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UDL Critiques with Eric Moore

Welcome to Episode 100 of the Think UDL podcast: UDL Critiques with Eric Moore. Eric Moore is the Director of Learning Technology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD. He is also the founder and owner of Innospire Education Consulting through which he consults with organizations on UDL, instructional design, and accessibility. Eric also was my very first guest on the Think UDL podcast back in 2018. And as this, the 100th episode was approaching, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind talking with me again about the state of UDL and how it has progressed and changed in higher education since our first conversation. And since we have been working on an article with some esteemed colleagues on various critiques of UDL, we thought it would be a needed conversation for the public to hear. So in this episode, we will discuss the various critiques we have heard as UDL practitioners in higher education over the last 5 years and offer some answers along with some further discussion in a way that seeks to further strengthen UDL in higher education and beyond.


Find Eric Moore on Twitter @InnospireEdu 

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats-Looking at a Decision in Different Ways

Dolmage’s Academic Ableism

Meyer and Rose’s UDL Theory and Practice




Lillian Nave, Eric Moore

Lillian Nave  00:02

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 100 of the think UDL podcast UDL critiques with Eric Moore. Eric Moore is the director of learning technology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. And he’s also the founder and owner of no spire education consulting, through which he consults with organizations on UDL, instructional design, and accessibility. Eric also was my very first guest on the think UDL podcast back in 2018. And as this the 100th episode was approaching, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind talking with me again, about the state of UDL, and how it has progressed and changed in higher education since our first conversation. And since we’ve been working on an article with some esteemed colleagues on various critiques of Universal Design for Learning, we thought it would be a needed conversation for the public to hear. So in this episode, we will discuss the various critiques we have heard as UDL practitioners in higher education over the last five years, and offer some answers along with some further discussion in a way that seeks to further strengthen UDL, in higher education and beyond. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you to our sponsor, Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12. right through to higher education for the last three decades. Thank you for listening to the think UDL podcast. So welcome. It is UDL critique time, and I am so glad to have Eric Moore back on the podcast after being my very first guest. So thank you, Eric, for joining me today.

Eric Moore  02:38

Thanks for having me. It’s so exciting to be to be back again after after you’ve had 100 shows. That’s amazing.

Lillian Nave  02:45

Yes, yes. Yeah. Now at Episode 100, we get the chance to talk and reflect and think about our work. And at this end of year time of reflection, we’re actually recording on the very last work day of December 2022. And think about where we are with universal design for learning. And for the last several years, Eric and I we have talked so much about Universal Design for Learning. And we have also heard quite a few critiques from colleagues about UDL and its implementation. So a few years ago, we started thinking about these critiques and what we might say. So we’ve started and we know how long this takes started writing an article with some colleagues. And we wanted to talk about what those ideas are and some of the critiques and answers that we have. So Eric, it was, gosh, two years ago that we started this and now we’ve brought on some more colleagues. And, yeah, you’re sort of spearheading this for now?

Eric Moore  03:58

Well, yeah, it’s really been a great effort. So, you know, sort of began with our colleague, Tianhong Shi, who is in higher education as an instructional designer, and, you know, she had been experiencing some pushback from her administration, you know, basically challenging what, what support is there in the research for UDL, and, you know, and other such criticisms that she felt like she, she wanted to investigate that, you know, so she came to talk to to Lillian as, as an obvious expert, and to me, you know, and asked him if we had responses, and it ended up being such an interesting discussion. We thought, you know, this is worth exploring more, you know, and so, we’ve been working on that on and off in our free time. You know, recently we brought on Shihua Brazile who’s who’s an expert, especially in the realm of UDL and cultural variability and cultural inclusion models, and so it’s been fruitful and I think, you know, hopefully, knock on wood. We should have something out This year 2023 for everybody to follow up on this

Lillian Nave  05:05

regarding, yeah, it’s been so exciting to think about, and we’ve got a lot of things that we’re, we’re working on, on this. And so I wanted to, let’s say, get this out and thought it’d be a great way to start off our year. So let me start our conversation by saying, you know, I’ve asked 100 people, what kind of learner they are. And I’ve gotten 100 different answers, which, of course, underscores the fact that every learner is variable, which is a central understanding, and tenant of Universal Design for Learning. And it works really well for my podcast. And I even asked you my very first guests way back in 2018. So I get to ask you this question twice. And, and my question really is now has anything changed? In how you’d respond to that question? What makes you a different learner?

Eric Moore  05:58

Well, you know, I think this is a good opportunity to begin our critiques, you know, so So this is a question that I answered, you know, earnestly the first time he asked me, and I’m glad I did, you know, if, for those who haven’t heard, I, you know, I basically talked about how I am deaf, you know, and how growing up, I got to experience what it was like to have an IEP to be to be on that side of the picture. And then to become a teacher, you know, so like, being able to experience growing up in that context of receiving supports, not receiving supports, all those types of things, and how that influenced me in my in my career trajectory in my life, and how I taught all of those things. You know, I actually even used that question myself, sometimes when I’ve been leading workshops, I’ve been, you know, borrowing a lead from your book there. And Lillian, and one of the critiques that I got that I was, I was so interested in that I wanted to share with you, what was one person that I was speaking to a cast for workshop I was delivering, said, I am not. And I wonder, what does that what does that mean? Of course, you are, you know, and she pointed out like, well, because, you know, we believe that everybody is variable, then that variability is normal. Like, I’m not a different kind of learner, I am who I am, you know, so she felt like that question actually implied a sense of, there’s a normal, and then there’s you what makes you abnormal, what makes you different from what you maybe even implicitly should be? Right. I thought this was so interesting, you know, and I knew coming from you coming from me, that’s not what we mean. But it underscores the way that these phrases this questions is ideas can be misunderstood, or misconstrued. You know, like an in communication theory, there’s both the sender and the receiver of a message and communication is only successful when the message that was sent is, in fact received as intended. Right. And so just because we meant something doesn’t mean that that’s what was communicated. Right. So I thought that was interesting. And so, you know, certainly I can answer this question telling you about the things that that have been my journey that have had influenced by experience as a learner, or I can say, and the words of our colleague, I’m not a different kind of learner, you know, and no, one is.

