Episode 9 is being recorded live at the UDL-IRN Conference in Orlando, Florida on March 28, 2019. Lillian interviews two guests, Adria Battaglia (University of Texas at Austin) and Jen Pusateri (University of Kentucky) to talk about specific UDL initiatives on these two large university campuses in the United States and also discuss overcoming barriers to implementing UDL in Higher Education. They also get the chance to hone in on the great things that are happening at the UDL-IRN conference, one of the leading UDL conferences in the world. After the conversation, Lillian reads conference-goers’ Tweets about the biggest takeaways from this year’s conference. It’s a great session that captures the pulse of UDL in Higher Ed, thanks to Lillian’s brilliant and generous guests, and of course our friends on Twitter!
Faculty Innovation Center The University of Texas at Austin’s Faculty Innovation Center
Jen Pusateri’s padet on mid-semester feedback
CELT the University of Kentucky’s Center for the Enhancement for Learning and Teaching
Cast is a nonprofit education research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning. UDL-IRN is a grassroots organization that supports the scaled implementation and research related to Universal Design for Learning. Through collaboration, we support and promote the identification and development of models, tools, research, and practices designed to foster effective UDL implementation in educational environments.
[Lillian] Welcome to Think UDL, the Universal Design for Learning podcast, where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. [Music]
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 [Music]
Episode 9 of the podcast is a first for us here at Think UDL. It’s a little different than previous podcasts, because it is being recorded live at a conference with an audience. You will hear some background noise and other voices in the room, and eventually some questions from session participants for our two guests: Adria Battaglia from the University of Texas at Austin, and Jen Pusateri from the University of Kentucky. We get to talk about specific UDL initiatives on these two large university campuses in the United States, and discuss overcoming barriers to implementing UDL in higher education. We also get the chance to hone in on the great things that are happening here at the UDL IRN conference, one of the leading UDL conferences in the world. After our conversation, stay tuned because I will read the tweets that I received from conference goers about the biggest takeaways they got from this year’s conference. It’s a great session that captures the pulse of UDL in higher ed, thanks to my brilliant and generous guests, and of course, our friends on Twitter.
Welcome to the think UDL podcast. We are at a live session at the UDL IRN, Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network, in sunny Orlando, Florida. My guests today are Adria Battaglia, an educational consultant and Universal Design for Learning specialist at the Faculty Innovation Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and Jen Pusateri, who is the Universal Design consultant at the University of Kentucky. So, I am very happy to have you both on our podcast today, and we are going to start off by asking a few questions, and then open it up to anyone who might have a question as well for us, and thank you will both for being here today!
[Adria] Thanks for having us.
[Lillian] So, I’m going to start with the first question I have, and I’ll start this with Adria and ask her something I ask all of our guests, and that is: what makes you a different kind of learner?
[Adria] Well, I love this question, and I actually had this question asked of me recently by an individual who teaches a probation class at the University of Texas. We were in a workshop where we were learning about becoming TIP scholars which are mentors for students who are going through their first year and kind of thinking about changing their majors, is this the right major that they’re in, just being somebody outside their discipline to talk with them about learning and about higher education and I had shared a story in this group and when I shared the story this gentleman came up afterwards and said do you think you would write that down so that we could share it with the students because we collect these kinds of stories so I’m a kind of story and I’m a kind of different learner that apparently many other people are similar to. I have a lot of anxiety around my ability to comprehend or understand things, and when I was younger I didn’t really have a good self-awareness of that anxiety yet I just felt it but I didn’t really know why or what was happening and and so what ended up happening is while I was learning through K through 12 for some of my classes the ones that were more challenging for me I developed a habit of just memorizing, memorize, memorize, memorize. And so, that worked in the short term, but in the long term it didn’t work out so well. So by the time I hit freshman year of college and I was in my business calculus class, and our instructor covered everything I knew about math in the first class period I panicked, I just had a full-on panic attack and existential crisis actually not was panic attack, because I sat there thinking college is not for me, this is not like– everyone is wrong. Everyone that said you’re going to be great, you’re going to go off to college and do wonderful things, they’re wrong they don’t know the truth. So, cue imposter syndrome here. And so I went home for the summer with a glowing academic probation like wow yes and was really concerned about my future and things that I thought I was going to do and whether or not I’d be able to do them. So, I took a course at a community college with San Antonio Community College I had this amazing calculus professor, and she spent so much time making sure that every student in the class understood the concept. She would explain things over and over again, and in different ways and she also was just so reassuring about when we started to have self-doubt, which seemed to be easier to articulate in a smaller class than a larger lecture hall. She would just tell us things like these were my struggles when I was going through school, don’t worry about it, everybody struggles at some point, so I guess what I’m saying is is that she did a couple things that I try to do now as a teacher, which is one make make the process transparent right, so make the process of learning transparent, make failure okay, and really make sure that you’re offering that content in many ways, because a lot of times we make assumptions when we’re teaching right that the way that we learned is what’s best or what’s easiest even sometimes. We think oh this is such a good way, I’ve got this way let me show you so we offer that to people and that may not be what people need. So, she got me back on my feet and moving forward so that’s my story of moving off of probation and back into learning, and understanding learning as a journey and not something I needed to memorize and regurgitate.
