Transformational Inclusive Student Input with Sara Schley

Welcome to Episode 78 of the Think UDL podcast: Transformational Inclusive Student Input with Sara Schley. Sara Schley is the Director of Learning Sciences, Wallace H Coulter Dept of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology (aka GA Tech) and is retiring from her position as Professor, Master of Science in Secondary Education dept (deaf education teacher training program), Rochester Institute of Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The research we are discussing today comes from her time in her previous position in Rochester. Today we discuss the terms access and inclusion to understand what we really want in the college classroom, and also disability as diversity. One of the main points of her research, too, is to include disabled students in faculty learning communities in order to improve accessibility and inclusive measures in teaching and learning settings. We will go over how she conducted her research and what transformational and beneficial results have come from her studies that center students’ experience and suggestions in creating positive change in higher ed settings. Thanks for listening to this conversation and a special thank you to the folks at the UDLHE Network for their financial support of the Think UDL podcast!


Lillian thanks the UDLHE Network as a proud sponsor of the podcast

Find Sara Schley on Twitter @SaraSchleyEdD or via email 

You can also find out more about what Sara is doing on her website where she provides coaching-informed consulting on inclusive pedagogy practices

If you want to know more about hwe NSF project she mentions, look at her NSF Award info

Sara mentioned using some crazy bad lectures from the Teaching & Learning resources at Deaf TEC (She used the art lecture but recommends both!)

Lillian mentioned Kathryn Schultz’s TED talk “On Being Wrong” for how it feels to be wrong is just like how it feels to be right, until someone tells you otherwise

Sara has also graciously provided her research with available links below:

Cawthon, S., Schley, S., & Davidson, S. 2019. Student Observation to Improve Access to Instruction in Postsecondary Education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disabilities: In Brief. 32(4), 451-458.


Lillian Nave  00:00

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 78 of the think UDL podcast, transformational inclusive student input with Sarah Schley. Sarah Schley is the director of Learning Sciences at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, also known as Georgia Tech, and is retiring from her position as professor, Master of Science and secondary education department with a Deaf Education Teacher Training Program, the Rochester Institute of Technology and National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The research we’re discussing today comes from her time in her previous position in Rochester. Today, we discussed the terms access and inclusion to understand what we really want in the college classroom, and also disability as diversity. One of the main points of her research to is to include disabled students in Faculty Learning Communities in order to improve accessibility, and inclusive measures in teaching and learning settings. We will go over how she conducted her research, and what transformational and beneficial results have come from her studies that center students experience and suggestions in creating positive change in higher ed settings. Thanks for listening to this conversation. And a special thank you to the folks at the UDL H E Network. That’s UDL in Higher Education Network for their financial support of the think UDL podcast. Thank you so much, Sarah, for joining me today on the think UDL podcast.

Sarah Schley  02:21

It’s my pleasure. I’m so excited to be here.

Lillian Nave  02:25

I am so excited to talk to you after seeing your work about like six months ago. And then it took us a while to connect back together. The pandemic. It really is. And what I loved is that we were both like, oh, yeah, let’s do this. I remember this from my email from from August. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So my first question I asked all my guests is what makes you a different kind of learner?

Sarah Schley  02:50

I just love that question. And I love listening to everybody on the podcast who answers that question. Um, it’s such a great intro to this conversation. I am a different kind of learner. In part, because of some experiences I had growing up, my family moved around a lot, we move red every two, three years, we were not living on bases. My dad was sort of military adjacent, he was an engineer. And for part of that, we ended up spending three years in the Netherlands in Holland. And we spent two years in France. And my parents, me and my brother who’s a little younger than I, they sent us to native school. So I went to a Dutch school. And then I went to a French school. And so it was phenomenal because we learned multiple languages, languages growing up. Socially, it was hard to be moved every couple years. But it makes me a different learner because I have lots of different perspectives on how other people do stuff, especially educationally. So Right. I think that’s, that’s the big thing is yeah, I grew up in multiple countries with multiple languages, multiple parts of the US in school is done a little differently. Everywhere. It’s fascinating, actually.

Lillian Nave  03:59

Yes. Different cultures, right. So and systems of how we do

Sarah Schley  04:05

my handwriting changed every time we move. They have different ways of doing they don’t do cursive as much anymore, but they have different ways of doing cursive in different countries.

Lillian Nave  04:16

Yes. And I noticed their numbers. If you’re writing numbers, you’ve had a little flat one. Yep. And in America, it’s just a straight line. Yep. Rather than like,

Sarah Schley  04:25

a lot like your L.

Lillian Nave  04:27

Yeah. All that. Oh, oh, that’s fantastic. It definitely gives you a radically different way of looking at how people learn and that there would be many different ways that people

Sarah Schley  04:39

different ways. So I remember the processes for doing long division are different also. I mean, the processes are the same. They just set it up. It looks very different on the page.

Lillian Nave  04:46

Yes. Yeah. And I’m finding that when, as my my children are five years apart from oldest to youngest, and by the time the youngest goes into some of those math problems, they’re teaching a new way to do it. All right, I’m done. You’re out of my league now.

