Welcome to Episode 32 of the ThinkUDL podcast: UDL and Culturally Responsive Teaching with Adam Nemeroff. Adam is a Learning Designer at Dartmouth College and has created a very innovative way to share his ideas about Culturally Responsive Teaching and inclusive design by using a Trello Board. This episode will investigate the ways culturally responsive teaching and Universal Design for Learning are related to and also inform each other, and Adam has organized this information using what he calls a “vision board” which he created using the Trello tool. If you are unfamiliar with Trello, we have provided links in today’s resources to investigate this tool further, and you will also find Adam’s Trello board there. We think you’ll find this discussion enlightening and full of ideas for how Universal Design for Learning principles and Culturally Responsive Teaching mutually uphold one another.
Adams’ Trello Board: This is Adam’s “Vision Board” as he calls it which he presented at the Goodwin College 2nd Annual UDL in Higher Education Conference that we talk about throughout this episode that has all of his ideas laid out for culturally responsive teaching and UDL.
Trello: The tool Adam has used to create his “vision board.”
2nd Annual UDL in Higher Education Conference at Goodwin College +1 Transformation by Design Conference
Jigsaw Classroom Technique: Adam and Lillian discuss how this collaborative learning activity offers student perspectives and an active learning technique for use in college classrooms.
[Lillian] Welcome to Think UDL, the Universal Design for Learning podcast. Where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind.
I’m your host, Lillian Nave, and I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding, and facilitating, but how you design and implement it, and why it even matters.
Welcome to episode 31 of the Think UDL podcast: UDL and Culturally Responsive Teaching with Adam Nemeroff. Adam is a learning designer at Dartmouth College and has created a very innovative way to share his ideas about culturally responsive teaching and inclusive design by using a Trello board. This episode will investigate the ways culturally responsive teaching and Universal Design for Learning are related to and also inform each other, and Adam has organized this information using what he calls a vision board which he created using the Trello tool. If you are unfamiliar with Trello spelled T-R-E-L-L-O, we have provided links in today’s resources to investigate this tool further and you will also find Adam’s Trello board there. We think you’ll find this discussion enlightening and full of ideas for how Universal Design for Learning principles and culturally responsive teaching mutually uphold one another.
Welcome to the Think UDL podcast. We are at the second annual Universal Design for Learning and higher education conference at Goodwin College in East Hartford, Connecticut and I have with me Adam Nemeroff who is the chief Learning Imagineer or learning designer at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and he is going to present today about creating a thriving environment for learning from Universal to inclusive learning design and I was really excited about what he’s talking about, which includes culturally responsive teaching practices. So, thank you, Adam for being with me today.
[Adam] Thank you for having me.
[Lillian] So, the first question I like to ask everybody is what makes you a different kind of learner and I was wondering if you have an answer for a different kind of– what makes you a different kind of learner?
[Adam] Yeah I think for me I’ve– my family used to joke around me growing up, I always think differently than other people. Although, I think that’s everyone is what I’ve come to realize. I tend to be somebody who thinks about like the big picture, and I tend to be somebody who is more people oriented than task oriented. So, for me, that manifests in all sorts of different ways when I’m in a classroom or a learning environment. In other ways I’ve often struggled with my attention in certain situations, and in other cases I’ve struggled some with anxiety and worry. So, like I think some of that for me has helped to kind of think about where learners might experience barriers in the classroom, and to imagine different ways to meet the needs of different learners from that viewpoint.
[Lillian] Great, thank you, and I know you have–you thought about your background as you went into higher education and how that shaped you know your educational experience. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
[Adam] Yeah, so I hadn’t really thought about this as being something significant until more recently, but I I came to realize that my background as being a first-generation college student in my family was really defining for me as an early undergraduate student. And it kind of set the tone for a lot of different things both as I was experiencing certain barriers in the classroom of the kind of implicit curriculum that exists and kind of the things that that aren’t written into the syllabus or written into the way that a faculty member kinda of instruct students in certain ways but are kind of just taken as– taken for granted, and for me it actually blossomed in an interesting way because I started to realize that my goal as an educator–and I went through it a teacher education program for secondary social studies teachers and I also did an undergraduate degree in history specifically– what I started to realize through the process of doing that was I was trying to undo those experiences by learning more about how to do it better. So–and that kind of shaped really my identity as a learning designer, because I really started to think about how to create access for students in the classroom and how to really help faculty to think about the curriculum in different ways so that that their learners are able to better meet their expectations and be more successful.