[Lillian] Wow, what a big difference that Community College professor made in your understanding of how you learn, how fantastic. Jen, I’ve got the same question for you what makes you a different learner?
[Jen] Well, I kind of have a similar story actually. I don’t remember if I was on probation, but I definitely lost a couple scholarships after my freshman year. Yeah, so I I was sort of a late diagnosed a student with attention deficit disorder. I was diagnosed when I was in college, and you know I that’s just had not really been anything that occurred to me I don’t know I just always seemed normal and now I know that’s because my brother is also ADHD my dad it is also ADHD, so like it just you know that’s normal in my family apparently. And so I was always told I was smart, I was always told that I was very creative, but when I was in the classroom setting I just felt behind and I felt lost and I felt like I saw everyone around me getting things and I was not getting the things and it was it was a little disheartening and then as I went through my k-12 education you know I just sort of kind of coasted really I didn’t really have to do a lot of work but got through okay and then when I got to college all of a sudden I now ran into having to manage my time, and actually prioritize and do the things that we all have to learn to do as adults, and I was not real good at that you know I really struggled with, I tried to come home my mom wouldn’t let me I mean it was bad news and you know what I know now, is that I just didn’t have these executive functioning skills, and I saw some really interesting I can remember where I was actually but it was a picture of the brain and showing how the brain develops and even by the time you’re 20 years old, your executive functioning areas which are is the prefrontal cortex is still not developed fully. So and some students they say the students with ADHD are even farther behind that so it makes sense now, but at the time it did not, I just felt like I was failing you know and that was really disheartening. And I eventually graduated, but I got later much later I got a job teaching at a school for students with specific learning disabilities, and this in this school I would go to the professional development sessions that teachers go to, and I would hear about myself as a student. Like I would hear them say things like well now you know our kids most of them have ADHD in addition to like dyslexia or whatever, and so we really need to make things in like 10 minute chunks, we shouldn’t be teaching them for 45 minutes straight and I was like that’s me. And like they can’t study for long periods of time just sitting and like they need to have some actually you teach them some study skills. I guess was learning all these things about myself, as I was learning to teach students who were just like me. And those– that was where I gained the executive functioning skills and you know I have gone from like my undergraduate degree, which was a really bad GPA you guys it was really bad, to where I’m now in a doctoral program, and I’ve maintained a 4.0 through my whole master’s and and doctorates so far, and like the only difference is like I didn’t just get smarter, the only difference is that I’ve learned the executive functioning skills that I needed throughout the whole process, so that’s my story.
[Lillian] Fantastic, wow this is an amazing start to why UDL is so important and why we need to bring it into higher ed both of your stories is how everything worked just fine in k-12, but then when we get into a higher ed setting somehow all the rules chang,e or they have changed, and now we need to start thinking about what are the ways we can make it manageable, we can make it exciting, we can we make it work for all those students– the smart students, right– that then come to the University, and then find they’re fish out of water, and maybe it’s not the student that’s the problem. So, I do have a question both of you work in your with your faculty to help implement UDL. So, I’ll start with Adria, and I wanted to ask you about the faculty learning communities that you facilitate at the University of Texas at Austin?
[Adria] Yeah, so we have growing interest in Universal Design for Learning. Our Department of Special Education is well familiar, this is something we’ve talked about in other sessions today, and here at the conference. A lot of times, folks in College of Education, they know about UDL, they’re implementers and advocates of UDL, but really extending it outside of that particular school into the other colleges that your University can be challenging because folks will think, as Tom Tobin says, like oh that’s for those teachers who teach those students, instead of recognizing that it’s a way to increase accessibility for all, right. So, we have growing interest. People are starting to ask questions which is a great starting point. So, we started working with College STAR
[Lillian] Yes, I know them well, they sponsor our podcast. Right, they are fantastic at supporting so many professors, individuals, UDL consultants all around the country, so, thank you for the shout out there, Adria!
[Adria] So, so supportive like so incredibly supportive. I started connecting with them through our UDL higher ed sig, we meet quarterly and that’s where I got connected with Sarah Williams and we had a phone call off the quarterly meeting spot and just started chatting about what she was doing, and what College STAR is doing, and what we were doing, and they came in at just the right time because I really feel like getting folks to move from the questioning period to really starting to do things and start investigating and doing research is a little bit more challenging. University of Texas is a research one, and so folks priorities are pulled in a lot of different directions. So, one of the things that they did was they encouraged us to start these learning communities, and we had such interest that we actually ended up starting three separate learning communities. So, we have two that are primarily comprised of staff, which I find really exciting, and then the other one is a more traditional learning community with faculty who are working on course design. So the folks that are working in staff capacities, one group is working on how do I increase multiple means of recruitment and retention of faculty into these professional development kinds of workshops on campus, which I thought was a brilliant question, super unique. The other group is working on thinking about kind of Tom Tobin’s plus one idea. So, for example, the Sanger Learning Center, our tutoring center, they are doing so many wonderful things, but right now they’re asking themselves what’s one more way that we can get information out to students. So, they’re looking at 2D animation videos, super cool. And then our faculty are working on course design. And so, these learning communities are just blossoming. I think one of the things that’s been especially exciting is that every time that we have a question that I can’t answer as the UDL specialist, I turn to College STAR and I say hey this is the question they have or this is the resource they need and then we brainstorm and pull people in from the UDL network, and it’s just been incredible. I don’t feel alone on my campus trying to help facilitate these learning communities, I feel really supported. And then, by extension, the people in the learning communities feel really supported, and like they can think outside the box. So it’s– so far it’s going really well. And they use the sessions as working sessions, which makes it again a huge difference when people are concerned about time like if they have homework they have to do outside the learning community, I don’t know how long the learning communities would exist because they just don’t have the time. But if you make those learning community sessions an opportunity for them to do the work in the session, then they can they can succeed, so they’re doing really well right now.