Lillian Nave  08:30

It’s a great, it is such a great critique. And I’ve had some guests that have said, you know, it seems essentially everybody in general learning is, is one thing, right? So everybody will decode messages in some way. And that’s how they eventually learned like, so there is some process, but it takes a million different forms. And the the point that you make is something that has organically happened, the idea that when I say different, are we saying it’s different from the norm? And are we privileging that norm or that normal? And in essence, in higher education, workforce development? We do we do privilege a norm and we say this is, yeah, like the right way. But organically what has happened in the last, especially last two years of this podcast is I’ve talked to so many real experts in neurodiversity, and in Universal Design for Learning. And they have made the case to me, and now I carry that banner, about neurodiversity being a strength, then those differences are now considered like the best the backbone, the things we need to carry on and say, Hey, have you thought about this as a way that people might learn? And that that is actually a really good thing? That these different ways that people learn are actually the ways that we need to be thinking about more and more because they’re actually in our classrooms. They’re actually in our workforce, right. And that flipping of the switch I didn’t have in my head when I asked you that question. In 2018. It was a, hey, we need to get at variability. But it wasn’t in that strength based talent focused approach the way Gloria Niles so beautifully. Talk to me about it. And it is that decoding of is different, bad, or is different. Actually, the norm, like the different is actually the thing we want. Right?

Eric Moore  10:41

Right. Yeah, that’s, that’s a beautiful reflection, I love that you’re getting, you know, variability as a strength, you know, at that the other part of it, is when we say different, it implies an objective comparison different from what, you know, yes. And as long as that’s left, open ended, I think people gravitate towards different from the norm, because that, like I said, That’s how our systems are built, you know. And so one way that that could be reframed, the way I ended up ended up reframing in that workshop after having this conversation was was what makes you different from others with whom you’ve interacted, you know, like, like, you know, even even as a strengths based, you know, whatnot, but, but like, just be recognizing that I’m different from those with whom I’ve had background experiences, is different from saying I’m different than some sort of norm, you know, so So, or, you know, just just record. So essentially, if we can normalize that variability, they’re different from me to like, We’re different from each other. And it’s not, yeah, it’s not, we’re different from some hyper normative ABS check construct, but yeah, different from you. And you’re different from me, and that’s good. It’s just a little bit of a different way of conceptualizing a thought that maybe needs to be made explicit.

Lillian Nave  11:59

Yes, absolutely. And that is diversity like that, that and also, in the last two years, has been a lot of talk about diversity, equity inclusion, that’s a lot of what’s going on in the UDL world in the higher ed world. And that is a positive good, like biodiversity, you know, we need to have multiple ways, you know, to solve a problem and having that diversity is a positive, good. So wherever you are on that spectrum, there’s not a value of trying not to put a value on normative, you know, versus abnormal or neurotypical versus neuro divergent, that the that entire spectrum is good, that diversity is an absolute good, and there’s no better or worse, it’s not some sort of hierarchy of where you want to get to. It’s like, Hey, we’ve got this wide diversity. Yes, that’s great.

Eric Moore  12:58

Right, right. Absolutely.

Lillian Nave  13:02

So we’ve been dealing with a lot of critiques. And I wanted you to kind of expand a little bit on how you’re seeing critiques. And wondering about the way you either categorize it or thinking about critiques and criticism. Are they the same? And can you kind of give us a framework or paradigm about kind of what we’re doing?

Eric Moore  13:28

Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve been influenced by the work of an Edward de Bono. So people might might have heard of him. He is is involved in leadership studies and such. And one of his his most famous theories or frameworks is what he calls the six thinking hats. You know, so that the basic idea of de Bono’s six thinking hats is a thinking routine is a visible thinking routine, essentially, in which groups of individuals can intentionally take on different focal points when solving complex problems, you know, so he identifies his six different hats that people can wear. This doesn’t necessarily match with personality types or anything. So static, is more of an intentional, I’m gonna put this hat on to serve this function at this time sort of thing, which is one of the things that I really appreciate about it. So for example, one of the hassles called the white hat. And so essentially, it’s someone who’s wearing the white hat just wants to know about what information do we need to solve this problem? What are the facts? Just the facts, no emotion, no strategizing, no, no analysis, just gather the facts. Right. He has a yellow hat, which is really the the person who’s the sunny, optimistic, bright person who, who brings the positive vibes, you know, to look for, what is valuable about this, where are the benefits? What are people going to get out of this, you know, to kind of keep the momentum moving and the team which we find when saw often complex problems is really important. De Bono mentions a red hat, which is about the feelings, the hunches, the intuition. The person wearing this hat expresses their emotions and feelings, that what do they fear? What are they like? Or not? Like, you know, what do they, what do they love or hate about the situation or the ideas that are being generated are just like, they’re just free flow of emotion. without restriction inhibition, not necessarily worrying about, you know, logic or slowing down their expression. The green hat is creativity. So they look at the possibilities, you alternatives and new ideas, new ways of expressing things, that type of thing, just just really focus on creative, what ifs, what ifs, what ifs. And then there’s the black hat, which is what I think we’re really gonna be focusing on today. The black hat is oftentimes the one that’s least popular. But really important. Yeah, it focuses on the risks, the difficulties, the problems, in this situation is the one that’s that needs to be explicitly challenging. Well, you know, that might not work. Because what if this, or what if he you know, or like, I don’t think I’d have the resources for that, you know, like, it’s not about shutting things down, but causing us to, like, hold on, you know, I’m not, we need to think this through a little bit further. And anybody who has gone, you know, too far down a road and found out that they missed something important along the way. And notice how valuable that is. In instructional design, we often have a phrase, you know, that we fail early fail, fail fast. And the idea is that by catching ourselves and making those mistakes early on in the process, we save ourselves a lot of time, a lot of heartache. And these are all ultimately guided by the sixth set, which is the blue hat, which is really essentially that the metal leader, the one who is trying to manage the thinking process that controls the whole mechanism, the you know, the, the following of the guidelines associated with de Bono’s six thinking hats. So in the world of social media that, you know, we partly inhibit, and habit. Yes, Freudian slip there. Right. There’s, there’s a lot of black cat without, without blue hat, you know, without without yellow hat. You know, there’s there’s a lot of critique that happens out there without it really being organized and used as an intentional tool. And, you know, when it goes off the rails like that, one is simply critique, without, without intent to improve. It doesn’t necessarily help in the same way. So, you know, it’s really important in this, this framework to see that the black hat isn’t the enemy and the black hat. You know, what, when dawn does part of a team like this is actually about growth. It’s about improvement, you know, as recognizing, and talking through those risks, difficulties and problems to move forward, as opposed to pointed out to shut this thing down. You know, so, yeah, it’s social media, we see a lot of ladder, it’s just a lot of a lot of, you know, either misguided or mean spirited sort of critiques.