[Lillian] Okay. So, I really appreciate your discussion about how you got into UDL and what brought you into this and you are bringing to today’s conference this idea about blending culturally responsive teaching practices and UDL. So– and you’re doing it in a really imaginative way with a Trello board. So, I was– I’ve never seen that as a presentation, so I wanted to give our listeners the chance to learn about what the presentation that they can’t be here for. So, can you kind of tell us, walk us through what your idea is about Universal to inclusive learning design, what that marriage between UDL and culturally responsive teaching practices is?
[Adam] Yeah, I think about this in a couple of different ways. It’s been my experience that I often encounter learning designers and other individuals involved with instructional design instructional technologies in these conference settings, and there’s this this kind of gap. It feels like we have a lot of guidelines for educators, but it’s almost like there’s a gap that needs to be filled as far as how to help people to think through how to be strategic about learning design knowing about learner variability. So, what I started to really look for is UDL seem to start some of that, like having a good understanding of the principles related to Universal Design for Learning and the foundational ideas there is helpful, but it didn’t really include some of the things that I was hearing about when I was learning about culturally responsive teaching. And that could come down to things like awareness of your learners and their background and engaging with that, thinking about diversity of voices in your classroom, thinking about the role the teacher in the context of what they’re bringing to the classroom as far as their identity experiences and biases. And thinking about this idea that we’re all reflective and we’re– as educators we need to be reflective educators in order to improve and I think culturally responsive teaching practices has that kind of interwoven into it. So, what I started to realize is that these two things were kind of existing separately and that it kind of warranted bringing them together in a more explicit way. So I’ve kind of started throwing around this term of inclusive learning design as being a way of getting at that, so mostly because I like to pick and choose the fun stuff from each thing and then make my own thing, but I think that’s kind of the idea what the Trello board is it’s kind of like my–Trello is almost like a vision board you know it’s kind of like– and this is the downfall of podcasts, it’s like I can’t show you this vision board
[Lillian] Right, but we will put them on the resources in the show notes
[Adam] So, the idea with bringing together this Trello idea board is like to help people to see into how I’m thinking about it, and to get feedback on that, that’s really what I’m looking for.
[Lillian] Great and so Trello is something that I only started using when we started the podcast so that people in different campuses–you know, our producer is at a different campus than I am– lots of people can work on it. It’s like having a whiteboard in your office except everybody can have it and you can add a bunch of links and pictures and super visually interesting– you can move things around. So, people who haven’t heard of Trello, I’ll put a link there in our resources so people can learn about that. Maybe they’re going to–you’ll inspire folks to try it as well, and then a link to your board for this inclusive learning design. So, you’ve got a whole bunch of columns you know ideas that you can tell us about where you’re merging UDL and culturally responsive teaching. And so which one do you want to start with, what could we start with?
[Adam] Yeah, so I think one of the challenges I’ve had with all of these frameworks is they often focus on the underlying principles and strategies and not the target focus in the course. So, when I sit down with a faculty member, it’s usually– it might be a conversation broadly about their course or design their course kind of from the beginning, but oftentimes somebody might come to me with an issue related to you thinking about their syllabus and rewriting it, or thinking about an assignment or course materials. So what I try to do is I try to think of those as being that the kind of focuses that I would think about, or the columns in Trello, and really thinking about what are the strategies from each of these frameworks that exist, and what are those things and how would I consult with the faculty around it? Like how would I take that idea and make it really practical and tied to what they’re doing in their classroom? And it was a really interesting activity to do that because each column essentially got these strategies broken out and I tagged them with either the UDL principle–like the broader area in UDL, or specific to culturally responsive teaching–and then what I tried to do is intertwine different ideas that they could pick up as like something to try out in that area to help their learners or to meet the needs of different learners with that specific item in there and some resources too that I’ve encountered and found helpful.
