to this UDL Practicum on episode 109’s resources at Thank you for joining us to learn how to spread the good word about UDL on your campus! 


Contact Jim Stachowiak at or Twitter @jimstach or via Jim’s LinkedIn

Northwestern’s Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching’s Twitter is: @searlelearning

UDL Practicum (OER): Addressing Evolving Needs with Universal Design for Learning

Check out more information on the UDL practicum including a schedule and description of sessions




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Lillian Nave, Jim Stachowiak

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 109 of the Think UDL podcast, implementing a UDL practicum for faculty with Jim Stachowiak. Jim Stachowiak is the accessible technology strategy and operations lead in the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Jim brings a depth of knowledge in disability services, and information technology to the creation of a very successful UDL practicum at Northwestern that has brought a really fantastic results which we’ll talk about today. In today’s episode, we discuss how this came about, who is involved, how to implement it, and how others can replicate a UDL Institute successfully on their campuses and I’m what is really exciting is that Northwestern and gyms to HVAC has made sure that this UDL practicum is free and available for anyone else to use. You’ll find a link to this UDL practicum on episode 109 resources at the think website. Thank you for joining us to learn how to spread the good word about UDL on your campus. 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. Welcome, Jim Stachowiak I’m really glad to have you here on the think UDL podcast today.

Jim Stachowiak  02:25

I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Lillian.

Lillian Nave  02:29

Well, I am excited about this incredible resource that you’ve put together with your colleagues with a multitude of colleagues. And that’s what’s really exciting to me about it. But the first question I have is just about you. And that is what makes you a different kind of learner.

Jim Stachowiak  02:46

What makes me a different kind of learner, you know, I was thinking about this. And I was thinking about how I’ve learned across my life. And I think I approach learning differently depending on situations right? When I was in school, I was very much a you know, I’ve read everything kind of take things in from a text based perspective. But as I’ve gotten a little older, when I need to do some home improvement, I go straight to YouTube to watch how that’s done taking videos that way. I also find myself, you know, when I hear about events or situations or something like that I really liked like going to Google Maps and taking a look at where that is and looking at pictures in that area to get a sense of kind of how things operate in that area. So I’m kind of all over the map. And it depends on the situation. And I guess it’s kind of perfect for UDL. Right.

Lillian Nave  03:35

It is exactly, yeah. And one of the main things that I talked about and we learn about is, the first thing we have to do is think about the environment where we’re teaching, right? So in each one of those those are different environments about are you going to need to fix something in your house, or are you trying to learn a concept and you’re going to go with something different in each area. And I too am a huge fan of maps. I love maps, look at maps all the time. I love my Google Maps. Yeah, it makes me really understand where I am and like understand what what’s going on. If I have to go somewhere conference or you know, or my children are somewhere in another state, which two of them are now. Yeah, understanding where they are is an important part of me getting the whole picture. So yeah, super situational environment is important. It’s a great UDL answer. So you are heavily invested in Universal Design for Learning at Northwestern. And you have created your team a large team has created this UDL practicum so I’m interested to know how the UDL practicum came about and and why you wanted to do this at Northwestern and yeah, just tell me about who all is involved.