Lillian Nave  18:25

Yes. Of course. Yeah. On social media mean spirited. Eric, what are you talking about?

Eric Moore  18:32

I’m, you know, I don’t know where

Lillian Nave  18:35

we’re at. Yeah. Pretty bad. Yeah. So yeah, that’s what I love about, about this article that we’re writing that chin Hong really brought to our minds, and we’ve been working on for a while, is that it’s really meant to make things better, like we’re not here to burn the house down. We’re here to solidify the foundations and improve, right, make a renovation in, in a, you know, relatively newer educational concept. Not, it’s not really new, but relatively, and makes make it stronger as we do this. So let’s get into some of these criticisms. We’ve kind of broken up our article and the criticisms we’ve come across into three areas. And the first of it is talking about social responsibility, which has been a very important topic in the last three years especially. And there are kind of three areas that include does UDL fail to address ableism in academia, the call of anti racism and cultural variability and so We look kind of in depth at those three things. And I really wanted to start and we’ll focus on kind of one in each category. So I think we’d start off with academic ableism. And, and touch on the other two, for a bit. But does UDL fail to address academic ableism? And I know this is kind of your topic on our paper, so I’m gonna toss it over to you.

Eric Moore  20:24

Sounds good. Well, yeah, so if you’re not terribly familiar with the term academic ableism yet, you know, I would certainly turn towards jado marches. But by the same name, academic ableism, which is actually released now as a open source, you know, so you can access them for free if you just Google that academic ableism J Damas de OLMH. II

Lillian Nave  20:46

will have it as a resource on this episode too, because

Eric Moore  20:50

so much. Yeah, he does a great job framing this particularly in the context of higher education. But one of his his definitions, essentially, is that ableism in the academic context is a system that mandates able bodied, pneus, able mindedness, as well as other forms of social and communicative hyper ability, you know, so this idea is that, that we see it, for example, in higher education, where if you can’t do X, Y, and Z, you don’t belong to college, you know, sometimes it’s made explicit, sometimes it’s just implicit to the systems. Yes. So things like write an essay, get to class on time, you know, manage your own your own schedule, those types of things that you’re just expected to be able to do in the context of higher education. Right. So that’s what he means by ableism. And so obviously, as we were talking about earlier, there’s a huge spectrum of variability in the human population. And it’s not like, I fall somewhere on that spectrum. And that’s where I live in all domains at all times, right, like, this spectrum is highly dynamic, not only between people, but for any individual, like, pick a certain skill, pick a certain day. Yeah, right. So, so it’s quite, you know, like finding those students who are hyper able, in all relevant categories everyday, all the time, is unrealistic. And then we compound of that, you know, by the fact that people with disabilities are going to college and numbers, historically unheard of, you know, where we have a lot more people there with with learning disabilities, with with mental illness, you know, of various degrees and so forth, who need support, who can be successful, but but needs support, need opportunities to grow and be uplifted, and not simply be expected to have all together all the time? Right. So that’s the sort of ableism that the doorman argues is baked into higher education. And what I found interesting was that he does talk about UDL in his book, and you might expect, you know, being a proponent of UDL, that he was favorable towards it, because, you know, we make allegedly should be challenging to address these problems. And he’s not, he is actually critical of UDL. And it’s really fascinating to read. A lot of his critique comes around the the phrase that is appears in UDL theory and practices, seminal texts that came from my heroes, and Gordon back and 2010. I want to say it was a summary.