[Lillian] I love your comments about the community, like the UDL HE, so UDL and Higher Ed special interest group, and College STAR, and so many people who are interested in UDL in Higher Ed and Beyond across our country and also we’re finding worldwide you know when we connect with the folks at CAST and we go to conferences there and get to know so many others, what an incredibly generous community, isn’t it?
[Adria] So generous, so intellectually generous, that’s my phrase for the UDL community is intellectually generous. Anytime you have a question, do not feel alone, there is someone out there that can help you that’s a little bit further ahead or is right at the same place and trying to investigate it with you. Yeah, just really good people
[Lillian] It is. It’s amazing and it’s that’s not always the way we find academia, so what a special group that it is, and I love being a part of it myself. It’s–I found my people, my tribe, you know, it’s really fantastic all these wonderful people. So, and Jennifer, I know you’ve been also working a lot with faculty as the Universal Design Consultant there at the University of Kentucky, and you said you have some more great things on the horizon with your online initiative there, and I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about that.
[Jen] Yeah, so we– I’m with the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, so it’s so that’s our faculty development center. Our group has been tasked with shepherding through the process 26 new online fully online degree programs. Not courses, programs. So, that’s a huge undertaking. I know it’s crazy, but we’re doing it, man, we’re going for it. And so we have, as a unit we have put together an online course module for our first cohort that’s going through now, and I think there were six or eight weeks of modules within that that one course. And, but that course started out the very first week was about accessibility and Universal Design, and I feel really blessed to be at a university who puts that at the forefront. I didn’t put it there, it was put there by the people who are in charge.
[Lillian] It makes such a difference, with administration being behind this, doesn’t it?
[Jen] Yes, it really, really does. And so they wanted to make sure that that was the first thing people thought about, so that as they were designing their courses, they could build those things in. They also freed up my time, everyone is sort of working with one or two or three or four specific programs through this process, and they have freed me up, and I only have one program that I’m working with at this point so that I can be available to all of the programs to help them when they’re designing their online courses, and putting those together so that we’re doing that with Universal Design for Learning principles. We also use the Quality Matters framework, which is it’s very UDL-ish. If I have time which, I probably will not, but if I ever have time I want to sit down and kind of do a crosswalk between the two, because I feel like there are a lot of similarities there. Are there? One of our audience members said he thinks there’s a couple out there. Yeah, there are many audience members, yes.
[Lillian] I know that yes quality matters rubric book is huge. There’s a lot of mapping that needs to be done. I think there’s probably more that could be done, if I’m recalling that QM workbook.
[Jen] Yes, and I and I feel like the so far the QM workbook, I think, has been put together by people who are experts in QM looking at UDL, whereas I think it’d be interesting to see it from the standpoint of someone who is in UDL looking at the cue and frameworks.
[Lillian] That’s a great idea.
[Jen] Yeah, so we’ll see you know whenever I’ve got extra free time at my job, which is probably never but,
[Lillian] we all have so much
[Jen] We do, we really do. But yeah so that’s kind of where we are at the moment. I’m getting those programs through, and we want them to be developed in a really high-quality way that’s going to be accessible to the huge variety of students that we will encounter in an online setting.
[Lillian] Okay, so that brings me to another question that I’m going to start with Adria back again but the idea about doing– introducing UDL, getting UDL out to your campus, how have you used some of the UDL principles to spread the word about UDL on your campus? I thought Adria, you– you’ve done a lot of workshops, about workshops, this whole meta UDL thing you’ve got going, can you tell us about that?