Sarah Schley  05:01

I’m out. Yeah, pick out here. Yeah,

Lillian Nave  05:03

I’m done. Well, great. So I was really interested in the things that you’re doing, especially in centering disabled voices and in your work. And you are very good to define a lot of your terms. So I get this a lot people often complain conflate accessibility and UDL, and I spend a lot of time telling people how accessibility is definitely part of UDL. But it’s really only a starting point. And you talk about the difference between access and inclusion in your work. And so it’s sort of a two part question. Can you give an example of the difference between access and inclusion in the college classroom for students with disabilities and special education needs? And a little bit further, can you give some examples of pedagogical choices one could put in place that would not only be accessible, but also inclusive?

Sarah Schley  06:00

salutely? It’s such a great question. So for me access, access and inclusion are different because yes, access is kind of a prerequisite. Yeah, you have to have access first. Access, you can winnow it down to thinking about it in terms of whether you can get in the room or have a place to sit at the table. So are you there? Are you present? Are you giving access? Are there stairs in the classroom? Is there a ramp if you have a wheelchair, or if you’re deaf, and you can’t hear? Do you have either an interpreter or captioning? Captioning? Do you have access to what’s going on around you. So it’s really about having a seat at the table. Inclusion for me is about whether you have full opportunity to engage and interact. Okay. So if you have a seat at the table, but then the tables break for small groups. And the tables are pretty closely packed together, can you roll around the room in a wheelchair? Or do you have to stay at one table and have people come to you, that’s an example of inclusion. Yes, functionally, you have access to what’s happening in the classroom, but you’re not fully able to participate in the same way that other people are. So if you’re talking about language and communication interaction, if you have an interpreter, great if you rely on ASL English interpreting, if you’re a deaf or hard of hearing student, there’s an interpreter there. If there’s active conversations going on around you, you have the extra load of having to figure out watch the interpreter and figure out who’s talking. So there’s a lag, you know, the interpreter, here’s what’s being said, there’s a lag, then they say it, by the time you look around to figure out who’s talking, the conversation is moved on. So it’s really hard to participate in active conversations in that situation, if there’s one interpreter, and you’re, you’re tasked with not only following the message, that’s a little leg, but also with the grant who’s talking and they might be behind you, you know, right, right.

Lillian Nave  08:00

Like, if the configuration is is Yeah, rows of seats, and somebody is behind you, there’s no way you can say the interpreter and right who’s talking his mind, right.

Sarah Schley  08:09

And similarly, even if you’re being lectured at, if the faculty member is lecturing, and they turn around to face the board, and they keep talking, which happens to virtually every time, you have to pick between watching the interpreter or watching what’s being written on the board. So you’re now so if your attention if your attention is now reduced to just visual, you have to pick and you don’t get both messages. So those are two examples of where for communication stuff, at least, it can be really challenging to have, you have access. Sure. There’s translation of the language that you can’t hear into a visual language, there’s access, but you don’t actually get the same amount of inclusion because you’re not actually able to participate in the same way. I see. Um, so some solutions that people can do to mediate that. If it’s a wheelchair access issue, you just rearrange the table so they’re wider apart, so somebody can roll around and get wherever they want to go. If you have, you know, what, if you’re in a chemistry lab and stuff is stored high up, store lower. It’s just about that. I mean, yes, you can ask somebody else to get it for you or store it lower so they can get it from themselves. For communication stuff. There’s all kinds of stuff that faculty can do that. I know it’s probably not gonna be a big surprise, but it also helps every other student. If you turn around to write on the board, and you don’t talk, just right, yeah. And then you turn back around and you wait for students eyeballs to redirect you. It means they’ve done reading whatever you’ve written, and they’re ready to pay attention to you again, then you can start talking in the interpreter. So the message, students trying to parse the message of the board plus the talk is split. Yeah, so you’ve slowed it down. tends to make it better for everybody. It’s really about cognitive load and how hard it is to parse all the information coming in. And if you just have an extra beat that helps now for the discussion, one a really easy thing to do if you can, there’s a couple different things or ways of doing it, you can arrange seating in a U shape. So there’s nobody behind you. Yeah, yeah. Or you can institute kind of a talking stick approach. Like, if you’re in a big lecture room with people behind you. I’ve had people use Beanie Babies, and you can talk if you have the beanie baby. So it means that there’s a transition point, you know that transferring the beanie baby from one person to the next takes a little time, it’s very visible. You can see it, and you’re tossing it’s soft, it’s not gonna hurt anybody. And so that that be of taking a moment to visually cue the conversation changing from one person to the next is what helps and what slows the whole process down a little bit so that the person who’s using the Access Service, the the captioning, or the interpreting has a chance to catch up. Yeah, it’s not even catch up. It’s has a chance to follow the conversation.

Lillian Nave  11:10

Right? Right. It makes so much sense. I mean, I’ve heard and we talk about this a lot in in teaching circles, like PowerPoints, like if you’re going to put a whole bunch of text on a slide and then read that text, this whole, like double encoding problem, like give people time to read it, and then you’re listening to something else, or just put some key words or bullet points. And that helps everybody. And I can see this is just like another step of more thoughtful step about right, having everybody have that same chance to be able to hear in time and follow. Yeah, and be a part of the whole experience in the classroom. Right. So this, I love that my favorite part when I was reading some of your studies was the idea of the U shape classroom. By the way, I wrote that down as like this is really important for our learning spaces. And that’s a hot topic now to our active learning spaces where students can get together in the small groups, and we have to pay attention to things like mobility issues. And it used to be if you looked at a college campus, I don’t know, maybe 50 years ago, all of those steps, lecture halls with desks that are bolted down,

Sarah Schley  12:19

right, do not move.