Lillian Nave  23:38

Yeah. And I’ll have that also, on our episode, resource page

Eric Moore  23:41

you in that book, they they use this catchphrase that you’ve probably heard before, if you’re in the UDL world, that what is necessary for some is usually good for everybody. Right. And that’s a statement that I stand by, I think that’s a very true statement. But what don’t much suggest is that in higher education, that has often been taken to mean that we’ll only make these changes. If they benefit everybody, like if they benefit, the able bodied, the evil minded and the hyper evil majority, you know, so so it’s not, essentially, we can’t go do things for the sake of the people with disabilities or people who are English language learners, or, you know, whatever, these so called minorities on campus, because that’s just doesn’t make fiscal practical sense. Yeah, and therefore UDL really just becomes a rich get richer, you know, type type situation in his mind where the people who are able, able to access things at a high level can now get even better education. And those who are disenfranchised up front are simply left behind resources and are put into supporting the so called immediate enough So what we’re trying to do in in the paper, or as we’re reflecting on these things is, we start by trying to get a good grasp of what the critique is, you know, really analyzing what are they saying, what are they not saying? You know, and then we try to think through our response to that, you know, and it doesn’t have to be that they’re wrong, you know, like, what? Yeah, what we’re finding in a lot of these things is that maybe you’re, you know, this is a good critique, and it needs to be addressed. For some of them, for some of them is, it is relevant, but it’s outdated. Like, like we’ve we have made progress in these things. Yeah. And sometimes it’s a misunderstanding, or misrepresentation. So, back in college, one of the one of the things that I learned in my first philosophy class, where I was studying worldviews was this, this phrase that you should never judge your worldview by its abuse. And that’s stuck with me. And so I think it’s relevant here, where we’re what what DOMA is critiquing here in higher education is extremely valid. And I say that from the perspective of somebody who has been in that context for some years previously, practicing UDL, promoting UDL, and working with people in different areas of the university and seeing their responses seeing, you know, talking through their ideas and their interpretations of it. And I see exactly where he’s coming from. He knows certainly ableism is alive and well in higher education, I can attest to that. Both as somebody who went through what what is it like, a lot of years, more than a decade of higher education as as somebody with disability and as somebody who is promoted disability inclusion, I can certainly say, you know, ableism, as he defines it is alive and well in higher education. And I have seen UDL disabused as a tool that inadvertently promotes ableism as ironically, as ironic as that is. So his critique is not misplaced, is spot on. But we have to we have to differentiate the manifestation or the abuse of UDL, from what UDL actually is. Okay, so in this case, UDL, it has maybe has not been communicated well enough to institutes of higher education, or within the suits of higher education, which allows this misinterpretation is very much like what we started the episode with, you know, where there’s good intentions, there’s, I mean, something a certain way when I say it, but depending on the ears that hear it, and their context, and their viewpoints and their backgrounds and their values, they might hear something very differently. Yeah, yeah. So for these people, you know, higher education is, you know, in many ways, a commodity these days, you know, it’s something that’s bought and sold at the marketing department. Yes, it is, you know, football teams and things like that. And so, you know, any any opportunity they have to improve student retention, and success, you know, whatever, with the greatest return on investment possible, is something that turns heads. You know, when we’re talking about addressing the students who have been marginalized have been overlooked have not had their needs met. That oftentimes sounds like that’s expensive and doesn’t have a good ROI return on investment. Just to some of these folks. So So UDL then sort of gets distorted in that that value lens into exactly what all matches critiquing here.

Lillian Nave  28:51

Yeah. Yeah. And I’m guilty of it too, saying look UDL you should adopt it because it’s actually going to help your bottom line. Right and it does because students perform better that means they continue to be in the class they don’t fail as much there’s fewer DS and and DFW, which is ds F’s fails and withdrawals. And it ends up being a good thing, because if you lose those tuition dollars, then your bottom line is taking a hit. And so yeah, I’ve even you know, framed it that way. But it’s it’s a positive good in, in the way that students are actually learning. Like, what’s the real point of, of being in colleges is well, there’s debates on that, right? Is it just to get a job? Is it just for your own personal fulfillment? Depends on I think which college you go to add what you want out of it. But as an instructor, I want my students to learn, right? It’s not about the grade itself. It’s about are they growing? are they learning this material? Are they becoming better people because they are absorbing this information and learning these skills that I believe truly believe is going to help them in, in their future no matter what it is. And so even though that might be my end goal, all right, I want to use universal design for learning as a way as a positive good for those students, and they can learn better. And I found these really trusted ways, and different flexible options for that to happen. More, more times than I can count, when I am telling people about it, I ended up buying into that system, which is enable a system to say this is it’s going to help your bottom line or all your students are, you know, kind of latch into that little one, when sometimes we just need to be, I guess disrupting, but then again, I wouldn’t have a podcast or a job if that’s all we did. Right? You know,

Eric Moore  30:58

like, it’s difficult because, you know, when I think back to you, I started this semester in Ireland back in my undergrad days, you know, I learned all about I took a class in cultic studies in Ireland, how magical is that? Amazing. And, you know, part of that was was learning about the religious history of Ireland, you know, and how Catholicism came to Ireland. Thanks to St. Patrick, of course, you know, and what’s so interesting is that Irish Catholicism is a little bit different from from Catholicism anywhere else in the world, you’ll find that there’s a little bit more. I don’t know what how it describes mysticism, or I don’t know, like more arcane aspects to the, you know, the fairies and the little more more. Yeah, magical sort of elements that fit with ancient Celtic religion, much more than than Catholic faith. That’s yeah. Right. And the reason for that is actually because St. Patrick, one of the reasons that he was so successful in planting Catholicism, if you will, is because he knew he had been a slave in Ireland prior to coming back as a missionary. And he knew them very well. He knew their religious traditions, and he used them as touch points, you know, it’s like, what you believe this, this kind of like this, you know, and he made those cognitive connections, like a good teacher does, you know, but the result of that was, was that some of the old elements joined the new LMS that he was bringing in there to this day, right. But but that was necessary in his mind to to plan what he was trying to plan. And I think the same is true, I don’t, I don’t fault you, Lillian, or any of the rest of us, when we’re talking to, you know, higher ed administrators whose job it is to, to solve the bottom, you’ve got to talk their language, you know, if it’s just like, look, let’s get everybody to invest your time and energy and resources into making these changes that are going to be expensive, and may or may not affect your bottom line. And let’s not talk about that. We’re not gonna get anywhere, right. So right, but we have to acknowledge that the same time we’re planting the seed of this exact problem that we’re UDR like, Irish Catholicism becomes a blend of what was and what we’re trying to change it to. And it was and it results in some some of these problems that what doll much is correctly critiquing. Even though it’s not really what UDL ultimately stands for is how UDL manifest and higher education and a lot of contexts.