[Lillian] Great. So, one of those columns is a syllabus, right? So, how do you marry the UDL and cultural responsive teaching practices when you say let’s think about the syllabus?
[Adam] Yeah, so a lot of it comes down to–there are things I picked up and heard of from different places over time, but I think they really honor each of these frameworks. So, for example, a couple of the ones just reading from the syllabus– so one strategy: articulate learning outcomes for and across your course. So, that seems like a no-brainer to some extent, but that actually is really important from both the Universal Design and a culturally responsive teaching standpoint, because you have to make your expectations clear because otherwise your learners don’t know what you’re looking for necessarily, right. So, that being one of them. I also talked about giving students ownership in the course design where possible, setting explicit expectations, creating community within your course and especially at the beginning of kind of when the course is convening, including a statement on inclusive teaching and climate, I think that’s really important and there’s some great examples out there about that, talking about office hours and not only when they are but from it–from an inclusive teaching standpoint, what are they intended to do and how would a student navigate that? And I think for me personally, I remember you know office hours are really intimidating. I didn’t use them until I was an upperclassman, but kind of really using it as an opportunity to decode that for your students. And then thinking about things like what are different resources that might help for student success whether it’s Writing Center, or tutoring services, or disability services that might exist on campus. I also talked about one– so the idea I share with this one that one of my colleagues promote and used to talk about all the time is you might think about different ways of representing your syllabus. So, we think of the kind of traditional word doc or PDF that you would grab off of your course website, but think about maybe doing a visual syllabus. It could be a map or something to visually represent how the course is structured, presented, and how things connect together and that can be helpful for students to understand the connections between things that might not jump out from words on a page or something like that.
[Lillian] Yeah, so great– infographic syllabi, you know it’s just different that’s very UDL, multiple means of representation, but it also gets at those students that–it just helps all students understand. So, that cultural responsiveness, you are reaching out to all of those students.
[Lillian] That’s great and then you’ve got a whole other section here about classroom norms and I’d like for you to kind of walk us through that, too.
[Adam] Yeah, so this this topic area is a little bit lighter on the strategies compared to the other ones, and this is part of how this board is kind of a work in progress. But with classroom norms I really think about again the role of supporting the development of a course community and creating an opportunity for students to take part in the norm setting process. And that could be–that could take place in a couple of different ways. I’ve seen some really good ideas out there on things like creating a class charter, or some sort of way where you present to students some of the problems that you’ve experienced in the past, they might explain certain things that have been a challenge for them in the past, and then you kind of come together around creating a shared document or consensus around how the course and the community might proceed from there. So, that’s a really common one. I’ve also seen that same thing work really well for group work and seen where it goes really badly if you don’t do some sort of a norm setting and formation process with group work. So, really thinking about what that looks like. And on the board I have some examples I have collected of different ways people have done that.
[Lillian] Yeah, this is a great resource
[Adam] Oh, thank you.
[Lillian] Yeah, so folks can think about their course and go through each one of these columns and what I like is you’re giving some strategies and just things to think about. How is it that I’m presenting this and what can I do that creates the norms or helps us to create together what those norms should be? So, wow, I’m excited that folks can come take a look at this and figure out how they can look at their whole course. And then you also have–wow, you’ve got assignments and assessments, so tell me how you’re marrying that cultural responsive teaching and UDL in that assignments and assessments.
[Adam] Yeah, I think a lot of the thing with assignments and assessments is thinking about how we’re giving choice for students for action expression which is kind of a UDL way of thinking about it. So, you as an educator have certain goals for what you want students to get out of the experience of doing an assignment, and you might even have ideas about the form of what that could look like. And I think what I’m starting to think about consulting the faculty around and some of the strategies that I share here is more about kind of having clarity around what your purpose is with those things, but having some flexibility in thinking about how students might actually achieve that or represent that to you. Additionally, like really thinking about motivation as a component of that. So, not only ability and some of those other things that might come up with when you’re thinking about the type of way a student might perform their understanding of that, but also think about ways to engage with student motivation and interest so that they can be interested in that topic and find something that works for them as they’re thinking about creating their performance for you and digging into something that interests them and is something that they’re passionate about. So, there’s all sorts of ideas about how to do that. There’s some really interesting things with contract assignments and projects. There’s learning portfolios. There are ways of doing kind of field based assignments. My favorite I’ve heard of recently is the “you’re there” assignment, so imagine yourself in a field and there’s a lot of disciplines that could run with something like that and just thinking in general about prompting students you know letting them tell you possibly how they could perform their understanding of that and having a moment to check in with the instructor around that.