Lillian Nave  12:22

Right. And that’s no longer like, I don’t think they’re building those. I hope they’re not building those anymore. But now, it’s a real, I think, an important move, not just a trend, but an important move to make those classrooms accessible, and inclusive. And that comes with like furniture, that’s easy. Yeah, flexible and flexible seating arrangements, right, and all that sort of stuff. So it’s just another way to think about it. And I really appreciated that for for your students. And that this the students, many of the students were the ones that were like, this would really help me and they’re telling the faculty because we don’t think so. Okay, so in your your research, you’ve done some really great things. And in one of the papers you wrote called from access to inclusion, this was a faculty learning community curriculum, you make the point that disability should be included in diversity, which is an idea that’s just now gaining more and more traction. I see it on Twitter and in scholarly journals. But it’s not a widely acknowledged or accepted view yet. Disability is a cultural diversity. I see it especially in your work with the deaf and hard of hearing community, and especially as a cultural, academic, Deaf culture, like that’s a real thing, too. So what case do you make for disability to be included in diversity, equity and inclusion work?

Sarah Schley  13:51

Right. It’s also a great question. So, to me, diversity is really about experiences people have and different ways of being in the world. Yeah, we’re not all the

Lillian Nave  14:06

same. Right? Isn’t that great?

Sarah Schley  14:09

Yeah. You know, it would be boring if we were just so to me, it’s a very easy jump to put disability in that equation. And whether I mean, Deaf and Hard of Hearing is a it’s often set off as a separate case, because there’s a language that goes along with with it, American Sign Language, a lot of the deaf community use it and language really pulls a community together as a community and a culture. However, I don’t think it’s a leap for other groups of disabilities, either. They have different ways of being in different ways of experience different ways of experiencing the world. That’s what diversity is diversity is about how you interact with your world and how you live in it and whether you have, whether you can, whether you can be present in it as a full person who has you know, ability to be contributing and receiving information, certainly in the classroom, you know, your students are all different, and you don’t necessarily know all their experiences, you walk into class for the first day, you have no idea who’s in front of you, you may have meant a couple of them before in the past. But knowing, tapping into the fact that they’re different, and they have different experiences, and they have different ways of being disabilities is just another level of that. And, you know, yes, it can be about language and culture, and deafness and heart of being hard of hearing, and not being able to hear the information and all that stuff, it could also be about using wheels to get around, it can be about being on the spectrum and just having different ways of interpreting information. So I, to me, it’s a no brainer, it’s really easy to see it to fit it in. That doesn’t mean that you shoes are all the same, you know, being black, or some other ethnicity or race, your experiences very different than someone who’s disabled. Yeah, it’s you don’t have the same experiences, you’re living in a different context, you’re living with a different historical difference behind you. It’s not that they’re, it’s identical across all groups, they there’s different needs different things that you should be responding to you. But it’s very easy to make the case that disability and diversity are part of the picture.

Lillian Nave  16:17

Yes, absolutely. And I’m hearing that more and more. And I really, really appreciate that. Because it’s, it’s that difference, too, I think, with access and inclusion, that maybe we’re inviting people to the table, but we really need to be creating, like building the table together. Like who’s there in on the planning? Like we think the table should be round, not, you know, this really janky triangular table. wobbly table that we made. Yeah, this is good enough. You know, here’s your table. Here’s your table, we made one special, you know, yeah. And it’s,

Sarah Schley  16:58

it’s similar to the issue. A lot of dei initiatives now are, you know, talking about similar stuff, it’s like, we don’t just want representation. It’s not just about the numbers of different racial groups and NICs and proportions of us that are on campus, it’s about whether we’re actually in these positions, where we’re leading things and contributing things and our voices are heard.

Lillian Nave  17:19

Right, right. We have to we have to build that table, we have to change the system to so that it’s not Well, great. Welcome, you’re here, here eyes barriers, you know, we’re not gonna change. But you are here. So good luck. Yeah. And or we set up like a different system. But we that’s separate. We don’t we don’t want to do to navigate

Sarah Schley  17:41

for whatever reason, you don’t have experience with it, you’re you didn’t grow up in a family culture where they understood it, you know, you just have different access, right. And you’re not included in the same way.

Lillian Nave  17:51

Right. And I think that’s one of the things about being really clear about our goals, that universal design for learning is all about making sure that you know what the goal is, and then being really clear, set it out. Because there’s often the Hidden Curriculum about oh, I didn’t know I have to sign up for that, or I didn’t know that we’re supposed to do that. And so just making those things clear, is a big part of making things accessible, and see what the next steps are and how to get through whatever program or to be successful in the college experience. So Exactly, yeah. So you, I love your your work about supporting inclusive teaching through student observations. That’s one of the articles and I’d love to have lots of folks reading your work because you sent her the student voice. And that is something we don’t always see, we see the faculty kind of making the rules. And here it is, again, this part about let’s build the table together. And you are asking students to be part of that building process. And so it includes a really helpful classroom observation form for students who are trained in accessibility, to use and give feedback to professors they’re paired with to help the professor’s improve their courses. And it seems like a really reproducible study on any campus, though it did sound like it took a lot of work to coordinate. I appreciate all that work that you did. Can you share some of those most valuable Teaching and Learning takeaways from that study that you