Lillian Nave  33:36

Yeah. Now along that same idea, the religious it’s called syncretism. What do you talk about joining that? The Irish Catholic with previous elements, it happens all over my undergrad was in religion. And I saw it when I went to grad school in art history. When we look at early depictions of, of, of Jesus as a shepherd, that is actually when he’s got like a lamb over his neck, is the same sculpture as a Creole Foros or bringing a lamb to offering in ancient Greek culture. So there’s, yeah, plenty of sculptures of Hermes Korea for us, and then that kind of becomes Jesus the shepherd. And of course, the lamb is also a sacrificial element. And then when I was traveling and and studying in Central and South America, the crucifixion, the figures of Jesus who and in the Catholic tradition, there is a body on the cross and the Protestant tradition there is not it’s empty. But in the Catholic side, you’ll have these very bloody, gory images of of Christ crucified, and in Central and South America, something that is extra biblical and not in the West, not sorry, not in Europe, our bloody knees, and so then He’s of those these wooden, which is more of a Spanish polychrome idea. So the Spanish who were colonizing and Central and South America brought over these wooden, very lifelike, very gory, very realistic depictions, but only in that area in Central and South America were the knees completely bloody. And this comes from what they saw, which included sacrificial human sacrifices were slaves and and people who were defeated in war had to climb up pyramids on their knees. And so by the end, their knees were completely bloody. And so it’s this Yeah, the syncretism of boy, I am not trying to say UDL is a religion at all. This is not it. But this happens over and over again, right? It’s just, it’s part of what is understood, right? This is going to be easier to understand if we can mash it or mesh it with, Oh, I understand what this means in my culture, or in the way we’re already doing it within the system. And now we’re taking on these new, some new ideas, so slightly different. But I’m going to add in some of the ways that we understood how this work before. And that’s what’s so hard about systemic change, right? It’s really, really difficult to get out of those ways of thinking, they are emblazoned, they are so deeply held that this change is huge. And so we kind of start with these small entryways, these little tiny pathways, and we want to make them into highways. And I think that’s why we have heard over the years, this pushback, especially about the social responsibility, because they’ll see the small chinks in the armor, so to speak, and say, No, this is, this is huge, like, this is a major problem. And here, we are just doing a small bit at the moment. And that’s when we get into our you know, the other two topics about anti racism and cultural variability. Yeah, mostly because so much of this doesn’t, right isn’t the the system isn’t addressing these things. And so now with UDL being a small part, and we’re bringing it in, we’re making the difference where we can, and eventually, hopefully, you know, we’re adding on making that small pathway into a large highway, and, and facing those critiques. But we’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Eric Moore  37:30

Absolutely. Yeah. So really well, sad, and to me, is really an opportunity. So like, looking at this kind of critique that the damage brings up doing so as as somebody who who values Udo who knows what is what it can be what it should be. This, this criticism is actually really valuable, because it helps us draw attention to this, and therefore begin to think about solutions. Like this is not something where I think we can stop talking about how UDR helps the bottom line, I think that that probably is in good is going to continue to be necessary. And not necessarily an evil either. But but it has to be. Yes. And you know, like yes, UDL can help your bottom line. But we also, you know, and and also, it can, it can help all of our learners actually learn and succeed, including our learners with disabilities and our learners who need additional support needs, which means that UDL should not and cannot supplant or replace Disability Services, English learning centers, you know, whatever it needs to come alongside, inform and be informed by, you know, as be part of a comprehensive system of inclusion and access in the institution.

Lillian Nave  38:51

Yeah, and I think, I mean, one of the things we’re going to talk about in this section is that UDL isn’t, let’s say, the cure, all right? We can’t say well, we have UDL so now we don’t we can get do away with our Disability Office of Disability Services. That’s that’s not what UDL is, that is a misunderstanding about it. And that UDL is also not Well, if we, if we do this, then we don’t have to worry about culturally responsive teaching or cultural rate variability, or that are the cultural diversity, let’s say, of our learners know, we need to really work in, in concert with our dei initiatives with, with so many other parts of our campus and our colleagues, that UDL is is kind of another tool, along with a toolbox that we can help support our learners. And I think the difference between our first section which is on ableism, and the next few sections, which will be about anti racism, the call of anti race ism, which is a very, very large topic in the last several years. And cultural variability is that the difference is not in ability, because damage focuses on, like, what is part of let’s say the identity of a learner. That might be in the ability sphere. And with the other two, it’s a lot on experience. So what is your cultural background? What is your experience in this country, related to your identity? So it’s not necessarily ability, but it is experience? And I do think UDL addresses both of those. When we offer choices. When we offer flexibility. When we ask our students to bring their whole selves, they certainly do touch on and call in those students and leverage that variability and say that’s important. And I want to hear that voice. Yeah, that’s certainly how it happens in my courses. But it’s UDL is not meant to what we’re doing UDL so we don’t have to worry about these other things. We’re just talking about how do we work in concert with these other ideas, right?

Eric Moore  41:10

Absolutely. One of the things I want to say about UDL and anterior and ableism, before we move on, is another manifestation doesn’t necessarily come up in Indo match, but it does come up from my experience where, you know, don’t much talks about that idea of hypermobility. And sometimes UDL does cater, depending on how was implement does cater to, to hypermobility as opposed to all abilities. So for example, when we provide choice in assignments, you know, so So I say, you know, for this assignment, you can write an essay, or you can do a podcast, or you can role play or whatever, you know, I provide options like, like UDR, you know, tends to call for, for providing multiple means of action and expression is one of the principles. It’s an open open question or potential for critique to say, is that lending towards hypermobility. So now not only do they have to complete an assignment, now they have to make this decision about which assignment, you know, or should really do all of them are like, yeah, all these variants.

Lillian Nave  42:15

Yeah. And analysis paralysis, what is going to be the right thing? Now I have to determine it, right. And some of our students really want to be told what like, you just tell me what I’m supposed to do?

Eric Moore  42:27

Exactly. Yeah. Same thing with representation. If I say, you know, you can read this, or you can listen to this, a lot of students feel like, oh, that I really should do both, you know. And what’s missing here as a piece that I think is oftentimes not well communicated. In the UDL world, it is how important coaching is, as part of the practice of UDL in the classroom, where it’s not simply given them, here are three options to choose from, but helping them think through how do you make this decision? You know, like, what, you know, what are what are some good criteria for deciding one over the other? Or, you know, when I when I present this information to in different ways? How is that useful? You know, getting them to think through what are the benefits of listening versus reading? Or could you listen while you read, you know, like, you know, helping them do do little action research, you know, because the goal of UDL isn’t ultimately just to access the content better, but to develop their expertise as learners. And that is a complex skill that needs to be taught explicitly as part of the UDL process.