[Adria] Well, it’s interesting because, again, I kind of–so, I’m an education consultant during the day, teacher by night. So, I teach my classes in the evenings, and I bring that up because a lot of times the faculty I’m working with may or may not be aware that I’m also in the classroom. And also, we have a lot of staff interest in Universal Design for Learning, which again, I find really exciting, and I want staff to also see themselves as educators. I mean, if you’re working in higher ed, and you’re working on a campus, then you’re contributing to the environment, or you’re tutoring, you’re meeting with students one-on-one, you’re doing orientations for them, and so if we can start modeling UDL practices in as many places as possible, my hope is that people will start to get behind the framework more. So, my colleague, Dr. Laura Struthi** and I, we were talking about this again and again, and we were just thinking, we see all these workshops happening on campus, what if we started by going to the folks that are giving those workshops, and talking to them about like hey how do you know that people are really learning and taking things away from the workshops that you’re giving? Whether it’s students or faculty. And when we started asking that question, it was like a lid came off of a boiling pot, just flew off and there were all these comments and concerns about well I don’t think they are, and I think everything the we’re doing just seems to stay in the room, and students have the same questions later, you know, the advisers were saying they have the same questions after the orientation that we give them, and other staff that worked with faculty were saying, we’re not really sure that faculty are actually implementing any of the things that we’re suggesting in their classrooms or their department. And so we sat down and we put together a workshop on using UDL to give workshops, so that they’re modeling for the people that are in the audience different strategies and principles of UDL. So, that may not mean that they completely embrace the framework yet, but they are at least engaging with the strategies to address their pain points, which is a hook and gets them in and allows us to have deeper consultations, and more meaningful conversations down the line about UDL. And so, yeah we just, I mean, and again we had time constraints too, so we also tried to make transparent for them like, you can’t get everything in, every and that’s one of the main problems right is the over it so generating to you like this chunking idea is so powerful, because they just want to shove everything into these moments. So, yeah, we’ve been trying to practice and develop a set of different workshops that have UDL strategies, and we’re doing them as we’re talking about them, and as we’re connecting them to the research about why they’re important for helping people learn. It’s been– it’s been fun, it’s a learning journey for us but it’s been fun.
[Lillian] Oh fantastic. And, Jen, I wanted to ask you the same question, are you implementing some UDL strategies in implementing UDL rollouts or things on the University of Kentucky campus?
[Jen] Yeah, well and actually I have something in common there with Adria, because I’m also–I also teach a course, and this semester the course I’m teaching is actually about UDL, which is exciting. So– but it’s been really helpful for me to, as I’m teaching this course, I’m trying to put it online as well, we’re sort of transforming the course at the same time that I’m teaching it. So, it’s been– we’re moving it to an online course, and I’m also teaching it for the first time. So, it’s been a huge learning curve, but it’s been really helpful to see that from a novice point of view, I think, and when I’m working with faculty who are uncomfortable with the online world, it’s been– it’s going to be really helpful to have these things in my back pocket. One of the other things that we like to do is sort of–well, I don’t know if it’s we like to do–I’m doing it because I at this point, I kind of have to, so when I’m presenting workshops or when I’m coming up with like plans for sessions that we’re going to do trainings and stuff for CELT, I always plan things about UDL but I don’t call them UDL right now, I’m sort of sneaking it in a little bit, which is a little sketchy but, hey we’re going for it. And so I have–we’ve done workshops like soft skills, why can’t students get organized, I like to try to put them in the in terms of what the faculty might say. So like why don’t they do the readings, why can’t they turn their stuff in on time. So, putting it out there as a real problem that faculty actually have, and offering the solution. Of course, when they arrive at this solution, its UDL related. So, and then at the end of the sessions, I always use a you’ve been UDL’d slide, which explains how I built UDL into the session. And one of the things that does, I think, that’s really helpful, is if you don’t know what UDL is, it gives you an idea of what it is. But, also, if you’re familiar with UDL, but you don’t really know how to use it quite yet, it shows you that it’s not super complicated things, like doing a turn and talk is incorporating UDL, if you’re doing it for a very specific reason. And, so when they see that slide, I think that’s really helpful for people. So, at the moment I am hiding it a little bit until I feel like the campus is ready to go out and actually have the conversations about UDL practices, so that’s what we’re doing.
[Lillian] Well, you bring up a really good point. We often ask faculty–so as faculty developers, we know that faculty are asked to add this, to do this, to change this, to implement this, and it gets overwhelming. So, having that connection to say oh I already do that is fantastic, like oh this is great, no wonder I do this because it works for my class. Well, you do it because it also has some research behind it, it works, it’s UDL, it works for the brain, it’s really helpful for students, and here are some other things that are going to help your students, are going to help your class. You can call it UDL or not, but it is, and a lot of times if we say we’re going to roll out this new thing, there’s some resistance. But, if we can connect the faculty say oh here’s the pain point, and here’s how we can fix that. Or, here’s how we help your students do the reading that they haven’t been doing, and it just happens to be that it’s the UDL principle, and you can show them the chart, or you can tell them to, you know, think pair and share right, and get them into it, so there’s a lot of finesse, I see you both finessing. It should be maybe instead of UDL director or coordinator, you’re the UDL “finesse-er” on campus.
[Jen] It’s about marketing really
[Lillian] Yes, this is about marketing. So, it’s fantastic. Also, you said intellectually generous, Adria, about this community, also incredibly creative, you know, what an amazing amount of creative people that we get to work with. So, another question, can you hear how exciting this conference is?
[Jen] It’s very exciting.