[Lillian] So, it looks like you know Universal Design for Learning would say in their guidelines give options for assignments and assessments, right, you could write a paper, you could give a presentation, right, it doesn’t matter– it may not matter depending on your goals– how it’s being presented. And then the culturally responsive teaching part is the why we should do it that way, because it may be coming from one background you’re a storyteller, and the storyteller culture is a much more poignant and understood way to get a point across than let’s say an abstract PowerPoint right that sort of thing.
[Adam] No, I totally agree with that and I think one of the big things with culturally responsive teaching is really meeting your students where they’re at, and thinking about things being assets rather than deficits, and thinking about this idea that when a student brings a certain background or a cultural practice into the classroom or experience that that is of value to the learning community and the process itself. So, yeah, with your assignments think about where you can you could possibly tease that in. And something you just mentioned Lillian made me realize I forgot to mention if you don’t have flexibility, like if it has to be a writing assignment or something like that, one way to think about that is adding extra scaffolds into that. So, like– and by scaffold, it’s kind of a jargony term–but you know really think about the scaffold on side of the building, you know, what are different ways that you can support students regardless of where they’re coming in at to get the resources they need to advance and move up in their learning to perform it the way that they need to.
[Lillian] Yeah, I see one of your strategies is breaking assignments in a smaller part so that’s that scaffolding, right, how do you do a research project? Well, you start with a bibliography, right? How do you do bibliography? We’re going to bring in sources and start evaluating them and then okay then we get an outline, and then we do a thesis, check and then maybe a rough draft. Like, all of those that is the scaffolding if it has to be writing, like if you’re teaching writing and it has to be writing it can’t be a spoken word you know performance, it has to be writing. Then that’s where that– those small strategies or smaller deadlines to help those students go. I made the big mistake when I first started teaching with in giving my students a 15 page research project to freshman and in art history and not giving them the tools or the outline of how to do it. I was just assuming they could and they weren’t that good and it was my fault you know.
[Adam] I hear this all the time from faculty. This is one of those–these kind of teaching problems that comes up and presents itself all the time, and the thing about scaffolding and breaking things into smaller parts is it serves a whole bunch of different functions of the classroom. It helps them to make sure that they’re having a certain tolerance for error. They can make a mistake in the drafting process, and you can give them feedback when it’s helpful for their learning. And I’ve also heard people talk about that plagiarism even becomes the less of an issue in those kinds of contexts, or any sort of case related to academic dishonesty, because it actually helps students to get the resources they need throughout and they’re not under the pressure of the assignment and the deadline where some of those things might crop up,
[Lillian] Right, and so these assignments assessments part is certainly one of those columns in UDL and you’re kind of giving us the why we should be thinking about doing it in that way. So, that’s fantastic.
[Lillian] Great. But then, there’s more! There’s so much on this vision board–I like that you call it a vision board–on Trello. You’ve also got a lot of this overlap on learning materials and course content. So, can you walk us through what you are–what strategies and tools you’ve got there?
[Adam] Yeah, and if visually you could imagine this, a lot of the earlier columns that we’ve talked about had multiple tags for kind of UDL principles and culturally responsive teaching practices.
[Lillian] So, different colors are going to tell you what it means, yeah.