Sarah Schley  19:23

did? Sure. So let me back up just a second and flesh out what we did in the study. This was this was a grant supported project. So I got funding from the National Science Foundation. And it was specifically to do some faculty development work where students were a part of the process. So we set up these faculty learning communities, and we hired students. Why not do that? On campus, let’s hire something. So this work happened at the Rochester Institute of Technology where they have I’m going to nine or 10 colleges now. More keep getting anyway, um, one of the colleges is called the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. So our it has about, I forget the exact number 1200 1300 Deaf students deaf and hard of hearing students who are on campus. They either take classes at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, also called NT ID, which are taught by faculty who have specific training in working with deaf students. So and most of the students in the class are deaf or hard of hearing. And the faculty are not necessarily deaf or hard of hearing themselves. But they know they they’re hired, they’re working at a college where that’s the goal. Or they take classes across campus at any of the other colleges with regular faculty and they have access services, interpreters, etc, whatever. Okay, captions. So we started because it’s not easy. A lot of the students who are across campus, yes, they had access, but they were having trouble being included in be interacting in the classroom. It also was happening at in tip courses, because there’s such variability in preference of and experiences of these deaf and hard of hearing students. Some of them use ASL. And they use American Sign Language they sign they don’t voice at all, some of them sign and talk at the same time. Some of them are oral. You know, there’s just tremendous variability in the classroom in terms of communication, and stuff. So we’re like, Well, why don’t we partner with faculty and students and we’ll have students go watch the courses, they’re not enrolled in the faculty’s courses, okay, they’ll go watch the courses, and they’ll just sit down and have some one on one some real talk with the faculty about this would have been hard for me. Yeah, it was as simple as that. Now, as part of that process, we developed an observation tool. So we had to train the students on what to watch for we were focused on access and interaction and collaboration and inclusion. So it was an observation tool, it was about those issues. We had to train both the faculty and the students about how to meet with each other. Faculty were like, What do you mean, I have to sit and listen to us to tell me how to teach. The students are like, What do you mean, I have to tell faculty things that were hard. It was, so yes, there was sort of a lot of legwork that we had to do. We kept very close touch with the students. We they did observations every other week. And on the alternate weeks, we met with them and just sort of talked with him about it.

Lillian Nave  22:32

And gave it back a whole semester, like afford

Sarah Schley  22:35

one throughout the whole semester. And we did it five times. Yeah, so. So we had these partnerships, we had a faculty partner paired with a student and went on for a semester we also had, it was a faculty learning committee. So every other week, we also met as a group, all the faculty, all the students in all this excess stuff. We had interpreters, we had captioning, we had no takers. So we put it all in there because we didn’t want interaction and participation to be a problem. So this is not what normally happens in classrooms, in classrooms. The ADEA specifies you get communication access, so you’ll get an interpreter or you’ll get captioning. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing. You might also get notetaking. You know, but it’s not all of it. Okay. So anyway, so we had these faculty learning communities, the things that came out of it are students and faculty. So the the learning community was divided into chunks. The first chunk was like figuring out a challenge point. Okay, back for inclusion. So the students in the faculty, like they observed, and they talked and they figured out one thing that they wanted, that was a challenge point that they wanted to make better to increase inclusion, or interaction or collaboration, okay, then they brainstorm different ways of solving that challenge point, different strategies. Then they did, and they designed the actual strategy, how to how to make it better, and then they tried it out. They implemented it. And then we got a semester. Yeah, so it was about two to three weeks for each chunk. So then they tried it out. And then they got feedback. So and then we there was a discussion about Well, next time we can iterate, you know, it’s just a process. It’s a you know, you identify something you brainstorm possible solutions, you design it, you try it out, you get feedback that you go or it’s a circle. Yes. So the things that came out of that, for this group, because they’re deaf or hard of hearing, There ended up being three different kinds of problems and strategies that they came up with. One was changes to the physical space. Okay, so either changing the audience style seating to a U shape, okay, that’s one example or could have been as simple as the interpreter was standing in a dark place of the room.

Lillian Nave  24:51

Oh, like lighting, lighting. Yeah.

Sarah Schley  24:54

Or, you know, the professor was standing in front of the slide presentation, you know, so Simple. These are not rocket science, right? But if you don’t have that perspective with the deaf or hard of hearing perspective of trying to see and participate and use that information, you’re not going to know it because it’s not part of your perspective. So changes to the physical space for one, I’m changing an assignment was another. So one faculty member made a change where that she wanted to have more interaction and questioning happening during the end of the semester presentation that students did about a research project at DOL semester. So often faculty have, well, everybody’s going to do an individual presentation. Yeah. And you have people get up and they give a five minute presentation, and there’s not much interaction, right? The rest of people are watching. It’s a little mini lecture by all the students. What she did is she turned it into poster sessions. Oh, great, very similar job of what you’re trying to convey. Here’s the research I did have explaining what I did. Here’s the results, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it changes the dynamics to interaction, like really substantially. One, you have to create something that’s more visually accessible, because you’re it’s on a poster so everybody can see it and read it at their own pace and go back. And you know, the whole presentation is right there to the dynamics are that people are walking up and asking you questions, right.