[Lillian] It’s so much going on, and that brings me to my next question is at the UDL IRN conference, what have you learned from coming to this conference? We wanted to be here live, we wanted to kind of get the energy of all the crazy seating. The room that we’re in has three different kinds of tables, three different levels, lots of different seating, there’s a grassy knoll, it’s made out of astroturf, in our room, right? So, all of this is such a different kind of conference, so I wanted to know what have you learned coming to UDL IRN, either this time or before if you’ve made it here before and meeting other UDL and higher ed folks, these intellectually generous creative people go ahead Adria, I’ll have you answer first.
[Adria] Yes, I’m still learning, and I learn every time I come. I think, there’s so many things, but I think to go back to what Jen said actually, I’m learning a lot about framing and marketing. Because– and that’s probably the lens that I’m approaching every session that I attend, is how to talk to different stakeholders about UDL. I mean, faculty are one thing, and we have our faculty champions who are either already doing things, they’re already on board, or they’re super hungry to learn new things and try out new things; and then we have folks that are curious, and then we have folks that don’t want anything to do with anybody because they feel like their plate is too full, and then we have department chairs and Dean’s and administrators, and UT is known, I mean I’ve been there for four years now, and the big phrase on our campus is it’s so siloed here, everything is so siloed. And I’m like yes and there’s all these people doing amazing work, and if we could just have some connections right, and I feel like UDL helps me make those connections on my own campus by helping me start to think about how to frame for different audiences and different stakeholders. So I just came from a session that Tom Tobin gave and the whole– I can’t remember the session was called but it was basically something like it’s rolling out to other folks on campus, administrators in particular, right– and I’m not a numbers person, and I learned today that I need to go back and figure out retention rates in different departments and colleges on my University’s campus, I need to figure out persistence within different departments across courses, and I mean I know the data is out there, but I just don’t have my hands on it yet. So, that’s something I want to get so that when I go back and I’m having these conversations about here are strategies that increase these things, I can actually start to point to problem areas, and where we see concrete numbers that mean something to the administrators, more even to me, because for me, I’m like why wouldn’t you do this, it makes sense– raising it in a sense it’s working come on. So I think I think that’s probably one of the biggest things, and I feel like I can’t ever learn that enough, maybe it’s just a foreign language to me but I feel like the more I hear about it and hear how different people have tried it on their campuses, the better I can get at it.
[Lillian] Fantastic. And we even talked at some–talked with somebody at lunch who had gone to a 2001 UDL conference and came back to her faculty, this is the future, this is amazing, I can’t wait, let’s roll this out, let’s talk about it and what was the question she got: “where’s the research?” Yeah, we need to know, we need to know. So, it is it’s a lot about finesse and marketing and getting people on board. So, what you’re doing. Jen, how about you is this your first UDL IRN conference that you’ve been to?
[Jen] I think this is my third.
[Lillian] Okay, so you’ve got lots of–you’re back! You loved it so much. Twice–you brought the family.
[Jen] I did bring the family, yes, although they’re not quite as excited about UDL as I am–although I will say, my both of my students both of my kids at separate times have told me this teacher so-and-so needs UDL can you help?
[Jen] Well I don’t like it when you come at it from that angle, honey. But, actually, something that Adria said really reminded me of–okay so I’m taking this class right now for my doctoral program, and it’s about politics and education, which is like, appalling to me by the way, but it’s been really helpful because I’ve learned sort of how the process works. And one of the things that I learned about was something called the policy entrepreneur. And this is a person who has a solution and they go around trying to fit their solution to other people’s problems, and I feel like I have like I have the solution to so many of the problems in our universities, and I feel like I’m just trying to find, you know, the data behind like, like Adria said, the data behind something that’s a problem in the university, you know, whether it’s retention or whatever, and I’ve got that solution and I’m ready to go and so I’m just– I’m still I’m new to the University at this point, I’m still kind of feeling my way around. But I’m starting to see what the things are, and hopefully I’ll be able to match up those things with the solutions that I know UDL has.
[Lillian] Fantastic. So, this is my first time at the UDL IRN. I’ve heard so many fantastic things about it, but I am so impressed by the generosity of people here, of the just how creative and crazy it is, how many opportunities there are and how many choices there are. Wouldn’t it be great if our universities were structured a little bit more like this, with all these choices for where to sit, how to sit, who to work with, what to do, wouldn’t that make a big change for students. Like, when you were both students in higher ed
[Adria] Yes, yes.
[Lillian] And maybe we can bring that
[Jen] Yeah, and we actually are working with our ROTC on campus, which has been really cool, they actually came to us and we’re like we want to learn more about teaching ok great. But one of the things that they mentioned is they really wanted to look at their space. They’re like we’re in this old building, it used to be an armory and like you were in this band with the seats are all fixed and we don’t you know we don’t know what to do, and they really wanted some information on that, on the space design, and how to do things with flexible seating, and tables that can move around. And so it’s been really great to be here and see all these options, you know, I’m sure that they don’t have money for– oh, I don’t know, it is the military, they have a lot of just random money floating around.
[Lillian] Right they could trade in like a jet plane and get some chairs.