Jim Stachowiak  04:55

Absolutely. I’ll start with the why because it’s gonna take it back to the very beginning of this and so when I started at Northwestern, I was the Assistive Technology Director in the Student Disability Services office called accessible and you have since transitioned to part there in part with Nui T. But in that role in Disability Services, you know, we saw a need for creating better learning environments on campus. And we really wanted to start to push this idea of universal design for learning where where we remove barriers just from the beginning, as opposed to having to do everything on an individual basis. And I had done some of that work previously at University of Iowa. So I came to Northwestern and right about the time I started there, art director in the inaccessible and you had gotten a grant to do some UDL work, and we decided we were going to create this summer workshop for faculty. And our goal originally was to get one faculty member from every school to come to this summer workshop, where we did five weeks, once a week come and learn a concept talk with with others. And with the grant, we were able to pay a stipend. So we got, you know, eight instructors to come to that that first year. The second year, we we had gotten a little bit of traction with folks. And we got some recommendations, we were up to 12. The third year, we got up to 15. So we were moving kind of slowly, and what we were in the impact we were having there and then the pandemic hit. And that was the real game changer for us with with universal design for learning. For multiple reasons. I think, you know, one, everyone was experiencing barriers at that time. So there was an opening for understanding why this was important. And understanding that things needed to change to everybody’s the way they were teaching shifted on a dime, right. So there was something else that they needed to figure out a way to connect with students in a different environment. And so those those those options brought those those opportunities came across with our practicum. So the practicum started as this was happening, when when the pandemic hit, and everybody got sent home, we were on spring break. That was it because we’re on a quarter system at Northwestern. So we were on spring break, we extended spring break by a week and the the Teaching and Learning Technologies Group in the circle Center for Teaching and Learning, we’re furiously trying to get everybody up on canvas and zoom and teaching that way. So it was a pretty hectic spring quarter. But during that time, the Provost Office who oversees our Teaching and Learning Center and the the CIO, who oversees our teaching and learning team in Kent, the Canvas team decided that those two groups really needed to create a learning opportunity for faculty to understand how to teach better online. And with that the folks that were charged to do that those two groups really, really were the people that came up with a great idea here and said, Hey, let’s pull in all these other resources on campus that might be able to contribute to this because we there’s a lot of good work being done on campus. And let’s pull that together and what they wanted to do with it. So they brought in the Teaching and Learning Technologies team in NUIT, the Searle Center for Learning and Teaching that kind of Faculty Development Group, the distance learning group, which is called the School for Professional Studies at Northwestern because clearly they’ve got the experience in that the library was brought in, and then they asked me from accessible and you to be a part of this as well. And they from the get go said, we want to weave universal design for learning into any learning experience that we create with it for folks to learn how to teach better in this online environment. So that first practicum we created was called the foundations of online teaching. There was a line through it for UDL, we talked about it constantly, we had a core session dedicated to that. So that was really where instructors started to get introduced to that concept. And open to learning about that concept. We ran that practicum about 10 times and had about 900 folks that that participated in that and you know, that was that was because there was a need, right that was everybody was trying to learn those learn learn that concept from that the success of that practicum led to kind of the next two and so the group that had started this, the steering committee was told, okay, this was really successful. Now you got to come up with another topic for the next year. At that point in time Northwestern was releasing their inclusive teaching practicum so the year two topic was called the inclusive teaching practicum and we weaved UDL through that as well. And we kind of tried to figure from there, what was the third topic and the thing that people kept coming back to is, we want to learn more about UDL. So we decided we would go specifically to have a UDL practicum for the third year. So this is a the success of this. And the, you know, I kind of talked about this, and there’s three parts to this, right, it’s the collaboration across campus was huge in making this successful in all of these, the structure was was really important, too. I think we landed on a structure really quickly, that benefited folks and that people kind of rely on and come back to knowing that this works pretty well. And then and then the content for each individual one isn’t is important as well. So I don’t know that I completely answered your question. But that gave you kind of the history of where we were glad to dive into other parts of that if you’d like as well.

Lillian Nave  10:52

No, that was that was really great, a great background. And it really was I didn’t realize how much the pandemic spurred this on and just made it blow up. I mean, you went from eight and 12 to, you know, 900 be served by this. So that’s incredible, like you’re reaching, that must be a majority of your faculty.

Jim Stachowiak  11:14

That year, we certainly did with the foundations piece, the next to the inclusive teaching practicum. And this, this UDL practice, and we still hit 250 for each of those that were registered. So it’s hard to get 10 faculty to do much. So getting getting 250 to come to it was was something that we’re still pretty proud of.

Lillian Nave  11:36

Yeah, and you should be that is really amazing. And what really caught my eye when I heard about this. So because it’s really having an impact that we’re going to talk about. So you mentioned the structure. So can you explain a bit about that, and how you went about the structure structuring this practicum?