Lillian Nave  26:25

And it’s a one on one rather than one to 50 or one to 20. And nobody wants to ask the question when 19 Other people are looking at them? Right? I think it’s a dumb question.

Sarah Schley  26:35

Exactly. So this was her curricular goal was to have more question and answer interaction stuff happening with these presentations. And it was a brilliant way to solve it. I mean, the oral presentation versus poster presentation, arguably, the students are doing similar kinds of prep work to prepare for that. Yeah, not exactly the same. And so that was a that was an example. That was a really brilliant example. The third kind of change that people made was they added a tool or a piece of technology or something like that. So they added tools to solve the problem. one faculty member taught stats, statistics, and it was an intro level statistics course. And she taught by giving a short little lecture about the topic of the day at the start. And then they had problems to solve, she would pass out a worksheet, and you know, the students were grouped at tables, they all had their worksheet, they sit at the table with the paper worksheet that stapled together and their heads drop, and they need the worksheet. They’re not interacting, you know, they start answering it on their worksheet in front of them by themselves every now and then somebody looks up and ask a question. So maybe there’ll be working a little bit together, but the deaf or hard of hearing students is like, I don’t know what they’re saying, Oh, right. There’s an interpreter in the classroom, or maybe a pair of interpreters. But there’s not as many as there are groups. So there’s an interpreter. And it’s

Lillian Nave  27:59

not like, yeah, they’re gonna run over and say, Hey, here’s what I’m eavesdropping on this conversation exactly about it.

Sarah Schley  28:05

And they can’t be six places at once. Right? So this faculty member added large whiteboards, you know, the big the portable whiteboards. She had a whiteboard for each table. And she said, there’s one rule, you have to use a whiteboard.

Lillian Nave  28:17

Wow. That’s another great thing I’ve seen in a lot of these active learning classrooms is collaborative spaces, and right and encouraging that collaboration.

Sarah Schley  28:26

Right? Yeah. And so they were magnet whiteboards. So the students could magnet, the worksheet, packet up on the whiteboard, and then they’re getting up and they’re drawing and they’re solving stuff in there. They just have an extra way of interacting with each other now, because it’s writing, which is accessible. That’s the bonus for the teacher for the faculty member is she could look around the whiteboards in during that session and figure out who was going off down the wrong garden path? Yes. Go intervene.

Lillian Nave  28:54

Right, right, rather than 25 different individuals that you can’t see their papers, you’ve got right to work in groups.

Sarah Schley  29:01

Yeah, exactly. So. So that also, it’s an example of adding a tool or adding a different way of interacting for students. Something that helps them mediate the conversation, the beanie babies, another example of that, where you’re tossing a beating baby around, so

Lillian Nave  29:15

so everybody can focus on the speaker at one time. Right? Exactly. You know, you bring up something that I often find in my universal design for learning work, and that is the things we don’t know, the things we don’t know are happening and there’s it works two ways. One is when faculty are doing great things, and then they don’t realize, Oh, that’s a universal design for learning principle. You know, having multiple means of representation or does like a collaborative group like you the those whiteboards that they’re working on. Oh, wow, I can link those to UDL. But the other Oh, I don’t know. Part is the things like that you mentioned, like a professor standing within the projector, you know, and they don’t realize that that makes it hard for people to see what’s on the projector. It makes it hard for And then to see, especially if somebody’s speaking or interpreting or things like that, that we have in that instructor perspective. We don’t see. And just we don’t realize we’re throwing up barriers. Right? And it happens a lot. And wouldn’t it be great if we could replicate the study you’re doing? And I can see it going in multiple contexts? Yes. Where we have students that are coming in and saying, you know, this may seem great. The as a wonderful pedagogical choice that you’re making. But do you realize it has this effect on the students? Right? And yeah, yeah. For me, this

Sarah Schley  30:45

is hard, because blah,

Lillian Nave  30:47

right. And we don’t get that student feedback as much as we want. In fact, systemically, you only get student feedback after you’ve turned your grades in, at the end, the very end. And then okay, maybe you can implement, you know, something for the next semester. But those students throughout the whole semester, they’ve had to deal with your back to the, you know, talking with your back to the class, they don’t know what’s going on. And for the for the whole semester. So this this student feedback, so important,

Sarah Schley  31:18

it really is important. There have been some other projects that have done similar things with students of color, and with first generation students. So I’m not the only one doing this. I believe this is the first project doing it with students with disabilities. And there are so many ways this could be expanded. Yes, it would be awesome to see it with other disabilities and with other groups, students. So

Lillian Nave  31:40

yeah, you’ve centered these voices that that was the part that got me really excited. Like, I haven’t seen enough. I’ve seen some of it, but I haven’t seen enough of it. Yep. Because that is, is making a big change that, again, I think we miss we miss. When it’s like our faculty learning committee. It’s all faculty. And it’s all the same faculty perspective.

Sarah Schley  32:04

So it’s really critical to have all these voices. i It was certainly something on my mind, as I was designing the grant, I made sure that the team leading this project was I think it was actually a little bit more half deaf, that you know, more than half of them were deaf or hard of hearing. So I made sure that it was not all being run by people like me. I wanted those voices in the project as we were designing it, the students, you know, they were all deaf. So, yeah, it was crucial to me to make sure that that perspective was in there. I will never be deaf. I am not deaf, I will never have that perspective. So if I’m talking about working with deaf students in the classroom, I should be talking with those people.