[Adam] Exactly, and those are overlapping I think on the individual cards and ideas in the earlier ones. This one it kind of breaks out a bit more. So, as an example with learning materials in course content, share ways of accessing information so that kind of gets up multiple means of representation, using built in formatting tools for accessibility, so if you’re using Microsoft Word or if you’re using canvas to create your course site, use the built in tools that the developers have made available to make sure those things are accessible and they could check throughout. But then culturally responsive teaching practices has some other things that they add into this. So, beyond the accessibility and making sure that people can gain access to the text, think about ways where you look for diverse voices in your course materials and perspectives. I was talking to an economics professor the other day who had literally never thought of that before, and he was like I’m going to go back to my syllabus and I’m going to see who are the authors I’ve included rather than just kind of representing the Canon or something like that so to speak. Select course content that recognizes diversity as well. If things come down to more technical language symbols or equations, anything that might be more jargony, make sure that you’re multi–that you’re representing that in multiple ways and that you’re supporting students to decode those things and to remind themselves of those key aspects. And one of my favorites that I came across recently is draw attention to big ideas and key points. And I think this comes up in a lot of presentation styles, but you could also think about where that might come up with readings or other course materials as well because that’s helpful when students start going back to review or if they’re checking for understanding as well.
[Lillian] And you mentioned I’m going to–I want you to go even further that share ways of accessing information and giving them multiple ways to access information is important, but often times I found I need to actually share and show students, “hey if you want to get into this,” like the even the information in our library is hard to get to especially for first-year students, you know, being able to teach the how we’re going to access this, how we’re going to read in the multiple means of representing equations and language thinking about an economics professor. I took econ 101 as a senior and it was really hard to go back to this like general course, and understanding graphs, right, the supply and the demand and all of the different kinds of graphs and ways that we learn information in different areas we have to walk students through that in those multiple ways.
[Adam] Yeah, and I’ve often found–I’ve had a couple of cases where I was helping faculty who had low vision students in their classroom, and many of the things that you talk about with an alternative description or alt tag are things that are helpful for all learners. So, taking your econ example, if you have a graph, think about how you’d represent that or summarize that to somebody who wouldn’t have access to that visual information. But also think about how that augments somebody is understanding if they do have access to that visual information. So, really kind of being clear about what you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to use that resource at that point is really important.
[Lillian] Right, so being able to describe when these two–when the red line meets and intersects the blue line, that point means this. An expert would be able to look at that and understand it, a novice would need some explanation and understanding what that–what those slopes mean, what that intersection means, and so thinking about that’s a big idea and we have to explain that to our students. Yeah, so– and you add some more things like collaborative learning techniques, adding that to like how you’re giving offering how you can teach these things in the class?
[Adam] Yeah, so this is one of the things– when I’m thinking about my roles of learning designer, I’m often drawing off of multiple toolboxes at once, and I’m often trying to bring those things together into a conversation. So, if I was talking about UDL, I might not have talked about jigsaw activity or something like that just in general, but as I started thinking about it, the jigsaw it could be a really powerful collaborative learning technique from the standpoint of it helps students to become expert in a topic and present that to others; and it also helps to get multiple perspectives by the way that you structure jigsaw activity to make sure that that expert is getting perspectives from other experts. But then they’re also contributing to the class’s understanding overall and people are gaining access to that. That can be a great way to–if you have four readings for a class or something like that and you have four of these kind of jigsaw groups, that can be a great way to bring in different perspectives to summarize key information and to really bring that that learning material to the next level in your class.
[Lillian] So we’ll have a link to that resource of course on our ThinkUDL.org page, but for those listeners who may not have heard of jigsaw– and I came to it recently only about five years ago–maybe you can help explain what does that mean if you’re going to do a jigsaw class, you’ve got four readings that you want students to know, how do you do a jigsaw?
[Adam] Yeah, so the notion behind the jigsaw is in the– to follow through this example of the four readings. So, if you have reading A, B, C, and D, the idea is each of those A, B, C, and D would be in an individual piece of the jigsaw puzzle. So, in the first phase of it, you put all the A’s together in a group.
[Lillian] So, five students are looking at this article talking about it.
[Adam] Exactly, and the idea there is you can prompt it in different ways, and there are lots of examples out there if you google around, but essentially what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to get students to come to consensus and become expert on that reading. So, there’s lots of ways the teacher can customize that. And then in the second phase of that is kind of where the jigsaw pieces become the jigsaw puzzle. So, the idea then is you’re bringing A, B, C, and D into the broader puzzle picture. So, you imagine those pieces then sticking together and that’s usually in the form of a report out to the class. Some people will do before that like a– each you get four jigsaw puzzles kind of coming out of that, so like you have four groups with those same experts that you worked with in the first round, are then in group one, two, three, and four that have each of the articles represent and they might report out differently first. So, there’s different ways you can kind of play around with it, but it’s a really common collaborative learning activity and really a really powerful activity if you’re trying out active learning for the first time, especially in a discipline that might not lend itself to that necessarily.