Jim Stachowiak  11:56

Absolutely. So with each of these practicums, there’s that steering, there’s a steering committee, which was kind of the first five groups that we talked about working together and they choose who’s going to lead each of the practicums, after content, efforts topic has chosen, that person that’s leading it then reaches out around campus, again, because collaboration is a big part of this, and determines who would be the best people to be on a content committee so that we’ve got a wide representation of, of what we’re doing. And so for our content committee for UDL, we had our Counseling and Psychological Services was part of that. Our tutoring services was part of that those two pieces were because we wanted to frame this a little bit in UDL, in response to what has happened over the past several years. So we use them to kind of set the framework for the whole thing. We had an instructor in chemistry and political science on this, we had, again, all those other groups that were also part of that steering committee, it’s coming from the library. So me from distance learning somebody from somebody from the circle Center for Teaching so that that group kind of came together. And then we’ve worked within a structure to develop what that content is. And that structure is also a three part thing. This seems to be kind of the the theme we’re going with, but the structure of our practicum is you have it’s three weeks, and you have a core session every week. And that core session is kind of the large group learning. So you go to a session with that we call those core sessions we make required, you go to the required session and a large group learning there’s some kind of presentation slash discussion and breakout rooms kind of thing there. There’s a another piece to that then that’s more of the small group learning. So when we start the practicum when you register you we ask some questions about your your teaching your with UDL, we asked about your knowledge related to UDL. And then we created cohorts of 10 to 15 people that would go through this together. And one of the things we focused on UDL experience in that and we had heard beforehand that people like to be grouped in groups of people with similar experience, because if they were a novice, and somebody else is an expert, they wouldn’t necessarily feel like they, they had much to contribute. So we made groups of 10 to 15, and cohorts, and those cohorts meet once a week to talk a little more in depth about whatever topic related to UDL, they might be interested in coming out of those core sessions. And then the third piece to that is individual learning. And so we had we learning engineers on campus that acted as consultants for this so everybody was suggested have the opportunity to and we suggested that once a week you do an individual consultant consultation with one of these learning engineers who you were assigned to to think about how to implement UDL directly in your course. So that that’s kind of that’s the structure that we’ve taken through all of these practicums. And, yeah, it’s I think having, and actually, you know, we didn’t, we didn’t develop this with UDL in mind. But as you think about this, those three pieces are, if you want to engage at this level, you can, if this is the way you want to engage, you can, there’s three different ways that you can engage in that. And then on top of the kind of core sessions you have to go to, we also weave in several what we call recommended sessions, which just go a little bit deeper into various topics related to whatever that may be in the practicum that people can or maybe they choose not to, with the UDL practicum, our core sessions were related around the three kind of key topics and UDL multiple means of representation, expression and engagement. So each week focused on one of those types of topics as well.

Lillian Nave  15:55

Wow. So you had a lot of choice for your participants, they can choose how deep they wanted to go on one of those recommended sessions. And then they got to choose the topic or something when they’re meeting individually with their groups?

Jim Stachowiak  16:09

They did! One of the things that we really tried to do was guide them through some thought processes each of these weeks as well. So with each of our core sessions, there was some pre work that we suggested that they do. And so for example, for the week that we talked about multiple means of expression, the the the pre work was to think about an assignment that you do, and to just kind of break it down into what are the targets? What are the learning objectives of this assignment? What are the target skills that you’re trying to assess in this in this assignment? What are the access skills, the things that you need to be able to do to complete it, but you’re not necessarily. You’re not necessarily assessing in this. And so we had them kind of break this down in that session, they had some discussion around that. And then the idea was, so that you’re not going blind into this consultation session, you’ve got this piece that you’ve broken down your assignment, maybe now you talk to this consultant about how you could add an option to that assignment for somebody to answer it differently, or to provide a what they’ve learned in a different manner. So we tried to kind of guide them that way. They don’t always take that sometimes they go in with their own ideas. And that’s fine, too. But yeah, it’s it’s a real neat opportunity.

Lillian Nave  17:29

So and was that that wasn’t required? Or that was one of the recommended or? Well, it’s really people take advantage of that?

Jim Stachowiak  17:38

So I think for the most part, everybody took advantage week one, and then they kind of decided if they wanted to continue doing that or not, by the third week, there was there was quite a bit of people that had decided, Okay, I’ve had an I’ve gotten enough of work out with this consultant that I didn’t need to go back. But I would say it’s hard to put a it’s hard to put percentages on it, I suppose. But we had, most of the people took advantage of it the first week, and then it would kind of gradually gradually fall off through the final weeks. But there’s people that took advantage of all three, and then asked if they could continue meeting beyond because they had other ideas. And that’s what those learning engineers are there for. And that’s what they help with. So yeah, there’s been people that have gone beyond even the three opportunities. So the only thing that we said was in it’s really hard to make anything required, the only thing we said was required was either attending or watching the recording of the core sessions. And then from there, you know, your your approach to the practicum could be what you wanted it to be.

Lillian Nave  18:38

Yeah. So this requires a lot of manpower, then a lot of people who are meeting as consultants and leads and like the original, like, main required events, right?

Jim Stachowiak  18:53

Yeah, it does. I think when we when we break it down, and we put we listed everybody that had anything to do with it from helping us to communicate about it to leading cohorts to leading these sessions development, I think there was about 60 people that were involved overall with this. And that’s where I was coming from with this collaboration being key, right? You know, if we, when we first started the practicum, I think the idea was, was you can, you can take the good stuff that’s being done. But you’re when you’re bringing people together, you’re also bringing these audiences that are loyal to some of these other areas. So we couldn’t get a bigger audience, and one voice kind of pushing out information to those folks. But yeah, we had to, but now, I so I think again, the real key was that first one that we did and the success of that because when people got involved when they when they really needed to read out of the gate and saw success now it’s really easy for us to go and ask some folks in the library if they would be willing to be cohort leads for these sessions. And absolutely we they’re all- we can always find people that are willing to do that. Or we go to the Learning engineers and say, Would you be able to be available to take on consultations this week, or this for this practicum. And they make time to do that. I think a couple times when we had for the first practicum, and this one, we were able to get a little bit of funding to hire an outside consultant to be a learning engineer as well, just to take some of the burden off of the the folks in house, but just the spirit of collaboration around this is really been key to making it successful and having all these different offices be able to work together and have people support different aspects of the practicum.