Lillian Nave  43:34

Yes, and one of the things that I hear a lot, especially with neurodiverse, learners, right, who will say they are ADHD, a DD are on the autism spectrum, or anxiety, right that to that if I as the instructor as the sort of power in charge, and I try to reduce power when I can, but can say, here’s a preferred path, like if you don’t want to make these choices here, here would be kind of the, the general or usual. So here’s a preferred path. But again, if you prefer not to write the three essays, you have these options, but if you want me to say, what would what would suffice? And what would be like a great outcome? Here’s a, choice A, choice B, choice C, and that helps, right? That’s part of that coaching, to help our students know. Yeah, so yeah, so

Eric Moore  44:25

that’s, that’s a really great, like, early level of scaffolding, you know, when they’re when they’re just getting, getting into this mode of being given choices, you know, that’s, that’s helpful, you know, as if you progress with those students, maybe the next step would be okay, so last semester, you might have just taken the mean on this, the path that was provided, this time was less. Let’s think through it a little bit. You know, one example I can give is, early on when I started teaching with Judy, on the context of teacher education, and I did something exactly like this where I was teaching an introduction to special education course. And the students were learning about different disabilities that students might have, and implications of those disabilities is and how they manifest in the classroom, and so on and so forth. And traditionally, students would would do PowerPoint presentations about this is what the assignment always was, you know, as is handed down, yeah. In groups, you know, and I, so this time, I said, Well, you can do a PowerPoint presentation, or you can facilitate a guided discussion, or you can, you know, do do interviews in an elective newscast type thing, you know, give them some really creative options. I don’t remember all of them at this time, but 100% of them 100% chose PowerPoint presentations. And it’s because that’s what they that’s what they were comfortable with us what they were used to. The second time I tried this, all I did it in terms of coaching, because I was learning this lesson myself at the time, all I did was I said, before you choose, I want you to explain your choice, let like think through and justify why you’re choosing what you choose. And that’s all I did. But that call for metacognition resulted in his fanning out of which options they chose, it was just such a simple intervention, you know, and that can be brought up to the next level where again, you can kind of talk through what are some of the strengths and limitations of these different things? Why might you choose one or the other? It might be because it’s a strength it might be because it’s something you want to work on? It might be because, you know, there’s there’s different reasons for why this might be a good choice for you. Yeah, so this was opportunities that don’t require that you’re already well along in your journey that I can meet you where you are, and help you come up to this to a higher degree of expert learning.

Lillian Nave  46:45

Yeah, that’s brilliant, brilliant coaching. Eric, I love that. I know I need to incorporate that as well as the next level. But that also brings me to the second part of our of our paper that we’re working on. And hopefully we’ll be out this year in 2023. And that is about UDL and practicality. So we talked about social responsibility, we’re both really on fire about all those things there. And then the practicality part is I think the the two critiques I hear most often, and that is how do we implement it? It’s too cumbersome. Sorry, it’s too cumbersome is too hard for an instructor to practice. But also, and this seems, in some senses, the complete opposite criticism? Is that it using UDL waters down or reduces the rigor of of a course. And so what is our response? What do you say when confronted with these critiques? So this is our UDL and practicality. Second section?

Eric Moore  47:45

Well, there’s been a few, you know, in the field has been different responses to these, because I think they are really very common and have been for the longest time and UDL, or of all the different critiques. You know, once they released the 31 checkpoints, people were pretty, pretty overwhelmed upfront. You know, even though of course, UDL doesn’t require or even benefit from trying to cram the 31 checkpoints into every lesson, that type of thing is more of the design process and so forth. But, so some people, I think about, for example, Tom Tobin and Kristen Balin, you know, who focus on just adding one thing to your curriculum is one approach others have have focused on it more in terms of a broader theoretical framework, and that’s what I tend to lean towards. And let me explicate that a little bit. So, to me, what it talks about, you know, is too hard. To me. The is we’re talking about values here, we’re talking about efficiency, I think is really what we’re getting down to where, if it takes me more, too much time to do this, it’s not worth it. So it to me it’s about efficiency is not simply about how long something takes. But it’s a it’s a equation of how long something takes over how effective it is, you know, as soon as something is not effective at all, it doesn’t matter that it only took me 10 minutes, that was 10 wasted minutes, right? Yeah. And so we have to think about it that way. So if we look at these classrooms, where we stick with traditional teaching methods of I’m going to lecture at you for an hour, give you a reading assignment to do that most of you won’t do, you know, whatever. Yeah, then you know, a trip back to you. Six months, a year from now, how much of that? Do you remember how did it impact your practice or your growth as a person as a citizen as a scholar? Not very much for most of our students than the fact that it didn’t take me as long as to put together that lecture that reading assignment as it would other methods doesn’t mean that It was efficient, you know, it was actually incredibly inefficient. So, you know, I feel like using this as a timeframe to make changes to think about, where are the pain points, my learning experience? How can I drop from the guidelines and practices associated with them to begin offering flexibility and choice and options, that does take some time, it front loads a lot of the effort into the design process. But the result is that learners improve, and we have research to support this. Now learners do get better get better, they learn the content better, they learn about themselves better, their experiences better. And that’s so that’s time well spent more time, but significantly more effectiveness means more efficiency at the end of the day.

Lillian Nave  50:48

Exactly, yeah. It’s when when are you putting in these design differences. And it’s so true. One of the things that I talk to my students about is I asked them in the beginning and I first year students at the university, I say, tell me what you learned in sophomore year, math, and they they don’t even remember what the math class was, you know, it’s like, so is that wasted time? I mean, I know you got your kind of card punched to get into the university. But I don’t want this class to be wasted time that in two years, you look back and say, Why was I even here Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 10am for an hour. It’s it wasn’t valuable at all. And that really has, you know, changed my way of teaching and thinking, also, you know, heavily influenced by campaigns, what the best college students do and what the best college professors do, I’ll put a link in those for those resources to like, what is effective, and we are finding that the flexibility, the choice, the ways to reach our students, because we value them as variable learners is actually effective. And so, like you said, it’s worth the time. And it’s not worth your time. If you’re not, if you’re not getting to your goal, if your goal is learning.