Lillian Nave  32:47

Right? Exactly. Yeah. And I really I did, I really appreciated that. And actually one of your other recent studies, which is centering the deaf experience, student faculty partnerships, and inclusive pedagogy development, I love that involved deaf and hard of hearing student, Mom mentors, who worked with the faculty in this learning community. And I especially appreciated this part that they’re not actually students in the classes, they functioned as observers. They’re paid for their work. You know, you mentioned that that’s important. And focused on accessibility features. Yep. Last, can you tell me more about that one as well?

Sarah Schley  33:29

Yeah, I mean, that’s sort of, you know, it was the student payment part, it’s not an expensive thing to run, yeah, you’re paid. You know, it’s minimum wage from perhaps you’re paying undergraduate students. In New York, it happened to be $15 an hour. Yeah, we were paying students for the same as they would have gotten most anywhere on campus. The labor was in organizing it and orchestrating it. So it’s not a small lift in terms of making sure the students have what they need, making sure the faculty have what they need, and scheduling people out matching people, you know, there’s a lot of that. But if the institution is willing to put that those resources in to someone to coordinate all that it has a really high payoff, because the strategies that we got out of it, were just, you know, anybody can pick these up. If you see people like, kind of not understanding stuff in a lecture, some of these strategies work for anything, you know, just Yeah. It’s a really hard thing to do as a presenter. You have to train yourself for the silence. I’m working with I’m teaching a course right now where I, they just gave their first presentations, and I talked to them about this, and then they all pause for about a second and a half. Yeah. You know, so you have to do some actual training and how long is long enough? But, you know, aside from that, it’s not really a heavy lift. It’s not an expensive program to run, you know, from the student salaries perspective, and you’re not paying benefits. Right? It’s a really fun job for the students do. They really liked it? Some of them were just, this is the first time they’ve ever anyone’s ever asked them about this kind of stuff. What’s hard for you in, in taking classes, you’re doing it, you’re succeeding your success, you’re at college, you’re going through it, you’re getting great. You know, you’re a sex success story. But what’s hard about it for you, you know, nobody’s ever asked them this before. And for them, it was also really transformative. It changed, some of them had changed their their trajectories after school, they sort of they started to see the power of what they could contribute. And it was a really cool story, one student in particular. I can’t name them, of course, but they, before they were on my project, they were involved in some advocacy work on campus, they were doing some advocacy for better communication happening in the classroom. And they were kind of a thorn in the administration side. Because as advocacy can be,

Lillian Nave  36:08

yeah, means you’re doing it right.

Sarah Schley  36:11

What happens? Yeah, they got involved in the project. And they became part of the solution. Oh, which raise so powerful. And it wasn’t just the student, it was all of them were like, wow, I can really make this better. You know. So that was just a really transformative thing for us. I didn’t expect that. That was, I was like, let’s get students to help. Of course, they should help. There’s now we’re talking about that students, we should ask the students what you know. But seeing the transformations that they went through was just, it was really amazing. So it was it was awesome to see.

Lillian Nave  36:48

Yeah. Well, that part where the students are, they start to understand their own value. Because now people in power, so to speak, are listening to them. That’s a huge reversal.

Sarah Schley  37:04

Yeah. Then the agencies. Yeah, finding their own agency in the in the picture is really good. And not being just a, I have to accept this. This is what the system is. Yeah, you know. So not being a passive receiver of all this stuff, but finding points where you have agency and where

Lillian Nave  37:20

you can contribute, right, and I see that so much in my work with universal design for learning is that UDL values and says it does value learner diversity. And one of the things that I think it does really well is, is acting on that by saying, Okay, well, if we value, that diversity, then we need to leverage those differences and put them in place in the classroom, you know, so giving choices, opportunities for those student voices to make a difference is really important. And I’ve seen, like, there’s some really easy changes people can make. And when you were talking about silence, right, just waiting for questions, it’s so hard, it’s so hard. And even just counting to five or something like that, or changing your question is like, alright, instead of me any questions, you say, what questions do you have? Right? Or it’s just my dad, saying, I know your questions. I’m expecting questions, you know, your questions are important. Tell me what they are.

Sarah Schley  38:33

I still have a question about this. Where are you confused? Still? Yeah,

Lillian Nave  38:37

yeah. Where we really are trying to get that student voice because it really helps everybody. Right? You know, there’s more students that have that same question. And, and so there’s waiting for somebody to do it. But oftentimes that power dynamic in the classroom, in the sense that you’re going to be thought of as stupid for asking the question, we’ve got so many things going on. Right. Right.

Sarah Schley  39:03

Another example is asking what surprised you about what I just said. So you’re starting with things that are new information for them. And then that can also lead to well, this surprised me, but I still have an urge to you know, that will be them to the questions that they have also.

Lillian Nave  39:16

Yes, and emotion in learning. Like, I’ve asked students to talk about what they learned and include a word that has an emotional tint, like that was, you know, surprising, or that was scary, or I didn’t like this part, you know, where I had to delve into this area. I wasn’t, you know, I really, you know, was glad that was over. Yeah. And because that is also important part of the learning. And we often say or think that our students are just brains on sticks, but they’re not. They have a human experience with human emotions. Yeah. Yeah. That’s also part of the learning. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And bringing that in and so much of that is is the feeling included? Yeah, feeling that they’re part of that learning community is so is, is necessary. Like, it’s not just important, it’s essential for the student to be able to learn and be a valuable part of that experience.