Lillian Nave  20:41

Yeah, it’s really amazing. And I know, a question that I would get from talking about this is, so where did all of that come from? And is this a top down a bottom up? Or some of both? Because it sounds like you have, you’ve mentioned how many people around campus? It’s been sort of a groundswell of support. But was there some sort of top down from the, you know, President from the provost or something like we need to do something that got all these folks working together? Because that’s really phenomenal in a university to have all those people working together?

Jim Stachowiak  21:18

It is, and I think it was a little bit of both, right, I, you know, I think I mentioned that it was the the Provost Office that said, Hey, we got to put this learning piece together, but they did not say, I need all this support on this, you know, I think it was when the group came together. And it was, this is the idea that we have, and these are the types of people that we need, who can we reach out to in our various networks that we can bring into this. And so when you have groups that are pretty well connected, and and, and know, folks and are able to, to say, Hey, this is what we’re doing, and this is where we think we could use some help and, and to really try and not put too much of a burden on folks. Right. That was the other piece of this was like, This is not your whole job. I mean, the folks on the person running the content committee, generally get they say it’s about 25% of their work for the year is going to be on this. But then when we’re asking, you know, for a cohort lead, it’s, you know, you’re going to lead three meetings in this three week period for about an hour. And so it’s not that much of a lift for somebody in that respect. And, and we were really lucky that there was just so many people that that thought, hey, this is a good idea. And I’m willing to help with that. So, you know, the more people you have the lighter work, it is for everybody. I think that helps as well, that we’re able to just kind of spread that out across several people.

Lillian Nave  22:44

Yeah. Okay, that makes me feel also a lot better. Like, because this is so exciting. But I’m like, Wow, this seems like a really heavy lift. But it sounds like with all the work that you guys at Northwestern have done, and creating the structure, and with the opportunity to maybe even share that with us, that’s going to make it a lot easier for other universities to implement that. So okay, so let me ask a little bit more about your philosophy in doing the UDL practicum. And, and also, you’ve mentioned some of this, but how did you model universal design for learning while you were presenting about Universal Design for Learning?

Jim Stachowiak  23:25

Sure, sure. We had really five key things that we were thinking about doing when we were when we got our content group together and said, you know, what is it that we’re going to do to be successful here. The first thing is we want to discuss UDL as a response to the impact of the events from 2020, to the present, and how that created a need to be more flexible for everyone, and how that raise all kinds of barriers that we wanted people to think about ahead of time, instead of having to address everything one by one, when when students came up and struggled with that. We wanted to make sure that we were modeling this and I’ll get into a little more how we did that in a minute. We want to make sure we were modeling it. So people saw how you would implement UDL in a class and experience that while while we were taking this practicum the really I think the biggest thing is we were locked in on giving practical solutions to people. And we can talk about theory and whatnot all day. If people are coming to this practicum they want something they can take away and do. And so that was we were laser focused on how are we going to give people practical applications here. And I think right in one of our first content community committee meetings, one of the one of the members said, the way we should approach this is something that you can do now, right when you walk out of this session, and then something you can think about to add later. And so that was that was the approach we took was a short term goal, a long term goal coming out of these things? And then the other two pieces that we’ve looked at we really, we’ve based a lot of what we did out of Tom Tobin and Kristen Behling’s book Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, because we found that to be probably one of the more practical books on UDL that’s out there. And so we took the the idea of finding those pinch points, starting small, because that’s where people get overwhelmed a lot, right is where do I start doing this? How do I do this over a whole class. So we focused on starting small, finding where those pinch points in your class were and addressing it with UDL there. And using plus one thinking, add one option, do one more thing iteratively improve what you’re doing here, and move forward. So that was our real philosophy on this was to to be practical, and to give these these examples that folks could implement now at around those areas that are that were difficult for them. The way we modeled stuff. You know, I talked about kind of the structure itself, modeling UDL. But the way we modeled multiple means of representation was you know, every session was recorded and had had transcripts with it so that if you couldn’t make it, you can, you could watch that you could follow up whenever you needed to do that. We created a Canvas site that gave that goes through every single week, as a module and has every core sessions got information on there, but within the resources that we provided there, we offered books, we offered websites, we offer videos, we offer podcasts, there’s a lot of Think UDL podcasts in there that we that we utilize. And we tried to tell we curated those and tied them together so that we were very explicit with folks, you don’t have to use every one of these resources. But there’s a way that you can choose how you want to navigate these ideas. There’s different resources that you could go through. So if you wanted to watch all videos, you could get the gist of all the information we’re talking about, just by watching these videos, if you wanted to read this, you could go through the websites that we offer there, if you want to listen to podcasts you could get, it’s not the exact same, but it’s basically the same general information. And then we we have a site license at Texthelp tools. So we made those available to everyone as well, if they wanted to, you know, listen to those tools. We did provide short videos that went a little more in depth on topics for engagement or for representation for engagement, you know, we talked about offering different types of ways that you can engage with the practicum, we offered those optional sessions for people that wanted to go a little bit deeper. Within sessions, we offered different types of ways to engage folks, we had the you know, you talk for a little bit, and then you do a breakout session, we did case studies within there, we had synchronous and asynchronous ways for folks interact. And then from multiple means of expression, you know, anything that any work that was done, we specifically said, you know, you could do this on a paper, you could record this, if you wanted to, there’s you could try different ways to, to submit your, your, your pre work that you had to do. Within sessions, there was multiple ways for folks to interact, you know, you could ask questions, you could use the chat, live, there was, and we every time we did one of these things, or anytime one of these things came up, we pointed this out as a way of showing that we were modeling multiple means of whatever that happened to be in those areas.