[Jen] So yeah it’s been really cool to see the different like design setups, like I played UDL pictionary last night with the folks from oh shoot I forgot the name of the group– the designers– Gold Evans yes Gould Evans so we played UDL pictionary, and they had a whole bunch of these different cards, and the cards describe different types of learning spaces oh wow but we had to like guess what the words were which was really hard but our team did win, by the way, team BBQ won. Winner! That’s right. But it was really cool because I you know I feel like I’m a fairly creative person and even looking through all of these ideas for the ways to design your spaces it’s pretty cool. So I just love being around that level of creativity here at the conference and taking that home with me.
[Lillian] That’s great it’s very energizing.
[Adria] And also people that are totally comfortable with failure. So Katie Novak’s talk this morning with UD– hashtag UDL you do fail, right? And she was revealing all of the things that failed before she was successful, and that is so reassuring, I mean that goes back to my beginning story. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with the trying to understand everything, and she’s like no, it’s okay, you don’t have to, you’re going to fail at a lot of stuff so, which is what we want our students to learn, too.
[Lillian] Its true, and we learned so much we just learned so much more, I think, from failing and reflecting upon that failure than we do than getting it right. And all that kind of tension and anxiety and getting it right closes down so much of our learning, and our potential, and our opportunity. So, making that normalized would be so helpful for so many of our students. So, speaking of failing, anybody want to ask a question from our audience? We have quite a few microphones set up in the room, and I’ve seen some of you taking copious notes and thinking, so if you’d like to ask a question, Tanner’s got a microphone, and if you wouldn’t mind just saying who you are and kind of what organization, and then we’d love to talk.
[Steve] This is Steve Nordmark, I am with CAST, I’m the director of business development. It’s wonderful to be here, and yes I’m taking copious notes because I’m really engaged by what you’re all sharing. And, the concept of marketing, totally get it. I mean universally, that’s a thing, and I’d like– because you’ve shared a lot about this– but I’d like you to reflect again on this, and for each of you, Adria, Jen, to share what are the biggest misconceptions on your campus about UDL that you find yourself combating?
[Jen] Well, I’ll go first I already wrote this down on my paper and doodled a little box around it like in extra bold. So, at my university, a lot of people know the words Universal Design for Learning, so they know that it’s a thing. Unfortunately, they think the thing is only captions and alt text, an alternative text, and so they think they’re doing UDL which just, you know, at least they’re thinking about it, I mean, I’ve got that going for me. Plus, there was a position for someone to focus on Universal Design at the University, so those things are good things. But, at this point, we’re trying to get them out of that thought process and thinking well this is not just about the students in your classroom who may have some kind of a physical disability disability or impairment, and this is about us thinking about all of the students. Students with all kinds of learning needs, and really seeing how that can be beneficial to a huge number of students instead of just the few that you think you know what their needs are in the classroom.
[Adria] Yeah, and I echo that a hundred percent. It’s the exact same problem. And I think I mentioned earlier, I mean the folks that are really championing this initially on our campus were the instructors in the Department of Special Education. And so, that again is also doing something, when you’re seeing only a select group of people who have a certain specialty and are in a certain field talking about it, then in a way, even though that’s not their intention, it just reifies that narrative, that this is again, something that’s only for a certain particular group of students. And, again, even the conception about I mean they’re you know we know that that 60% of disabilities are invisible anyways, right? And then we also have a host of problems especially in Texas right now where students are not necessarily even comfortable anymore self-identifying at our services for students with disabilities office, for so many reasons. And so there’s a lot of things where people think that they might even be taking on strategies that would reach– oh, well, I’m captioning and that reaches students who are deaf, right? Writing it and we know the research is like this impacts students in so many more ways, in positive ways, but they think that they already know they can identify the problem, and that they’re already addressing it with a solution, so they’re– you see what I’m saying– they’re missing so much more, even in the category that they’re in, that they’re thinking, and they’re already missing so many more students, and then to even get them beyond that to recognize that this is actually about inclusion and equity is a whole other battle. And it can get overwhelming, which is, you know, the same for faculty developers, I think, like just starting small and being sneaky, and just modeling it all the time. I mean, those are ways to help combat some of that. But, sometimes, I do want to sit down without the numbers of retention, and just be able to have a conversation with administration about the research behind this and the ways that this benefits our students. Because I do know that they’re vested in that. But there are these emotional barriers in the conversation, I think, where they just have these assumptions and they just start spilling out whether they mean them to or not.
[Lillian] I think you also hit on this the idea about cultural difference, too, and English language learners, like the captions are going to help somebody who is hard of hearing, or deaf. It’s also going to help somebody whose English is a Second Language, and I was just speaking with some faculty at another university, and they were saying how if only they had that ability to understand their professor when they were in graduate school, or in there as an undergrad, and they had a non-English speaking professor or grad student, and the course was so hard because they had to listen so carefully and write down and couldn’t even understand what the professor was saying, because there was a language barrier, their accent what made it hard difficult to understand. So just having access, and somebody who doesn’t have let’s say a learning disability, but just getting over that barrier that we don’t even think about, or we say oh you need to tough it out, we’ve said that for so long, and why? Why should we tough it out when there’s plenty of ways to make that accessible to anybody. Or, and especially now, we with so many more fantastic new additions like closed captioning, captioning on Google slides and is it Microsoft that does the translation?