Eric Moore  52:08

Absolutely. And you know, so I also find it going back to that idea of practicality going back to in the world of reality faculty are busy. And there’s there’s a lot of expectations on their time. And especially on research one, and to some extent research to institutions. Teaching is not given the value at the institutional level, that justifies spending a lot of time on it. And that stinks. But I’ve seen it where some of the people who really care about their students really care about developing the next generation of teachers and so forth, get burned out, and research when institutions because of that reality, because they can work so hard and invest so much time. And it backfires on their reviews and their tenure process, all of those types of things. That’s really awful. So we do have to find a way to strike a balance here. And yeah, you know, so one of the things that I advocate for, especially in the context of higher education is isn’t an iterative, ongoing growth process, you know, where it is about when you’re designing, incorporate, you know, think through where are good opportunities, where things can be challenging, where I can offer options and supports. And then, you know, as you go through that course, take good note of where there were a lot of questions where there was struggle where there was, was unproductive struggle that is, you know, or, or pushback from the learners, and use that as an opportunity to address that next time. You know, it’s not about necessarily, I mean, really, what it’s about is using that as the starting point for the design process for the next semester. So let’s say as students are falling asleep, you know, in my class, yeah, a lot, right. And that’s a problem instead of blaming it on the students for staying out too late. Because they’re college students. Of course they are, I might think about how can I get them out of their seat moving around first thing when I start my classroom, it’s such a small change. But I can I can do that next semester, and transform my class, right? And then maybe now, I’m having some students. And notice that they’re struggling with this particular assignment. So how can I maybe provide additional supports and or choices for how to complete this? Right, and it’s just every semester, it gets a little bit better? You don’t have to do a 360 overhaul between fall and spring, you know?

Lillian Nave  54:37

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s like, that’s often a misunderstanding. Like, you get overwhelmed by these UDL guidelines. And you think that’s too hard. I can’t do it. But as you say, an iterative process and the word you use to that I love talking about is reflection and reflect on what worked what didn’t work. We went And our students to reflect that is, that is one of our guidelines to self reflection. And that is what helps us as instructors and helps our students to become better learners and better practitioners. And so it isn’t a, okay, you now have to be a completely different person. If you’re using UDL, you have to overhaul everything? No, it’s really, you’ve just entered into a process, wearing a set of lenses in which you are seeing that learner variability, and then continuously, adding, changing, being flexible with yourself being flexible with your students, right, as that lens so it’s not just okay, here’s the new higher ed, academic idea does you’re put it into practice. It’s the let me see how this works for me, let me see how it works for my class, let me see how it works for my students. And, and improve and reflect and keep the cycle going.

Eric Moore  56:01

Yeah, yeah. And I want to point out that this critique is fundamentally different from the first critique, you know, where we heard about ableism. You know, that that was, that is a real problem, you know, that it’s a misunderstanding of what UTI is, but it’s not a misunderstanding of what higher ed is, you know, and so that that is something that needs to be addressed. Our solutions for that were better communication, you know, more clarity, in addressing the needs that don’t match correctly pointed out here, I think it’s more about changing individual instructors practices, not, you know, encouraging them not not to, to try to do that 360 Flip, you know, and burn themselves out. But but also not, not necessarily oversimplifying it, you know, but finding, there is value in you going back to that conversation of, of efficiency. Being predicated on effectiveness, there’s value here is worth your time. However, it can be iterative, you know, so it’s really about changing practice. And and this is something that I feel like as UDR has developed, this, this probably is an area where we’re much more emphasis needs to be put on UDL as a design process, as opposed to UDL as a set of 31 checkpoints to follow. Yeah, the latter really lends itself to this confusion. So this opportunity here, I think this is a legitimate critique. But it doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be a problem, you know, if we, if we can change the way we practice, we can maximize the benefit of UDL without being overburdened by by the time or the resource commitment.

Lillian Nave  57:45

Right. Right. And the flip side of that was the, the critique about rigor, reducing rigor, here, we’re saying we’re actually increasing the at least the work or the thought that goes into teaching. But does it decrease the rigor? Does it somehow watered down a course? What is your idea about the critique on that one?

Eric Moore  58:08

So such a good question, you know, I think this is another one of those times in which language and communication breaks down between the sender and the receiver where this idea of rigor has has a lot of different meanings, you know, like originally coming from the Latin rigor, I mean, that means in flexibility, stiffness, you know, like, if you look at rigor mortis to be morbid. Right, right. So, and I think people don’t necessarily mean it that way anymore. But that’s where it’s coming from. Now, we kind of take it to mean, challenging or robust or something like that, you know, and that’s coming from the history of education where standardization was associated with being robust or high level, you know, and, yeah, but so, really well, if we separate those two, intentionally. When we talk about robustness, we talk about outcomes of what the learners know and are able to do at the learning at the end of the learning experience. That’s actually better accomplished with flexible are dynamic learning experiences, and it is what the rigorous ones in flexible you know, so what we’ve learned, by designing with UDL, by designing intentionally to provide flexibility and options and coaching for learners along the process, means that at the end of the learning experience, more learners can accompany can can demonstrate more things are able to be are more knowledgeable than those who went through classes in which only traditional learning experiences were, were utilized. So like if you think about it, like like, imagine that I’m teaching a introduction to chemistry course. And I do so using traditional methods. I stand in front of the students and I lecture with PowerPoints for an hour three times a week. Give them a thick tome of a textbook to read through, you know, when balanced equations, and so on and so forth. And I get to the middle midterm exam, and I find that a lot of my students are struggling. And we know that in these entry level science courses, a lot of students do struggle, you know, the overall performance in this class is generally not very good, then essentially, as an instructor, I have a couple of options, I can either go back and retrace that content and try to get everybody up to speed. Or I can say, well, some of you aren’t gonna get it. Moving on, right, which is, yeah, we really do have a ladder basically. Either way, though, we’ve reduced our expectations, either in terms of what we accomplish, or who’s there when we accomplish it, right, true. On the other hand, if I were to start semester thinking about where are the pain points, you know, where are there opportunities to enhance the learning for my learners, including those who have learning disabilities? Or who are English language learners and whatnot? How am I going to build in flexibility and choice and options and coaching along the way, then we find by the time we get to the midterm exams, more of our students will be doing much better. And as a result, I’ve actually increased my expectations for the class. This is not about how how difficult it was to get to the endpoint is that we got to the endpoint, that’s what really matters.