Lillian Nave  28:42

Wow, lots of different ways to model that flexibility and choices. And I always find out that when I, when I do that I’m in a situation, then that’s what really ignites our fellow colleagues to say, Oh, I’ve really liked that. I’m going to do that for my students. And it really changes the way they approach it.

Jim Stachowiak  29:05

Absolutely. And I think, you know, we tried as much as we could, because there was only this practicum was the first time that we had a professor on the content committee. But we tried as much as we could to bring Professor voices into this to share what they’ve done to give it to give other instructors, somebody that asked questions, too, about how they implemented these things. And so we really, we had our this is where the that history that I talked about before those early professors were people that had been implementing for a few years and now we were able to bring them back in and share a little bit about kind of things that they had done to maybe I don’t want to say D stigmatize but make people not, you know, worry so much that it was difficult to implement UDL in a class. I see some folks that have done it in various units as well.

Lillian Nave  29:57

Yeah, that’s like the highlighting the bright spot. So what are those ways to get organizational change is say, see who has done it and how it’s worked. And, you know, a lot of the pushback I hear too, as a UDL person, is that oh, that sounds like a lot of work. And I have heard the best way of her someone answer that is to say, well, when do you want to be doing the work? Do you want to do the work ahead of time, and it makes the rest of your course go a lot smoothly?–very smoothly? Or do you want to be kind of scampering and trying to fix things later on? Because it wasn’t designed in the first place? Because you’re going to be doing the work?

Jim Stachowiak  30:39

Exactly. Exactly. And we talked about that. And one of the professors that we had in here, one of the things that he had been doing was, I think he was a physics professor, he had been creating videos, on concepts that students struggled with. So he had all these short videos that he had loaded up into, into his canvas site that students could go to. And Professor, somebody asked him, like, how much work was it? It was, so I’m not gonna lie, it was it was a lot of work on the front end to do this. He goes, but I think it’s saving me time right now. Because I’m not getting 30 of the same questions in class or after class. Like I if I do get a question, I can point students to these videos that break down kind of what they’ve done. So yeah, it’s, uh, put things in on the front end to save time later. I think the other approach that we took there to kind of combat that was start small, you know, you don’t have to do all of this right now. Pick one area and make some progress on that. And then once you’ve done that, you know, iterative iteratively improve upon that as well.

Lillian Nave  31:40

So yeah, that’s exactly that pinch point. I think you mentioned before is he that physics professor had so many issues with a particular concept. So let’s figure out a way to explain it in multiple ways to get that out for students. Same thing happens in my course. Actually, right now, in my, in our research, a lot of students in the first year don’t know how to use the library modules that are the resources in the databases are how to form the research question. And I thought, This is what always takes up so much of my course of my time during this part. And so I created a video of how to get to those sources, what it means, and a really detailed assignment designed so that now I’ve been able to say, Okay, go back and just make sure you’ve read this part. And you’ve seen this video, and it saved me hours of consultation, honestly. So okay, so you have learning objectives who for the UDL practicum, tell me about those.