[Adria] Right, Microsoft translator. Tom just used that in his session and it popped up individually on our screens, like we can, so it would be on each of our screens. It was amazing. Yes, totally amazing.
[Lillian] So that there isn’t that barrier or, and not just language, but culture. So things like individualized instruction, or individuated type of learning, versus integrated. So things like storytelling as a way to teach, rather than just bullet points, let’s say, on a slide, or introducing an abstract concept and versus kind of emotionally hooking in students. They’re all just different ways of being that we’re not accessing, we’re not bringing in everybody when we have such a wide variety of students who are in higher ed today. And, as Jen pointed out, she’s got this solution, she’s got this policy, we’ve got this thing, but how is it that we are able to get it out to all the stakeholders, all the people who really need to help implement it, if we don’t have administrators in on it. It’s really, really difficult to get it going throughout a large university so quite, quite important. So, I am so happy to be able to talk to both of you, because you’re doing such amazing things on your campus. So, I wanted to offer it up again, if there are any other questions in the room that you might have?
[Steve] So, a follow up, because you alluded to it, is sometimes the barrier to and misunderstandings are around accessibility. So, there’s a rudimentary understanding of accessibility, and that equals UDL. So, sometimes I hear people talk about using a bridge from accessibility to UDL, and sometimes I hear people saying I use UDL to bridge to accessibility. So, if you could both reflect on that in your experiences, and what you see on your campuses, and how you may nuance that bridge between accessibility and UDL?
[Adria] I’ll put myself out there, and you can tell me if I’m doing this all wrong, okay? Risk, failure, we love it. Okay, here I go Katie, this is the hash tag you’re better today. So, one of the things that I do is I try to use accessibility to bridge to UDL. I think it’s a common point of understanding amongst faculty and staff, and so in our UDL 101 workshop, I open with a video of a student who came and spoke with us we had sent out an announcement to students to come and chat with us about times that they felt included in their campus– in their courses. And so they could interpret that as they saw fit. And, we had this one student come in, and she shared her story and it was, I mean, we had to work to control our facial expressions, because these stories were supposed to be like positive moments in the classroom, right? Yeah. And, for her, I think she was interpreting it as a positive moment in the classroom, but she shared and she is deaf, and she shared that she had she had a particular device that SSD had given her, and it failed like maybe a quarter the way into the semester. So, she went back to them and they said oh we don’t have any more, sorry. And so she went to her instructor and said well my device failed the lapel mic that they gave me is picking up all the noise, you know, of people opening chip bags and their backpacks and wrestling and talking and plus the people on the other side can’t understand half of the jargon in this really high level class, and so they were struggling with it, so I’m struggling, what else can we do? And the instructor said, well, I’ve got– I’ll send an email out and I’ll get some note takers. And so she did, she had three note takers, who, after a couple weeks vanished, like just stopped returning emails, didn’t respond to her. And, so, the joy of the story is that her instructor uses clickers in class and because the instructor used clickers, the student felt confident and comfortable talking to the students next to her to ask them for help.
[Adria] Right, which, hey there’s a there’s some– I mean, good for her for looking optimistically at a really challenging situation, right? I mean, you know, and to see her resilience is great. But it makes you then think about how many other students are slipping through the cracks. So, we actually open with that story, and we ask folks how does this story make you feel? And, based off responses, you know, sometimes the responses can be well I’m frustrated with SSD, they should have been more like why don’t we have more equipment, why don’t we have people to help? Yeah, right and so it was all–it tends to be others, but then some a lot of times, too we’ll have people who are self-reflexive that start to say, well, I think the instructor should have done more, but I’m not exactly sure what. And so we use that as a starting point just to have a conversation about the struggles and barriers that students are facing. So then we move into like, what other barriers do you think students are facing? And so that will lead into cost of textbooks, you know, it’s hit more systemic issues. And then we chat a little bit about different categories of barriers, like communicative barriers, systemic barriers, attitudinal barriers of implicit bias, those kinds of things. And so we– I hope that that is making sense here as I’m telling it, but we use it as a bridge. So we start with something we hear a lot about on campus, and that that are people that are in the audience tend to feel more comfortable talking about, and then slowly move into but there are all these hosts of barriers, and so what if we had this framework that would help us think about these barriers and how we could reduce them, right? And what does that look like, what does that look like then we have some samples and then what does that look like in your class? And we bust out the plus one. Yeah, right, great. So that’s our way in I don’t– I’m open to critique.