[Lillian] Right, so the students get a chance to be an expert on one a either reading A or B or C or D, and then they learn from three other people who have become experts, right, in that one. Oh I love– that one is a great technique to get active engaged learners in your classroom.
[Adam] And the multiple perspectives thing, which I think is really neat, too.
[Lillian] Right, that’s the culturally responsive teaching part, too, is bringing in both of those. I love it because the UDL is the what and the CRT or cultural responsive teaching is the why. Why are we doing this? Because we want those perspectives and we value them. Great. And then as a learning design technologist you also have the learning management system, so tell me about that?
[Adam] Yeah you’ll note how tech hasn’t come up to this point really in a lot of ways, but the learning management system is often something that people are thinking a lot about in their course and being strategic about that is key. So, some of the things as far as strategies with that: create an organizational structure for your class site. So, I’ve often seen where people just start posting things and that can be challenging because if you don’t know how that structure together into a cohesive whole, that creates– it creates something that doesn’t work
[Lillian] Yeah is that when you get like a scroll of death?
[Adam] I call it the toilet paper roll course, where you just scroll scroll scroll. Yeah, so the idea with this is, you know, think about what that organizational structure is for your course and communicate that to your students. Similar to what you said before, Lillian, it’s like it’s really important to make sure that your students are oriented to how you’ve thought about doing that. Again, use built-in accessibility checkers. So we talked a little bit about that. But that’s really key and tools like canvas and blackboard and other learning management systems are really kind of responding to that need now. We talked about orienting students to your course website, you can do a lot of different things with that. I’ve seen people do like scavenger hunts or kind of syllabus quizzes or other things that would be mastery based in the sense that like they can have multiple attempts at doing it but those can be really good ways for them to learn how to use that resource early on in a lower-risk way. Provide quick links to frequent resources, so you know, if students are referring to something all the time put it on the Left navigation or the home page so that they can use it a lot. And in general, I think the best strategy that kind of overarches all this is, you know, really seek to organize and simplify your course. Get feedback from your students if it’s working that way for them. If not, kind of tweak as you go. And then the last thing that I’m kind of learning more about and I’ve seen people starting to talk about this more and more: what ways can your learning management system support students in executive functioning? So, what are different ways that you can help students with the planning, organization, strategic processes related to your course, and you know, using due dates including drafting opportunities, all sorts of things can lend themselves to that, but you know, that’s something to think about in the context of your learning management system, too.
[Lillian] Yeah, the LMS or learning management system can make things really easy or really complicated for your students. So, having the professors take some time to map out those due dates is really great if we do it well, and I’ve messed up before where I’ve set the wrong due date and had to reset, you know, things, but if the students see it, they’ll– if you have it at the beginning of the semester, then they’ll have it on a calendar it’ll pop up and say here’s what you have coming up that’s due and then you’re not having to say remember we’ve got this on Friday. That you can do it as well, but they’ve got another– a way that they’re helping with that executive functioning, that secretary of the brain, that tells them how to keep up with everything.
[Adam] Yeah, and I mean a lot of people resist against this. I might say this is hand-holding with my students, but I kind of push back against that because I mean really it’s just an extra structural tool that you’re introducing to help your students to be successful, and having those dates will also pop up on your page, too. So, it just kind of helps to keep everybody organized.
[Lillian] Right, it might help some, but it doesn’t hurt anybody, so why not help everybody. Great. And then you’ve got this other column about meta practices
[Adam] The miscellaneous category
[Lillian] Okay, okay so tell us more about this.