Jim Stachowiak  32:44

We do. So we have kind of three overarching ones. And then we had some more little more specific ones. And I think the three things that we were really looking at, for folks to come out of this is we wanted them to be able to reflect on the impact that the pandemic and current events had on students and instructor mental health and well being. And as that’s related to teaching and learning, so how, how has how has things changed? How are some of the things that we typically traditionally do? How are they may be impacting both students and instructors mental health wise, we wanted them to recognize how aspects of their current design may unintentionally exacerbate challenges faced by students as well. So that was, again, this idea of hey, we’re really going to reflect on what we currently do, and what some of the interactions with students that we may have had over time, and how those go and and what we’re seeing in our students, that was a big key on why we brought in our Counseling and Psychological Services in our tutoring group, as well as they were able to share some of those student experiences that maybe instructors had not heard from students as well and help them reflect on some of those things. And then we want them to understand how utilizing UDL principles can reduce an instructor’s need to implement individual solutions for students that were experiencing barriers. So that’s kind of goes back to what we were just talking about is, you know, ways to make work a little bit easier on them, too. I think one thing that I hadn’t really talked about is we were trying to, and we probably didn’t do as much as we needed to in this but we were trying to point out that it’s not just students that have been impacted by these last several years, but instructors as well. And we really wanted to get this idea of even though this may be more work on the front end, this ultimately could impact instructor mental health positively as well. And then we did have some application based learning objectives. And that was basically just exploring ways to incorporate multiple means of representation, engagement and expression into their courses. And specifically in the syllabi, Canvas sites, course materials, assessments and learning experiences for students.

Lillian Nave  34:53

Yeah, so that’s very UDL have you to separate the knowledge goals from the skills goals.

Jim Stachowiak  34:59

Yes, it was it was intentional. It was a little bit intentional doing that for sure.

Lillian Nave  35:05

Yeah, that’s also been a major change for me. And in my teaching life is talking to students about those, what I want them to know and what I want them to be able to do. And you’re early on your year, you’re talking about all these things like, what sort of access, you know, skills, what do they need to be able to do in order to do the thing I want them to do. And really just being aware of that, as instructors is, is mind blowing to me, because I didn’t think about that, when I was, you know, a professor in the very beginning stages, I just did what I had always been taught to do, and didn’t really think about all those, you know, hidden things in the curriculum that we really need to make explicit for our students.

Jim Stachowiak  35:50

And I think at least so I was part of the core session that focused on on assignments. And I think that was a big aha moment for a lot of instructors is when we had them break down. What is it that you’re actually assessing here in your assignment? And how are you making students show what they’ve known or show what they’ve learned? Or show what they’ve, what they can do? And how are there other ways that we could possibly do that? I think that was a that was a big eye opener for a lot of folks for exactly what you were just saying something they just hadn’t thought about before. And it was kind of like, oh, this makes a lot of sense. We need to think about this a little bit differently.

Lillian Nave  36:30

Yeah. And you are you’re making so many of your faculty think differently, which is such an improvement for your students or in student success. So you have done this for a while. And I’m interested in the results of the practicum at Northwestern is campus and you’ve got got data about it.

Jim Stachowiak  36:54

We have a little bit of data on it, and a lot of the so what this data that we have is specifically related to this practicum, where we did some pre and post survey related things. And we were asking about a lot, a lot of what we were asking about was gains that they felt that they made in terms of various areas like understanding how UDL can lead to more inclusive environments, explaining and implementing multiple means of each of those three areas, identifying common pinch points, things like that. And it what we found was the folks that indicated moderate to great gains, it was like 70 plus percent in every one of those categories, and 70 was low, you know, as I look at some of our data that we had explained, explaining that how to implement multiple means of representation, like 89% of the folks that took this indicated that that they made moderate or great gains in that area 85% indicated, being able to identify pinch points making moderate or great gains. And their same with applying multiple means of representation was 85%. So we had a lot of we could see a lot of impact happening from these surveys. And a lot of the feedback we got was that it just made people think about things a little bit differently as well. We’re about ready because we’re just getting to the like six month point after, after this whole thing. So we’re just getting ready to launch another round of surveys to do kind of a six month follow up and see where people are after, after diving in and actually having some time to implement some of these things in their courses as well. And how often are you doing this three week. So we actually just finished the last iteration of this. We did it three times throughout the throughout the year. We did one in August, like our school year starts in late September, we’re on the quarter system. So we tried to catch people before they started that that year. And I think in that first session, we had, like 70 ish, 75 ish people, I’d have to I don’t remember 77 participants in the August iteration. We did it again in October. So we did it kind of after the school year started, but before we got into like the holiday season, and we had 80 participants in that iteration. And then we offered a the spring winter spring is kind of a difficult time to do any of those types of things here, but we did one in February, that lasted most of February, and we had 90% 92 Actually participants in that one. I think it’s because people knew this is the last offering of that for the year. But now we’re looking at ways to extend kind of some of these opportunities, these learning opportunities for folks. So in April we’ll be doing a UDL practicum reunion where we’ve got seven instructors that implemented UDL that had taken some of these courses that are going to come in and do almost like a mini conference where they’re going to be talking about what they’ve implemented in their courses so that people can go and listen to various individuals that they’d like to hear from, and then have a discussion around what they did. We’re actually bringing Tom Tobin into our Teach X conference at Northwestern to do a UDL workshop that’ll take this to the next level beyond what we’ve already done. And we’re expecting a lot of folks to, to take part in that and our group is talking about, we just met before I came on to talk with you. And we’re talking about ways to create kind of UDL, affinity groups that can work together, they can continue to work together almost in that cohort model, if people want to continue meeting that way, through our Center for Teaching and Learning. And then we’re in the process of taking everything we did for this and turning it into an open educational resource so that both people that were at that are at Northwestern that couldn’t participate live can can have access to this, because this is timeless material. Yeah. So so that if you didn’t have an opportunity, then that you could do it now. And we’re also going to make that public for other universities that may want to take advantage of that as well.