Lillian Nave  1:01:27

Yes, absolutely. I think that’s perfectly stated that we really need to define what what do we even mean by rigor? And is that serving us. And through the Universal Design for Learning lens, I see that the rigorous getting my students where I want them to be, and through any means that I can think of right to to get them there, rather than a set an inflexible curriculum that might even exclude some of my students without without even thinking about it. So I really appreciate that. I think we’ve got a good section there to to talk about that. And the really the last part is about UDL and the science of UDL. And we’ve all heard pushback about that, that we may not have enough studies, we also talk about that there’s research in higher ed, which is coming along. It’s it was a valid critique until we’ve got more and more research. And we’ve got ways to say that it is very effective. But we’ll just tease this part as we come to the end of our conversation, but one is about the neuroscience of UDL. And is it not operationalize Hubble? Is it really correct? In the way we’re talking about, let’s say, the multicolored brains? And there’s there’s a lot to say. So let’s just give a little wide picture about the science of UDL. And what we can say about that critique?

Eric Moore  1:03:04

Yeah. Well, so it’s an important critique, and it’s one that I think has been the most difficult to, to to address over the years. You know, UDL is on the one hand, based on research, you know, everywhere you look in terms of like US federal policies that include UDL, the CAST website, they all use this phrase that is based on robust research. And what we find is that being based on research and being researched based, are not the same thing. What I mean by that is, is that, like UD, on the one hand, is a collection of checkpoints. And each one of those checkpoints has a robust research base. But UDL is more than the checkpoints, as we’ve been talking about. It’s a design framework, because it’s a dynamic development of learning experiences. And that for know, what does that design look like? Is that design process effective? Is has always been challenging to research. You know, what if you think about it, like, I’m practicing UDL, you’re practicing UDL, somebody comes into our classrooms. Are they seeing the same thing? No, because they’re not. Right. Yeah. Method research is a lot easier to operationalize. So it’s been difficult to pin this down. You know, certainly in recent years, groups are invested in UDL, like the UDL Research Committee of caste and the media, higher ed have put together things like the research criteria, you know, which specifies certain things that researchers should should explicate and make clear about their design process essentially visible thinking that hasn’t been transformative and both producing higher quality news research and in analyzing prior research for meta analyses, including one that just came out a couple of weeks ago. So we are we are starting to see the wheels turn there. On the other hand, there’s, we have to recognize the limitations that do exist here. That because UDL is not a method, distilling it down to something that’s so cleanly, operationalized, double, would no longer be UDL. So we need to appreciate that and look for evidence in places, in addition to hard science, you know, hard science is one way of knowing it’s one area of knowledge is not the only one. There are other forms of getting empirical evidence. There’s other ways of knowing that can contribute to our knowledge that you do is effective, don’t have to necessarily be repeatable, operationalize double scientific data. Yeah,

Lillian Nave  1:05:45

it sounds to me that you’re using your different colored hats. When you say that, right? It’s not just the the white hat of facts, and research. But I think there’s a lot of Red Hat in that heart and intuition. And I go a lot with that with thinking about my variability of learners in my class. And wanting to bring that wide variable group along with me. And a lot of the green hat, which is the creativity, the possibility, the ideas, and we have to we have to do all those, at least as practitioners, and not just rely on the white hat, and then go right on to the the blackout of, well, that didn’t work, or this is not showing the results, you know, that I expected, and then throwing it all away, I really appreciated you bringing up those different ways to think about criticisms, because we do have to be putting on all those hats as we move forward, there is more research in the K 12 area than there is in the higher ed area. And I do think we have to be wide and varied and flexible in how we are looking at the research and how our students are responding. And as we every year, more and more research is coming out on the effectiveness of what practitioners are doing in their classes. And that we just need to keep, you know, bringing it along. So the one critique about do we have enough research is I feel like I’m saying we’re working on it, you know, it’s we’re working on it, we’re gonna, we are bringing it along. And time is on our side, like Time will tell we’re going to continuously I know lots of studies are in place for us to see that we are in essence proving the science with the white hat of a many times. But we also know that it takes a long time to have many studies to say, oh, yeah, this is exactly how it’s going to work. But it’s not the only way. I really appreciate you, you bringing up that part that we really are in lots of hats. And I feel like we’ve been blue having it today, that meta analysis thinking about all those different ways to counter the critiques to really take them to heart to understand why this is making our house stronger on a firmer foundation.

Eric Moore  1:08:25

Yeah, Lillian, you’re so right. And, you know, essentially what we’re trying to do, I think with this paper with this conversation with with the broader work that we’re doing in the field, fielding these critiques and really given them a fair shake, good luck in finding those opportunities that we have to improve. This is what the blue hat is, you know, we’re not just letting the critiques be critiques. We’re taking them we’re absorbing them, we’re bringing them alongside the Red Hat, the green hat, the yellow hat, the white hat, like essentially saying, Are these factual? Are these valuable? Are these are these things that can help us move forward? How, what does that look like, you know, pulling all of that together, to move the field forward. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish is not critique for the sake of critique, it’s critique for the sake of improvement. It’s exciting part of that process.

Lillian Nave  1:09:17

Gee, I just want to thank you so much, Eric, for kind of spearheading these thoughts, these ideas, and I really am excited about the project we’re working on with our colleagues. So thank you for spending another hour talking to me about

Eric Moore  1:09:32

this. You so much. I certainly appreciate and all the work that you’ve done over these last several years. It’s really been remarkable to see Think UDL  blossom as it has.

Lillian Nave  1:09:40

I’m so excited. I’m so glad it’s still going on now for since 2018. This will be year five. So super excited. Thanks for being the very first and now. Yeah, Episode 100. I appreciate it.

Eric Moore  1:09:53

Thank you Take care

Lillian Nave  1:09:59

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

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