[Adam] Yeah, so I think one of the things I’ve been trying to figure out is: what are the overarching practices and strategies or even core beliefs that exists across each of these frameworks and approaches? So, what I’ve tried to do in this column is to kind of distill that into a series of tips to help people, like, these are the most important things in many ways. So, kind of a core belief across all these practices: barriers exist in the environment due to decisions rather than the students themselves. So, that’s kind of that social model of thinking about accessibility and barriers. You really can’t get around asking students their needs. So, we can think about Universal Design for Learning all the time and adding plus one things and adding extra things, but it really comes down to making sure that’s meeting the needs of your learners in your classroom. And the more that you can get to know your learners and their needs and getting your learners to reflect on that is really key in order for everyone to be successful. I like to tell faculty along those lines to design with a curiosity for difference in mind. And the more that you learned about student needs, the more that you could think about does this pose a barrier or does this does this in any way inhibit my students? You can start to think through those things in a more coherent way to kind of make a better course that’s meeting the needs of your learners. Ask for feedback from your students. So if you’re meeting– if you’re designing to meet their needs, think about both formative so kind of while they’re learning while the course is running, and more summative ways you know towards the end of the course like a course evaluation or something like that where you can get feedback from your students. But how these things are working for themselves. I like to tell people with UDL it can often be overwhelming up front, and culturally responsive teaching practices, too, it’s like you’re expected to change a lot of things and it’s a lot to do. I tell people to start with small changes and really to focus on that being kind of more agile or more iterative, you know, get feedback on that small change that you’ve made, see where it’s contributed value and then to iterate from there based on that. And in general, you know, I often– with the student needs piece of this– I also recommend you know ask about your students’ motivations and interests. That’s a really key piece of kind of figuring out like where you might have course content or learning activities that engage with that, and you’re able to get to know them a bit better. But they’ll be able to kind of persist in your course better with that, too.
[Lillian] Yeah, you’ve got a lot on this column, but things like the mid-course surveys and course evaluations when you were talking about getting the student feedback, that really helps halfway through saying what am I doing right, what’s helpful, you know, when I do this, should we have more review sessions? Should– do you like our small group, you know, times– is that helpful for your learning? And that has helped me to add some mini lectures where students were getting muddled and needing a little bit more clarification kind of in the middle of the book we were reading and, you know, needed a little bit more and I never would have known that had I not just stopped kind of in the middle and said what’s –what do you guys think about it? And it’s very powerful and really helpful in teaching.
[Adam] Yeah, that’s one of my favorites. And people who have tried a mid-course survey have come back and told me that it’s really helpful for students to learn. It A) gives them the feedback when they can actually use it so the teacher can then tweak things as they go, but they also then have an opportunity– the students then learn how to give better feedback, especially when you’re looking at the end of course surveys which can be really helpful. The other thing I talk about with this as far as meta practices is– and this comes– a lot of it comes from culturally responsive teaching practices– but I think it’s embedded in UDL too, you really have to think about where you can self-assess and self-reflect about not only the biases that you might have, but also like what practices are you kind of falling into and doing and how are those things contributing values? So, I’ve talked a lot more recently with people about doing say like a teacher reflection log. So, you might as you’re teaching a course, kind of reflect and debrief how certain activities go, what certain interactions happen, and that can be really helpful when you’re in the thick of it and then you can kind of come out of that and reflect on it a bit more intentionally. It also helps to find patterns, like, I didn’t know I was putting that much time into that thing, or maybe we can save time with grading and with something like that the next time.
[Lillian] Yeah, that reflection piece is so important. We don’t learn from experience we learn from a reflection upon that experience is something that I talk all about a lot in my classes, and I don’t do it enough for myself, right, in the middle of the semester. I need to be doing it more. Well, your Trello board– this vision board– is packed full of resources, you even have two more columns about Universal Design for Learning itself, and then resources that have UDL and culturally responsive teaching practices, and lots of other resources, so we’ll have this available so our listeners can find it and then think about what they might be able to do to merge these two ideas. So, thank you so much, Adam, for joining me on the think UDL podcast, and we appreciate you doing the work in synthesizing this material for all of us.
[Adam] Thank you guys for having me, it’s my pleasure, I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts.
[Lillian] Great, thank you.
You can follow the Think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the ThinkUDL.org website. The Think UDL podcast is made possible by College STAR, the STAR stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post-secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aids based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the CollegeSTAR.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University, where, if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple at you! The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey Quartet, comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell, and Jose Cochez. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones, and I am your host, Lillian Nave, thank you for joining us on the Think UDL podcast.