[Lillian] You cannot argue with that story at all, it’s amazing. And what a great way to bring this up to others, to start understanding how UDL does make that bridge in many ways. Jen, I see you furiously doodling right
[Jen] Yeah, I am, I’m a doodler. Well, one of the things I found that I think has been really helpful is to get faculty to think about how UDL could have benefit them like if they were a student. You know, I mean, we all want to think about ourselves, let’s be honest. And so I use the simulation activity at the beginning of most of my most of my presentations, and the simulation activity gives people a chance to try things when they have just one form of representation, like they do a little quiz or whatever, and I read this list of fruits and vegetables, 15 fruits and vegetables, and they have to just like try to remember what they are and I just say them out loud right I just read this list, I try to read it as monotone as possible, like channeling Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller. Right so anyway so that’s the first time we do it, and then they take the quiz and see how many they got and know, how many they remembered. And then we do it a completely different way, where they have multiple means of representation, and I have cards and like the cards have the names of the fruits and vegetables, not a picture of them on them, and they do a card sorting thing, and like we do that, and then they take the quiz again. And out of– I’ve probably done this 30 times– and out of all of these times I’ve done this with huge groups of people, I’ve only had two who have not done better, like everybody almost everyone does better. And so then they’re kind of left with this idea of well now, wait a second, I thought UDL was a special ed thing and now I can see that it’s beneficial to me as well. And so it’s something about, you know, we understand that engagement happens when we’re invested in something emotionally, and so when they’re emotionally invested in that, they’re a lot more open to hearing when they think, well hey, this could have really benefitted me as a student. Maybe there are students in my class that this would benefit as well. So I don’t know that’s worked for me so far. So far so good.
[Lillian] No, that’s fantastic. No, I’ve similarly given a quiz where people work together, and in so doing, they realized that the five people in their group were looking at five different things. So I purposely gave a kind of fuzzy question. I just say look at this image, and it’s one of those almost like a Where’s Waldo type of thing with lots and lots of things on the image, and then they after looking at it for 30 seconds, I haven’t told them what to look for. So as if like, you’re giving a reading to students, but you don’t tell them what they’re supposed to be looking for. And so students would come back with a whole bunch of interpretations of what they just read, because they weren’t directed as to questions or things like that. So and then those professors will look at this I’ll say okay how many things did you see, and then I might ask something about how many of them were yellow, and then how many and what individually were they? And so, some of the people, as they were looking were counting, some weren’t. Some were trying to remember how many flowers they saw, and some were, you know, so every brain in that group was working differently, and when they work together, they could leverage that difference and that was a good thing. So it’s a little bit about group quizzes too, but just about knowing even in this group of maybe highly educated faculty, everybody’s going to see things in a different way, and understanding, alright, if they are different, then probably their students are different too. And, therefore, the Universal Design for Learning is going to be helpful for everybody, not just those that are coming by the office of disability services, or come and present a paper saying they need accommodations. It’s helpful for everybody to offer those options.
Well, I wanted to thank everybody here for coming to our live podcast. Thank you so much, Adria Battaglia at University of Texas at Austin.
[Adria] Thank you for having me
[Lillian] And Jen Pusateri at University of Kentucky
[Jen] Yes, thank you so much.
[Lillian] It’s awesome to have you both, and thank you for your intellectual generosity and your creativity, and also your time in sharing it with us in Orlando. So thanks everybody. I’m Lillian Nave, the host of Think UDL live in this case but and I appreciate your listening to us today, thank you.
At the UDL IRN summit in Orlando, I asked on Twitter what’s your biggest takeaway from this year’s conference? And I got quite a few responses I’d like to share. The first is from Jennifer Pusateri who said my biggest takeaway is that we have to find more consistent, effective, and reproducible ways to disrupt the norm of higher education with the power of UDL. Then, we need to share that infamous UDL intellectual generosity with our other hashtag UDL HE family. Mary Lauder said access is the message for adoption, including accessibility, but meeting faculty where many of their students are at a mobile world and a variable learner type will help with adoption. She loved the +1 framework from Tom Tobin and his presentation. She said our group is purchasing the book hashtag Arizona State University hashtag UDL. Dr. Eric Moore at N Aspire EDU said two big ones: number one Jen Pusateri’s approach to collecting data, coding with UDL, and using this to facilitate change blew my mind, he says. And number two: SPED Tech MIA three and her team’s ED camp UDL summit was the best thing since pizza parlor meetings circa 1984, more like this. And Lisa Eller’s McCullar EDS at desert sense I said amen to number two, so that’s two for the ED camp UDL summit. And Tom Tobin said Liz Berquist’s idea of getting back to the roots of UDL as a quote “disruption of inequities” was a powerful message, plus engaging practices, plus realistic reflection, equals agency, equity, and action. And finally, Adria Battaglia said I love the phrase positive disrupter of inequity. I think the faculty I work with will totally dig this identity as they embrace UDL. Thanks so much for engaging with Think UDL at the UDL IRN summit in Orlando. [Music]
You can follow the Think UDL podcast on facebook, twitter, and instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the ThinkUDL.org website. The Think UDL podcast is made possible by College STAR, the STAR stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post-secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aids based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the CollegeSTAR.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University, where, if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple at you! The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey Quartet, comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell, and Jose Cochez. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones, and our social media coordinator is Ruben Watson. And I’m your host, Lillian Nave, thank you for joining us on the Think UDL podcast.