Lillian Nave  41:23

That’s really fantastic news. So whenever this episode comes out, I’ll have a link to that OER, open educational resource, which would be free to the public. It’s what an amazing amount of work that has gone into it that other campuses who maybe aren’t as large or maybe don’t have as many resources, or as many people who are as well versed in UDL could really benefit from this. And you’ve got lots of feedback from your your faculty that it’s been really helpful. Haven’t you?

Jim Stachowiak  41:56

Yeah, we’ve we’ve gotten an awful lot of feedback from faculty saying that, you know, this, I think they appreciate the thought that’s gone into all of this the resources that have been curated. You know, a lot of folks spoke to how they were hired further professorial prowess to their research in the area, and that a lot of this stuff had not been things that they had been taught in, in, in teaching before and that, that having an opportunity to go through something like this, just to think a little bit differently, and have it scaffolded in a way that guided them through that process was really helpful in in just thinking about how to be more inclusive, how to create better learning environments for their students. We have lots of examples of people implementing UDL in different ways. You know, I think a lot of the concern that people would have, I suppose we get more out of like STEM courses? How am I going to do this in a STEM course? And, you know, outside of like engineering courses are usually already experiential learning and whatnot. But how am I going to implement some of this? And we had an engineering prof that I believe he was, I’m trying to remember exactly what his assignment was. But he got to a point where, after going through this kind of thing was thinking,


maybe I’ll do my midterm assessment differently and ask the students, do you want to sit for a one hour midterm? Or do you want to do something else? And they all said, we want to do something else. So he had, he came up with three options. And so you can design a circuit using these specifications? I think the second option was something about explaining a circuit or something like that using certain specifications. The third option, and this is like, true UDL stuff was or you can write a children’s book about this concept in engineering, that would explain it to a 10 year old.

Lillian Nave  43:57


Jim Stachowiak  43:57

And, and, and they did the midterm. He said there was a lot of folks that chose that children’s book, not realizing maybe how difficult that actually was, yes. But he said, you know, they, they, they spent more time on this than they would have in the in the midterm. But then he asked, What do you guys want to do for the final? Do you want to do a traditional final? Or do you do want to do something like this again, and 39 out of the 47, we want to do this again. And he felt like the depth of knowledge they had gained in certain areas by doing this was was more than they would have otherwise. But he did say to but I’m not the breadth of knowledge probably isn’t quite the same. You know, they’re deeper in some areas, but they may not have gotten, you know, what they need. So he’s still working on that. He was thrilled with the progress they made on there. And he’s he’s working on trying to figure out how to how to modify that a little bit going forward. So there’s a great example in our that we can give to our STEM folks that hey, you know, it doesn’t always have to be just Problem Sets or whatever that happens to be. And we’ve got several other instructors that have modified how they give assignments or, you know, some there’s been a lot of flipped classrooms coming out of this where there’s videos that folks can watch and or read a transcript on before class and then come to class and do more discussion deeper dives into things experiential learning in. And I think so I mentioned some of that data that we’d have. But I think more of the more powerful stuff that offsets some of these anecdotal evidences of people changing some things up and talking about, hey, yeah, that worked great. Or here, we get some of the that didn’t really work. But I tried it and got some feedback. And now I’m going to do something else this time around and being in the disability services office, too. There’s times where I don’t go looking for this UDL stuff. But I’ll be talking to a professor about something else. And they won’t remember that it was me that talked about UDL, I heard this thing about UDL. And so I’m going to change this and do this and offer more flexibility on this. And so you do hear a lot of that, that happening around campus. And I think one of the really cool pieces of feedback that we got was one of the person that’s evaluating the practicum was actually sitting in a Master’s of higher ed poster session that a student was giving. And during that she heard the students say that they were super impressed about the UDL training opportunities at Northwestern and how faculty were willingly applying these strategies, their teaching and learning. So when you’ve got students that are recognizing that this is being done, I mean, I don’t think there’s a better way to say that this was successful. This breaking was successful than then hearing that students are being impacted by that directly.