Sarah Schley  40:16

I have a new postdoctoral student working for me now and the way she phrased it is, if they can’t be if they can’t be in that space, yeah. inhabited the problem.

Lillian Nave  40:31

Yes. Yeah. And I must say, like, I see this in every facet of life, of course, it’s in my my professional world, but you see it everywhere about it, that feeling right of being included, and whether you are if, if you’ve ever had teenage girls, and I, it is all emotion that you know, and that it makes or breaks it, it makes it can make you break a whole year about am I included? And it’s not the Oh, I was invited at the last minute because I saw it on social media or something. And it was just a pity invite or something. And you’re like, Why can’t go now?

Sarah Schley  41:14

That sort of thing. Oh, this gut? Yep. That’s an emotion.

Lillian Nave  41:18

It’s so much yeah, part of that emotion. And we can’t, we can’t deny that in our academic settings. So in, in your view, then, if an instructor wants to make their online or in person classroom environment more inclusive? What are the first steps that you recommend they take?

Sarah Schley  41:41

Well, there’s a bunch of them. One is doing a little get to know your students thing before or right at the start of class, like, ask them specifically, is there anything you’d like me to know about you? Now, they may or may not want to disclose that they have a disability? Yes, that’s fine. But you can also ask, is there anything that you would appreciate from a learning perspective that I could do? And you may not get very specific answers, but you might get something that tells you a little bit about it. The other thing you can do is just open the conversation during class sessions, like, hey, what would help you learn this stuff? Yeah, better. So it’s, it’s formative assessment, it’s checking in on the process and how, you know, giving them a chance to voice how the learning processes going. So formative assessment is about, you know, you checking in and seeing how it’s going, you know, it’s like getting information, getting data, whatever, getting information from the students about how the learning process is going. You’re not trying to sum up what they learned. That’s summative assessment, but you’re checking in about the process. So how’s it going? Yeah. How’s it going? What’s hard? Yeah, make it better? What can I do differently? And it’s, I think a lot of faculty are a little resistant, because it feels like you’re asking them to do everything that I think they have this perspective about UDL. Also, it’s like you’re being asked to make everything inclusive in every single way from the outset when you can’t possibly know what you know. And I don’t actually think that that’s what UDL is about. Right. You know, we use UDL as a hook in these learning communities to get people thinking about these issues, we can actually ask them to design everything from a UDL perspective, they have one thing to do. But UDL really is about figuring out what things are happening in your classroom, what your students are, what they bring to the table, so to speak, and how to work with that. And it’s asking you, I think the other best practice is to start with one changing one thing. Don’t try to change your entire course all at once. Yeah, one thing and then it iterates. And every semester, it gets a little better, a little better, a little better. So those are my top recommendations. Yeah, one tip phrase questions to get to know your students and to get to know how they’re doing throughout the process. And also, don’t try to teach it all at once. And approach it from a play and experimentation perspective. Try one thing, you know, see how

Lillian Nave  44:06

it works? Yes, a plus one strategy.

Sarah Schley  44:09

Yeah, it may bomb.

Lillian Nave  44:12

And then try again. Right? Be okay with failure. Yeah, right. Yeah, one of the things that you made me think about the, each one of those students is different. And that way they’re entering the class is just as valid as the others. So if I have a student who is much better or more comfortable at communicating, let’s say in the chat via zoom, rather than speaking, or, or being on camera or something like that, right? I have to get over my bias of being in a like a formal classroom where people raised their hands and speak and say, you know, that’s just as valid. That’s just, you know, a different thing. They’re contributing right in a way that’s coming Trouble in a way, that’s often they’ve had a little more time to think about it. And it’s pretty brilliant. Right? Right. And opening those up,

Sarah Schley  45:08

right? One thing I often do, that’s also a relatively easy list is I’ll have when I’m teaching, I’ll have a companion Google Doc. Yes, all the students can log into. It doesn’t have to be Google. But some, some single, collaborative, collaborative doc that they can log into. I’ve got the agenda for the class in there. I’ve got questions in there and space for them to answer. And you can link to other you can link to a Google sheet like a spreadsheet, if you want them to fill out answers. That way, you can link to a jam board. There’s just all kinds of ways of putting different kinds of information in there and getting them to interact. bonus at the end of the semester, they are at the end of the class, they have a crowdsource class source. Yeah. set of notes that everybody’s populated.

Lillian Nave  45:51

Yes. Right. And that really does change that dynamic from I am the professor and I’m giving you all the information to we are a class and we’re creating the information together, like huge difference, right, that invites all those students to be, I guess, more participants or to participate more. Exactly, yeah. To be greater participants in their own learning. And of course, that’s what we want. I mean, the goal of UDL is to create expert learners, not great receivers and blurs of that information. Yeah, exactly back out to the world. But actually, to learn it, and to be a part of that process. And so these are all ways that are, I think, making it easier for the students. All students, honestly, you’re just starting with the deaf and hard of hearing community and taking those, the disabled, community and voices, right. And their input in again, which often happens with UDL is it’s makes it better for that one student or that group of students, but then it also is so much better for everybody else, right, you know, improves the teaching and learning for everybody. It does, it does. We are learning so much from including all of these voices in our UDL studies. And, you know, one of the one of the criticisms that is active now, is that we don’t have enough research on Universal Design for Learning in practice. And that’s why I was like, oh, Sarah has like seven articles writing more to say, yes. It’s like, wow, we need to get this out there too. Because each one of your faculty learning community started with Universal Design for Learning, right?