Lillian Nave  46:59

Yeah, that’s absolutely amazing. And your anecdote about the physics professor do with writing a children’s book? What a great first of all, that’s a great idea. And second of all, the students didn’t know and most people don’t know how hard it is to make a very complex concept into something easily understandable by somebody else. And that means they really, really, really had to know it even more so than maybe checking an answer on a test. And it’s a such a deep dive.

Jim Stachowiak  47:32

Exactly. And I will say he did say, not as many chose the children’s book for the final as this did the midterm after, after realizing that, but yeah, that was a, you know, that was that was one of the great examples there. And yet, during that deep dive, you know, another example that we had was out of a music teacher in a, I think, a music and special education course, she had had a project that was the essay forever. And then after doing the UDL thing, turn that into and she didn’t go plus one she went to, you can do whatever you want in this. And I think it was explaining, you know, how the law applies to education and students with disabilities, and she had students I happen to be doing a presentation in her class, like, right after that was due. And as students were coming in, she was talking to him about the website they had created with a brochure that they had done, and, and how, how much it showed what they understood, but also how they could potentially use that in field experiences, or share that with others as well. So that some of the richness of some of that assignment was was really evident in that as well.

Lillian Nave  48:43

Yeah, that’s very authentic, very much a UDL priority is having authentic assessments that are meaningful, and, you know, make sense for the students and for the for the curriculum. It’s just fantastic. You really had some amazing results. And I’m very excited to be able to share this with our listeners. And hopefully, we get a chance for other folks to maybe duplicate it or see if they can do this, because it’s really it’s only a three week long program itself. Right?

Jim Stachowiak  49:16

Right. Well, and that’s the other piece to it, too. And I think that was something that that that initial group really hit on is what’s the right amount of time, like, we instructors don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to things like this. And, you know, if we did it over six weeks, we probably don’t get as many people that are involved. If we do it over one week. That’s an awful lot that we’re trying to jam in one week. It’s still a lot that we’re trying to push through in three weeks. But yeah, that sweet spot of kind of focusing on on one topic over the week, and giving other opportunities for those that have the time to do that. I think that’s worked really well and I think again, I that’s kind of, I give a lot of credit to that original group that came up with that as because people, most of the people that we get that are coming back are people that have gone through all three of the practicums. And they they believe in the concept. They believe in the structure. They know it works well for them. And so we get a lot of people, a lot of returners from that. So yeah, that the the original group was key on that. But also, you know, everybody that put work into this all 60 of the individuals on campus that contributed their time and, and I think the I talked about collaboration, I think that was something else we tried to model as well, every time, there was a session, a core session or a recommended session, it was given by two people. And it was always two people from different departments that were working together on this also to show that this was a, like, a unified one voice across Northwestern kind of thing and a model that, you know, the collaborative piece that worked really well for everybody.

Lillian Nave  51:01

It’s just fantastic. It’s such a great story or example of the collaboration across campus of a really well implemented faculty exercise or practicum, over three weeks, and I do appreciate that you call it a practicum. Because you want it to be very practical, that they’re going to actually, it’s not just a workshop, one and done, they are implementing right away. And that was a major focus. So that’s just fantastic stuff.

Jim Stachowiak  51:33

Thank you. Yes, that that was key, the implementation, that practical piece, that’s we, we listen to the faculty, that’s what they wanted. And every time that’s kind of we take the every iteration of this practicum, we take that information from the faculty and try and sometimes make adjustments in between iterations, sometimes it’s year to year. But you know, if we want them showing up and taking something away from it, we got to give them what they’re what they’re looking forward to.

Lillian Nave  51:59

Yeah. And it creates a much more successful teaching operation. And that leads to student success. So everybody’s happy.

Jim Stachowiak  52:08

Exactly, exactly.

Lillian Nave  52:09

That’s great. Well, thank you so much. You’ve done a fantastic job putting all this together and explaining it. And I’ll definitely have links about how to find out more about it on our website for this episode. And just thank you so much for taking the time to tell me and our listeners all about it.

Jim Stachowiak  52:27

Well, thanks Lillian, I really appreciate the opportunity to share our story and to elevate some of his great work that a lot of folks at Northwestern had their hands in. It was a really fun project to be to be a part of, and being able to share what we’ve done has been great as well. So thank you for having me on.

Lillian Nave  52:46

Thanks so much. You can follow the think EDL 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 equates 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 an I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast!

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