Yep. Yep. So the curriculum I mean, that there’s a curriculum paper about it, you know, the first part of the curriculum where they’re identifying a challenge, where we give them lots of information about UDL, we talked about it, we also have this brilliant example of a really inaccessible bad lecture. You watch it, and you’re like, this is actually not far from the truth. In many cases. Yeah. The lighting is bad. The the lecturer standing in front of the slides, she’s like talking about Sue saying this, that and not these like specific terms, you just saying, you know, well, this and that, and you don’t know what she’s talking about? Yeah. You know, there’s just it’s just a great example. It’s not recorded from real life. Yeah. Okay. It was acting. But it also has no sound, it just has captions. And so it’s kind of a bit of a simulation and faculty watch it. It’s, you know, and they’re like, Wow, yeah. I didn’t realize it was so hard, right. They

Lillian Nave  48:42

didn’t know that they were being that inaccessible to some students. Again, we don’t know.

Sarah Schley  48:48

Like, we have no idea. So and it’s not, it’s rare that anyone’s as bad as these examples. Right. But everybody watches this and can find some piece of something that resonates with stuff they’ve done in the past. So Right. It’s a little it’s sobering. Yeah. And our worldview is what it is based on our experiences and what we have, you know, what we present to the world and what we have access to. So, of course, I’m not aware that it’s really hard to pay attention to the interpreter, if my back is turned, and I’m writing on it. You know, why would I know that? Yeah. It’s not part of my reality. That’s right. There are other things that are but you know, so yes, talking to the folks involved is really important.

Lillian Nave  49:28

You don’t know what you don’t know until somebody tells you.

Sarah Schley  49:32

It’s not a personal failing. It’s not that you’re bad at your job. It’s just that you know, your experience is different from there. Yeah.

Lillian Nave  49:40

Right. There’s a great TED talk that I have my students watched by Katherine Schultz about on being wrong and tells the story of a surgeon who mistakenly, I believe amputated or operated on the wrong leg. And yes, and this has happened more than Once, right? And yeah, they asked the doctor and they and, and the surgeon had said, Well, I just thought it was the right leg. Like that was the answer. And it feels hot. And so she asked, you know, how does it feel to be wrong? And the answer is, it feels exactly the same as he when you’re right. You don’t know you’re wrong until somebody pointed out like when wily Coyote, this is gonna date me, of course. But wily coyote is always chasing a roadrunner, bird. And he’s in the caverns out near the Grand Canyon out west. And so sometimes he runs off a cliff, and it keeps running. And yes, and his legs are still going and he’s still up in the air. And he’s fine until he looks down. And it’s only when he looks down, right? That he sees he, he’s gonna fall. And that’s often what it is in our teaching is where we’re running off the cliff. And we’re still running. We’re still running and it feels good. feels right. Feels like we’ve always done it until somebody points out, you know, we can’t even hear you. You’re on mute. You know?

Sarah Schley  51:06

Yeah. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And it’s, it’s really not about a personal failing No, badly, it’s about not knowing and the solution to not knowing is to open up a feedback loop, you know?

Lillian Nave  51:20

Perfect. Exactly. Right, then, and where are we getting that feedback loop from the people I think that matter the most who are sitting in the classroom? audience, the audience right, and I liked that it weren’t it wasn’t students who are in the class. I think that’s an important distinction to make. Yeah,

Sarah Schley  51:37

cuz that the, you know, if you’re trying to give feedback to someone who’s giving you a grade, yeah,

Lillian Nave  51:42

it’s all messy. Yeah, you’re not gonna get accurate feedback, you’re gonna get a lot of that was great. I love this class. I don’t understand the thing. But it’s fantastic. Exactly. Yeah. So in paying them and, and really implementing those strategies that they come up with, together with the professor, all of this was really just fantastic. And I hope that our listeners can can think about ways that this could really work on their campuses as well. By see about, yeah, what’s not working with accessibility? And also, you know, being included in,

Sarah Schley  52:22

right. I would love to see Teaching and Learning Centers take this on as like, oh, we could do this. You know, yeah. What a great way to get feedback for teaching and stuff.

Lillian Nave  52:31

Yeah. And it’s a great, you have several articles about this, that, that help us to understand how really powerful those changes can be and how helpful it’s been at alrighty. And how successful I think the program has been. So yeah, yeah. So we’ll have make sure we have your, as much information on these on these studies as possible for our for our listeners. And I just want to thank you so much for talking about what you’ve done for helping us know that there is a lot of research, right, you know, that’s coming out now on universal design for learning and how it can help in our teaching and learning and for doing the hard, nitty gritty work, so that we can benefit from it. So thank you so much,

Sarah Schley  53:16

Sure, was an awesome project. It was such a pleasure to talk with you this morning.

Lillian Nave  53:20

Thank you so much. You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the think website. 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 aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college website. 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. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast.