Welcome to Episode 58 of the Think UDL podcast: UDL Evolution with Lindsay Masland. Dr. Lindsay Masland is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and is the Assistant Director of Faculty Professional Development in the Center for Academic Excellence which is the Teaching and Learning center at Appalachian State University. She is a trusted colleague and here’s a fun fact, she has provided one of my very first introductions to Universal Design for Learning! She is a noted speaker and faculty developer and we have worked together on course redesign institutes and other initiatives to integrate UDL in faculty development at Appalachian State. Lindsay joins me today to have a frank discussion about the evolution of UDL. Not only will we talk about how UDL is discussed in academia, but how it is often introduced and how it can be viewed today. We will get to see her perspective as a social scientist and as an educational psychologist to talk about what UDL is now and how we can frame it in our conversations in Higher Education today. I am delighted to pick her brain for a very important conversation about equity pedagogy and how UDL has evolved for her and for higher education!
Lillian Nave 00:00
Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 58 of the think UDL podcast UDL evolution with Lindsay masland. Dr. Lindsay Maslin is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, and is the Assistant Director of faculty professional development in the Center for Academic Excellence, which is the Teaching and Learning Center at Appalachian State University. She is a trusted colleague, and here’s a fun fact. She has provided one of my very first introductions to Universal Design for Learning. She is a noted speaker and faculty developer and we have worked together on course redesign Institute’s and other initiatives to integrate Universal Design for Learning in faculty development. Lindsay joins me today to have a frank discussion about the evolution of UDL. Not only will we talk about how Universal Design for Learning is discussed in academia, but how it is often introduced, and how it can be viewed today, we will get to see her perspective as a social scientist and as an educational psychologist to talk about what UDL is now and how we can frame it. In our conversations in higher education today. I am delighted to pick her brain for a very important conversation about equity pedagogy, and how UDL has evolved for her. And for higher education. I’d like to welcome Lindsay Maslin, Dr. Lindsay masland, from Appalachian State University, to today’s think UDL podcast, and really happy to finally get a chance to record our conversation because we have many conversations. Throughout our time at Appalachian State. She is a colleague and a friend. So I want to say thank you, Lindsey, for joining me today.
Lindsay Masland 02:33
It’s so exciting to be able to do this. I mean, obviously, I’ve listened to the different episodes that you’ve put out there and always impressed by the questions you ask and the kinds of answers you get from all the good people that you bring on here. So I’m honored to be able to do what we normally do when the two of us are in a room, I guess, in front of
Lillian Nave 02:55
other peers. That’s right. That’s right. I’m really glad to get this conversation out and have another chance to talk to you. So we’ve had a lot of faculty development chances to be together and, and you know, they’ve they’ve moved from interpretive dances, to short videos, our own little short lived Lindsay and Lillian podcast, all of those ideas. So I really glad we get to share this, this conversation. So I’ll start with the first question that I asked all my guests and that is Lindsay, what makes you a different kind of learner?
Lindsay Masland 03:38
Well, true to form, I have a sassy answer and a real answer to this. The sassy answer, I guess is that I’m a different learner. Because everyone is a different learner. Because normal or average is a statistical artifact that does not line up to any actual being. So that’s my sassy answer. Yeah, but
Lillian Nave 04:00
see, but true.
Lindsay Masland 04:03
But then, I guess if I think about it, you know, if that question really means how do you sometimes stick out? When it comes to learning? I guess, you know, thinking back to being a learner as a kid, and then kind of how that’s followed me. Now, I mean, so I am a white girl from the south from an upper middle class family. So being in school meant that I was the average or normal that the teachers were probably comparing other kids against, for better or for worse. So I was seen as a very good student, except I would always get these little comments on my report cards and continue to receive these comments. Obviously, we don’t have report cards anymore. But this is a theme, you know that the teachers would say things like Lindsay is such a good student or she’s a hard worker. She’s so smart, which I don’t like that descriptor. But he would say something like that. And he would say, but she’s a bit much.
Lillian Nave 05:04
I heard you say this before. Yes.
Lindsay Masland 05:08
And that’s an interesting thing to feedback to get as a fourth grader. Because, like, what, what does that even mean? It’s not what we want.
Right? Is that a compliment? Is that what is that? I
don’t think it’s a compliment.
Lindsay Masland 05:27
But I mean, I guess the way I’ve come to operationalize a bit much is, I tried to talk a lot. I talk loudly, and very fast. And I also have a pretty fast processing speed, and a high level of cognitive flexibility, which I think Lillian, you share a lot of these
Lillian Nave 05:48
thinking that we often will synergize with each other, I think, when we’re put in a room,
Lindsay Masland 05:54
right, and so that can be really hard for teachers or other folks in positions of authority, that don’t share those characteristics. And because it means answering questions before they’re even finished being presented, you know, and being able to predict exactly where the teacher is going. And the teacher thinks it’s going to be an aha moment. But guess what, Lindsey spoiled it? Right. It’s that kind of thing. And also, I think I’m pretty so I’m from the south, and I think a word that would be used to describe me as ornery. What right, I’m kind of meaning that I will call people out, including teachers and people in positions of authority on things that I don’t think are right or accurate. And that can be hard to teach. So I think that is what makes me different slash difficult.
Lillian Nave 06:48
So that is the opposite characteristic of that other well known Southern adjective for women especially, which is de mujer. Right?
Lindsay Masland 06:58
Yeah, never in my life, have I? Or will I have demure?
Lillian Nave 07:05
Exactly, yeah. Right. And that, as a behavior, I think is what is often wanted in a classroom, right? We, we’ve noticed, I’m not saying we want that. But that has been what seems to work well, for the teacher in charge as a bunch of demure behaved following students. Exactly.
Lindsay Masland 07:27
And the funny thing is, is, I mean, I think little girls in particular are socialized to do that. So I could do that. And so I think in some ways, it actually made it even more shocking. When I would do the other thing.
Lillian Nave 07:40
Yeah. Right. So um, yeah, so we have had a lot of chances to, uh, to work together. And in fact, my first instances with UDL, were with you, actually, when we put on a faculty Institute, and our friend Tracy Smith will ask us, Hey, you guys want to help us put together? And I’m like, Yeah, sure. What do you want me to do? Whatever he want me to do, I’ll do it. And, and you were one of my actual first introductions to Universal Design for Learning. So I have you to thank for the part of this long journey that I’ve been on. And so today, I wanted to talk about what is your journey with Universal Design for Learning because I think that we are now getting to the place in higher education, where people are getting a sense of what UDL is, but it’s often the wrong sense, or what UDL isn’t. Or when people are first introduced to Universal Design for Learning, they think it’s one thing and the more I am immersed in talking with people who are actually implementing Universal Design for Learning, my understanding of it, of the mindset of all of the things that go along with it has certainly grown. So I wanted to start out there and kind of learn about your journey and kind of where you came in contact with Universal Design for Learning and and how it’s moved. From from there. Yeah, so
Lindsay Masland 09:11
um, I first heard about UDL in the context of taking a graduate course, on the topic, and my PhD that I was getting was in educational and school psychology. And that was specifically preparing me to become a school psychologist in a K 12 school. And I didn’t end up taking that route. By the way, that is what the degree was kind of preparing me for or to teach future school psychologists as well. And so in the context of that work, I had to take some elective courses. And I saw that there was one being offered called Universal Design for Learning. It never heard of this before it was being offered by the Disability Studies Department. We didn’t have to take any any classes in the disability studies. We did take them in special education and things like that, but none with that department. So I knew nothing about it. I said, I’ll just take it. And I have to tell you, I did not like it. It was not good. Wow.
Lillian Nave 10:13
Yeah, I hadn’t heard this before. Okay.
Lindsay Masland 10:16
And I know that’s weird, because I know a lot of people when they have their first UDL experience, it’s really transformative or liberatory. And they’re like, how did I not know about this? And I, that was not well, okay. But I’ll tell you why. Here’s why is because the way that it was kind of represented, was as a list of kind of considerations of if a person has this, you do this. And it kind of seemed like they were trying to line up certain diagnoses or labels that folks could have and kind of the solutions to that. No, of course, it was still a UDL lens. So it was like, so design it to make sure that so and so with this certain label doesn’t have a problem with what you’ve designed. So I mean, it was still at the design level. But it just struck me the wrong way. And at the time, I don’t think I had the language for it. But now looking back, I think I think it was because I just have a real problem with deficit models of thinking about folks thinking about ability and disability, and things like that. And it just it really felt like that it felt icky for some reason to me. Yeah,
Lillian Nave 11:30
yeah. So what would you said, if people have this, then you need to do this. I would imagine every single one of the things that you’re saying they have this is somehow negative, or deficient, right? There was never a if they have this great attribute, we’re going to do this. It was always they’re not up to snuff. They’re not normal. It’s some deviation from what is expected, then that’s bad.
Lindsay Masland 12:00
Absolutely. And honestly, I mean, we were presented with the three column table, right, that we all know about. But if you think about the context I had for that, I was like, this is another list. Yeah, that was my reaction to it was like, Ah, this is more list of rules for how to deal with. Right. That was the feeling, folks that somehow need something extra. So I think I just kind of, and I don’t think the course was probably taught itself. No, I know, it wasn’t taught in a UDL way. Now that I think about it. I don’t think I’ve brought that lens to it before, but it was it. Yeah. So they weren’t walking the talk in that. And so yeah, I just did not have a good first experience. So the next time it came up, the next time I heard about UDL was actually when upstate started any UDL work at all, this was only a couple years into me being an upstate, so still pretty new professor. And we had just gotten the Star Program grant, I don’t even know if it was called that at the time, it was everything. It was the very, very beginning of it. And one of the components of that grant that UDL focused grant was to have a faculty learning community to try to introduce faculty to this and you know, dabble with it, and then present on it and stuff like that. Yeah. So the only reason I ended, so I ended up on that faculty learning community, but it is not, it is not out of like, you know, great goodwill or something like that. I have to be honest about this story. Okay. You could, you could tell it in a really nice light, you know, that all the sudden, I had seen the light, but that’s not what happened. What happened was somebody in the psychology department who is on the team, who was kind of managing the grant and how things were being rolled out, said, we’re putting together this faculty learning community, or they are he wasn’t putting it together, somebody else was putting, you know, the faculty developers are putting together a faculty learning community so that there’s no psychologists on it. Can you imagine having through and having all these discussions about all of these different abilities disabilities, what have you and not having a psychologist and I was like, I cannot imagine. Right?
Lillian Nave 14:23
I am going to be there.
Lindsay Masland 14:25
Right. So my, even the way but I remember thinking, Oh, it’s UDL. Yeah, I was. So I really think I went into it as this kind of weird Crusader thing of like, I’m gonna bring, you know rigorous knowledge of psychological complications to this group because clearly like that’s what I’ve been brought here for like that is seriously how I came to the table right? Um, so but what ended up happening is, you know, we read a lot. We talked a lot. We try, we we spend so much time I’m trying to understand the three column table. You know, obviously, I already had feelings about and Trump but just trying to figure out like, what is this even saying, which, that’s not a criticism of it, but just that that was the kind of unpacking that we were doing as a faculty group. And at the same time, I’m in this faculty learning community, something happened in one of my classes, that was like the perfect kind of lived experience, that when you put it with the UDL lens that I was building, all the sudden, it came alive for me in a way that it simply didn’t in the previous exposure. So the thing that kind of happened was, so I was I was doing what I think a lot of professors do or have done, I had, you know, unit tests, those kinds of things after we’d run to the end of a unit, or a module. And the test had some multiple choice and some kind of short essay on it. And so the students would take it in class in a 15 minute period. And I would sit there at the front and like write papers or whatever, while they’re doing it, right.
Lillian Nave 16:05
Or at least look like you’re grading papers.
Lindsay Masland 16:09
Right? Like, actually, like, I look like I’m on our learning management system. Really? I have like Facebook also open, right? Yeah, that right? Yeah, so it was doing that. And I noticed a pattern, which I think is common to anybody who does gives this kind of test this kind of timed test, which is that there’s always a few students who stay up until the very last minute and in fact, as many minutes passes, you will allow them to, until you say, you gotta gotta give me the paper. Yeah. So that happened. Right? And so there’s some students, I said, I need your papers, folks, this other classes coming in. So the last those last few people put their papers on top, and then I take that stack back to my office and then sit down a graded, so the ones that are on the top of the pile, are the ones that were turned in last. Yeah. Then I noticed this interesting kind of, I mean, to get I guess, statistical about it like a by modal distribution, right? There were like two levels of quality, that I was noticing it was the best exams and the worst exams. Were at the top of the file. And, you know, yeah, thinking about it, it’s not it’s not a surprise why that is, because some of the students who were staying to the last minute, we’re doing it because they’re masters of their executive functioning, because they have these academic backgrounds, where they have a well rehearsed, in like planning out a 15 minute period, and allocating five minutes at the end to review. And they have this metacognitive skill, right. And so their use of the time was very intentional. And then the other exams that are at the top are the ones where the student didn’t get to the last question. Right, like, that’s why because they literally weren’t finished, it was not an intentional, turn it in last behavior. And so I just had this moment of like, wait a minute, what am I even testing?
Lillian Nave 18:08
Lindsay Masland 18:09
This is it, you know, because those students who had that executive functioning, and that metacognitive skills, and those academic backgrounds are gonna end up with the best grades. And that’s partially because of mastery of the content and skills of the course. But it’s also partially because of these skills that I’m not, I don’t care about,
Lillian Nave 18:32
they’re not part of my learning objectives, that you’re not teaching either that you’re trying to
Lindsay Masland 18:37
write and so I’m just kind of penalizing folks for not coming to me with certain skills, where teaching should be about me kind of getting really clear on what the skills and and content are that somebody could get out of learning experience. And then me making sure that that actually happens for and that is not what was occurring with that kind of test. So that happened when I was in a faculty learning community on UDL. And then I was like, oh, okay, this is what it is. It’s, it’s these barriers, that a lot of times are not intentional on the part of the teacher, but nevertheless, are there and then make it so that students are working at an uneven playing field. So that helps and then the other thing that helped me because at that point, in my own development, I was still really clinging on to the scientist piece of my academic identity because I’m a social scientist, and we use the the typical scientific method right to get at truth. And I that was the primary piece of my identity. That is not the case anymore at all. But at that time, I was and I also read something I think it was from the cast, folks. Like they’re, I don’t I can’t I can’t even remember what their site looks like now but like older version of their website. And he was just there was one line that was buried in the middle of like maybe a blog post or something. It wasn’t even, you know, like a heading. But it was talking about an experience, it was similar to what I just said about the the testing thing. But they use this really technical sounding language that made me appreciate it. It just sounds so silly to say now, given the person I am now but the person I was back then really appreciate it and what and the language here’s what it was, is that when you when you have assessments like this, you have construct irrelevant invariance. And that’s like a real statistical research methods way of saying, Are you even measuring the thing you think you’re measuring, okay, and that as a social scientist, like when we’re creating a survey to measure, you know, stress, like, we can’t take a blood test for that. So we have to spend a lot of time getting really precise with our measurement so that when we get a score on this stress survey, we can feel confident that it actually measures the thing we meant to measure. And I all of a sudden was like, Oh my gosh, like my tests have konstruktor relevant variants in them. And so as somebody who is like, really into like, I’m a hardcore scientist, I was like, I have to get that out. And then you start to realize it’s not only in the assessments, it’s in your instructional methods, it’s in the things that you present to them the way you represent the content. I was like, so the thing that really hooked me into it, I think, honestly, was seeing this is like a sciency way of doing things, which frequently is not the way that I think UDL is talked about. But that was the thing that got me hooked into it and to stop kind of Pooh poohing it.
Lillian Nave 21:42
Well, you know, a couple things that you made me think of one of the first ways that I was introduced to UDL was also in a very non UDL way, it was more of a lecture, kind of a PowerPoint slide presentation. And I thought, This is not good, right? This this, you, you have to model every you have to model it if you’re going to talk about it, or people will not believe you, right? So and I think that goes with in our teaching world and how we explain things like if you’re going to talk about empathy, and you’re shouting at people and calling them names, right? Nobody’s gonna believe you. So I do think, you know, you have to be modeling this universal design for learning as you’re spreading the news, and, which is why like, when I thought, hey, there’s no podcast for Universal Design for Learning, maybe we could do a podcast, we can get the word out. But we definitely have to have a transcript. And that took us a while, you know, to get going, you know, people won’t believe you with it, it just won’t. It just won’t work. And and so it took me a little bit to to get on board with universal design for learning. And you were involved with it before I was that I remember that learning community predates my, you know, movement into when college star brought the grant and kind of I was maybe two or three or four people down the line before I got to be a part of it. And sort of fell into it and was a part of it. Because I believe in UDL. No, it was because I would like some more job security. So let me figure out what this thing is. You know, as a non tenure track, kind of person, I was like, this sounds like it could work for me, I’m going to try it. But then like you, I find, oh my goodness, this makes all the sense in the world. This brings a new lens and not his lens, just a whole new attitude and world for how I approach students for how I approach my own learning, for how I approach any subject for how I approach people different than me, it’s really just changed so much about how I see the world, how I communicate and think about and listen to my own three very different children, and their very different lives and struggles and ways of being and all of that. So I’ve had a couple, a couple questions then to think about this movement of when we first hear about UDL, and kind of where we are now. So I’m gonna throw a few your way. Think about well, what do you think if somebody says to you? Well, that’s UDL is really just accommodation? Oh, what’s the Lindsay masland answer for? Yeah, so I hear about UDL. But is that we have an accommodation office for that or maybe along that side, the disability office. So knowing that you’re your first instance and seeing it was through disability studies. That happens a lot. I get a lot of people who I talked to who that is their very first reference point. So what would you have to say Oh, gosh, that’s
Lindsay Masland 25:00
an interesting question. Also, one thing we should probably circle back to maybe towards the end is how I view it now, because that actually isn’t. We didn’t get all the way to it, but we got it far enough to it in order to answer your question. Okay. Um, so Oh, goodness, that is a common one, though, that isn’t this just accommodations, but I mean, accommodations have that deficit perspective to be wrapped up in it To be honest, but also it’s just, um, it’s it’s post talked thinking, there you go. There goes my statistician for you. Right. But it’s like after the fact it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s not. Because universal design is about coming up with a structure such that maybe ideally, such accommodations, special things, that’s what a combination basically seems to mean, you need something special, right? Whereas we want to remove the need for that completely, ideally, in the way that we designed the course. And this is always interesting for my students, because so many of them will submit their, you know, accommodation plans, right. And I’ll look at the list of things that legally they are afforded. And I’ll go Oh, yeah, everybody gets that. Right. And in some cases, that’s not true. In some cases, somebody does need something that is truly unique. And maybe a piece of technology or something like that, that is truly unique. But that is very rare. In fact, it is possible to design a way. And in fact, that is the goal. That is the hope of universal design, is that you’re designing in a way so that special things aren’t needed that we it circles back to My Sassy answer to your question about difference, right? That if we design, truly believing that there is no average student for which this is meant for this teaching this exam, this resource, if we just remove that idea from our thinking altogether, then we start to view the task as designing for lots of possible ways of being excellent in my course. And so when you just flip that around, then it’s kind of feels like well, accommodation. I mean, if you want that accommodation, sure, I’m going to sign your thing, because legally we’re supposed to, but that puts the onus on the student, as opposed to viewing a student’s possible struggle in a classroom as a systemic issue is an issue that this wasn’t designed, the systems that are in place weren’t designed to support broadly. And so the actual solution is not to tell the person who doesn’t have power the student to deal with it, but for the person with the power the teacher to design the system, so that kind of thing isn’t even needed.
Lillian Nave 27:48
Right? Okay, so you’re you got me thinking too, about those disability or accommodations, right? If, and when you say, Hey, everybody in my course gets this, you know, that, in one way, it’s like, well, you’re not all that special, meaning all those differences that you thought bad about, you know, I’ve, it’s open for everybody, everybody can can do it. And when I think about the, the accommodation letters I’ve got, they are often having to do with, I’m gonna borrow your term there, the construct irrelevant variants aspect of things, right? Because you’ve taught me that before, the the idea that extra time on test, or a time and a half, that sort of thing, or things that really have nothing to do with the subject matter, but have something to do with the system. Because you know, your students couldn’t spend extra time on the test because somebody in the biology class had to get into the room or, you know, or the next psychology class had to use the actual desk. And that’s a really dumb reason not to, you know, let somebody finish their thought. It’s like, sorry, I’m going to end this conversation. Because somebody else, you know, has, you know, has come in is going to talk to me, and they need this chair, so you’re gonna have to leave.
Lindsay Masland 29:09
Oh, my gosh, this is such a good insight. Lillian, everybody’s listening to this, like, write this down. No, this is, this is such a good insight that, like, the things were accommodating for are ridiculous. Yeah.
Lillian Nave 29:21
I mean, I’m trying to think of is there any accommodation that means, you know, they can’t learn art history, you know, this student doesn’t have to learn dates, you know, I or something like that. I like there’s no, there’s no accommodation that I can think of, but I am not in that world. Immerse so and that there might be that I’m not thinking of that have a really something to do with the learning of the subject. It has to do with all of these things that have grown up seemingly, you know, naturally but have been totally not naturally occurring. You know, it’s been timed tests or You have to sit in this kind of chair that has a half desk and I can’t even fit in it because I’m really tall. And I don’t want to sit there what I’m, you know, there are so many of these things that make that are barriers that make learning harder. And, and UDL helps me to frame them look at them as saying, well, these really are helping me see the things that are irrelevant to the actual learning or that have impeded the actual learning. And as just at least change the way I’m moving into those, you know, looking at those accommodations or letters. And I think, too, I think we’ve had this conversation before, a well designed course is not going to need accommodations. And I know you’ve had students who said, I’ve had these accommodations, I’ve haven’t needed them in your class, and yours is the only class or I haven’t had to pull this letter out because of the way this course is designed.
Lindsay Masland 31:01
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. And I mean, I think the other thing, too, that maybe we don’t talk enough about when it comes to UDL, and maybe we should, is how, although there’s a lot of work on the front end, for instructors, to really do the thinking and then the designing about what would a barrier free version of my course be, although that is intense. But once you do that, it actually feels like it makes life easier, because you’re not having to figure out, well, what am I going to do for this person who needs this thing. And now I’ve got to go do this person over here or do this thing over here for this person, all of that goes away. And so it becomes kind of empowering for the teacher to because when somebody has an accommodation letter, and you are not teaching from a UDL perspective, one kind of implicit thing that could happen there is that the teacher could go like, Oh, I can’t do anything about that, like that, that student is going to struggle. Right? You know, you might have that.
Right. It’s true. And I’ve heard people say that, I was
Lindsay Masland 32:11
like, oh, man, that’s, that’s gonna be so hard for them. But with a UDL lens, it’s kind of like, Oh, well, I actually have power or not power. But I have the ability to do something about that. It’s much more hopeful, I think, as a teacher to be like, the choices that I make can actually lessen the difficulty for that person who might have otherwise been expecting difficulty, because they’ve come against that because of systemic barriers. And so to me, it’s like really exciting as a teacher, because it’s like, oh, I can take things that I thought were out of my control, and bring them back into my control. So it’s more empowering.
Lillian Nave 32:51
Yeah. And, you know, so there’s like a lot of these areas that people kind of pigeonhole, or say that UDL might be or get a little confused. And I wanted to ask you another kind of area that you’ve already at least obliquely referenced, and that has to do a bit with engagement. And early on, when you were talking about who you were as a as a student, that you are a quick processor, you’re able to answer questions really quickly, you’re able to even anticipate things, you’re kind of the ideal student, if we were to look back at maybe 30 years ago, or childhood or, you know, 40, or depending on if you’re my age, or your age, and the idea of engagement and what we privilege, and what we say is appropriate engagement has changed, especially boy, let’s put a huge microscope, magnifying glass on this COVID year, and say, Wow, look at how lots of different people can engage. If you give them a minute to process and write it on a zoom chat rather than raising a hand and go, Oh, I know the answer. And you call on them right away. But so your your own self reference, where you know where you are, you kind of have this reflect reflection, looking back and saying, Hey, I benefited from that. I did too. I benefited from from that. But now seeing that when I look at the UDL guidelines that helped me to say, Wow, a big part of this is how am I engaging students and knowing that they are different, and they’re not going to be like me? How is it that I can or we can engage all those students and think about that difference so that somebody wouldn’t need accommodations or wouldn’t need to feel like they had to be a certain way in order to be successful. So and I know you have lots of answers and thoughts about that kind of thing.
Lindsay Masland 34:55
I mean, so I guess one thing I haven’t mentioned is that my area of scholarly Interest is engagement in college students.
Lillian Nave 35:02
So that was a good segue. They’re helpful.
Lindsay Masland 35:07
I mean, that’s what I write about and study. But engagement is one of those words that we all use. And we use it assuming that we have a shared definition. But we don’t. Or it’s one of those, you know, it’s just one of those fuzzy words that we all think we know what we mean, when we say it, but then the minute you dig in, it becomes real clear. Oh, no, no, no, we’re not on the same page about this. So both engagement and its cousin motivation, right, that has the same problem. And so I think a lot of times instructors, think about those words, as characteristics, almost like personality characteristics of a student, okay, this person is engaged, or is motivated. And it’s worse with motivation, like you say, well, that’s a low motivation student. And it’s almost like saying, that’s a person with blue eyes, you know, like, it’s just a fact, gotcha. It is what it is. And that we kind of do that with engagement as well. Or we just bring a really narrow kind of what you were just alluding to Lillian are really narrow definition of what constitutes engagement. And so that hampers our ability to really think about what’s going on in a teaching and learning situation. But if we think about it, the way that people who study this stuff do, it becomes pretty clear. So research shows that somebody who is highly motivated, meaning that kind of internal state, like a student who’s highly motivated to work hard, then is more likely Yes, to select engagement behaviors, I usually like to think of engagement as the evidence of being motivated. And so I think a lot of folks narrow only in on behavioral engagement, and they think about what would look like engagement, if they were the person under the microscope, which might mean raising your hand, nodding your head, answering questions, turning in work on time, in the online space, number of visits to your LMS, right, all of these, like really clear things where you can point and be like that person is engaged, right? Yes, so part of it behavioral engagement. But then we also have cognitive engagement, which are people thinking deeply and critically, about what you’re teaching. And that’s harder to observe, right? behavioral engagement is like the low hanging fruit, just seeing the head nods and the turning stuff in on time, right? Whereas cognitive engagement, the teacher has to design in order to invite evidence of that from the student, you have to set up ways that actually require request that from the student, that evidence of deep thinking, and also, like I said, a lot of times it’s not observable, unless you somehow invite it. And then we also have emotional or affective engagement. And that is some kind of sense of connection to the course, or the course content, some investment in it. Something that feels like this matters. Or on this, I can see this helping me become a better citizen, a better friend, a better but you know, partner, whatever. And so that, so just simply using it in that kind of research based way of the tripartite model of engagement, all the sudden opens you up as a teacher to being like, Oh, am I actually designing for those things. And then the last kind of piece of this is that so students who are highly motivated, are more likely to show those engagement behaviors. And then students who show those engagement behaviors are more likely to show academic achievement,
Lindsay Masland 38:42
So that’s the whole flow chart there. But the cool thing about what the research shows is that choices that teachers make in the classroom can set somebody up with high or low motivation. And then the rest of the thing kind of flows all the way to achievement. So instead of thinking of that first starting point of motivation, as a personality characteristic, think of it as a malleable characteristic that depends, largely, if not entirely on environmental input. So if you start thinking about motivation, engagement that way, and that the professor or the instructor is at the beginning of that, based on the choices that they’re making, then you start to have a sense of responsibility for the actual achievement that comes out the other end. So that’s kind of, I guess, maybe the academic way of thinking about it. But also, I think, again, it’s an empowering way because then you realize, oh, there are levers for me, as a teacher that I can flip in order to have high achievement occur, which a lot of times that is the goal. However, you’re defining achievement in a class, right, but mastery of learning objective skills, those kinds of things, which is very different than having the view of looking at a student and going Oh, they were born with low motivation. Oh, well. What a hopeless way? You know, it’s not fun to teach if that’s what you believe. Yeah, so that’s how I think about it.
Lillian Nave 40:07
Yeah. So you’ve, you’ve really made that transition, which mirrors my movement in UDL about. The transition from the problem is in the learner barrier in the learner, an unmotivated student to the problem or barrier is in the environment. And we as a instructor, or a an employer, or a, a parent, you know, or anybody in a learning situation can motivate a student a person in and can change that environment. So that success or learning or getting to those objectives is actually more attainable. And when we go back to our conversation about accommodation and the deficit model, that was squarely placing that learner barrier, the deficit in the learner himself or herself, right. And so these, and when you were talking about I love this behavior, engagement, cognitive engagement and emotional or affective engagement, when I thought about the behavior, engagement, about nodding your hand head, maybe, you know, looking acting engaged, if you’re face to face, even turning on things in time turning in assignments on time, you could fake that quite easily. You know, you really could, oh, I’m listening, you’re making iconic, there’s, there’s plenty of students, I’ve done it myself, I’m really listening. But really, I’m thinking about something way, you know, way over here. And there’s a lot of times where I am very cognitively engaged on a walk or a hike in our beautiful North Carolina mountains. And it takes me a good two or three days to work through a problem. But I haven’t signed into the LMS, the learning management system, I haven’t sent that email, I haven’t actually, you know, shown the work that’s been going on in my head. And sometimes we are looking for those things that maybe we can’t find those are the maybe that construct irrelevant variants, again, like I’m looking for you to press a button over here. But really, what I want to know is that your brain is working really hard. And there’s, there’s not exactly a way that I’m going to be able to pinpoint that. And again,
Lindsay Masland 42:35
well, absolutely, I mean, and also when we get kind of hyper focused on the engagement, and even on the most observable forms of engagement, it’s really like misplaced focus, because is the thing that you really want is to see students present certain behaviors to you, or is the thing that you really want for students to have a transformative learning experience. And if maybe we just shift our lens over to trying to constantly find evidence that this person is having a transformative experience, then we can kind of loosen our grip on the feel the need to kind of police student behaviors, and have very kind of like surveillance focused restrictive policies and procedures in our classrooms, we can just kind of shift over to the right and look at Well, maybe if I just design my assignments so that the evidence of their transformation will be be there by virtue of them having done the assignment, yeah, then I don’t have to worry about the path they took to get there. Because the proofs in the pudding. And so that also becomes more joyful, because it’s like, I don’t have to worry about policing them or making sure they do this at this time, in this way. Because if they do make those kinds of choices, I’ll see it. I’ll see it in their work.
Lillian Nave 43:51
Yeah. And, and as you and I are both on a a teaching quality, taskforce, that idea of transformational learning, is I think, just embedded and so important, and that’s, you know, the thing we’ve been knocking around for a couple months on our, on our campus, how, how we are or can empower our students to really tell us what they’re learning as well and can see that transformation, rather than grading behaviors or grading what we might perceive as a transformation. That may not be because they haven’t actually explained it or set it or been able to show it. So okay, well, we started on this journey, but I don’t think I was able to give you a chance to answer what is UDL for you now we started. Yeah, you know, you started you and UDL cert on the wrong foot. So clearly you have a very close relationship now. You’ve gone many places together. What is your relationship in Have you understand Universal Design for Learning your conception of it now?
Lindsay Masland 45:05
So I mean, I think I bring with me these ideas of construction relevant variants and removing barriers and locating struggles in systems and not in learners. All of that is still part of it. Um, and it’s funny because I don’t really use the words UDL or the letters UDL that much. And you have I talked about that before. I’m not because I dislike UDL. But I guess maybe I’m at the point where UDL is implied in my in my like life, that doesn’t mean when we’re introducing it to somebody who’s never heard of it, that you should just get it. But that people might say, well, we need you know, let’s have a presentation on UDL. And I say, Oh, no, like, that’s the foundation for literally all of it. Yeah, just because it doesn’t have an acronym attached to it when I do it. That’s still the foundation. But the other thing too, you know, that’s been bouncing around in my head, as people continue to deepen their understanding of things like equity pedagogy, some versions of transformative pedagogy, culturally sustaining practice, all of those kinds of ideas. That’s kind of bouncing around in my head. And you know, if we were to draw the Venn diagram of UDL, and whatever label we want to give, I’m going to give kind of I’m going to use transformative to include equity and liberation focused types of pedagogy. There’s clearly an overlap there. And this is kind of how I think of it now that I’m the people who came up with UDL and ended up embracing UDL as their kind of formative way of foundational way of thinking of things might have started, possibly from that accessibility piece. Okay. really started the way that it was originally introduced. To me, that didn’t resonate. Yeah, right. Thinking about it from this kind of learning science. It’s all the background, I have learning science, a psychological point of view of understanding different struggles different types of learners might have and then what are the implications for the environment? So I think that it says people who have the heart for transformation, but came at it from that accessibility lens might have had UDL be the thing that feels right. So then there’s this other group of people who might have a similar kind of impetus towards wanting to have transformative, transformative learning and transformative experiences in their classrooms. But they might have kind of backed into it, through lived experiences around identity, or around very specific isms, right, you know, like sexism, or racism, something like that, that has this very systemic feel to it. And as a result, a different set of language has developed around that and slightly different lenses and things. And so the UDL people and the equity people could end up doing very similar stuff, right? If you just see the way they’re teaching, the teaching choices they’re making, they might look really similar. They might use very different language to talk about it. But that’s kind of where I’m at now and thinking about UDL is that there it’s kind of similar things. It’s basically UDL and people who focus on inclusive pedagogy both have a heart for transformation in their classrooms, and they just happen to backdoor into it a different way. And so the the room that feels compelling to me right now is the equity side, maybe just because it’s less explored terrain for me. And because UDL has become this given piece of foundational piece of my pedagogy. And so I’m now starting to kind of think through but as I’m doing all that work, I’m struck by these are, I don’t wanna say different sides of the same coin, because that’s oversimplifying it, but they are they are cousins, in this work moving towards learning for everyone.
Lillian Nave 49:18
Yeah, and that Venn diagram that you started with? It has a, I think, a widely overlapping portion, you know, that it’s not just a little tiny edge. A small lips are something that that is a large overlapping. And I must say, I totally agree. I’m finding that when I’m speaking with my guests on the podcast, we’re talking about indigenous pedagogy, talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, talking about accommodation, talking about neuro diversity. We are it’s almost Like describing that elephant, and I’m looking at the trunk and you’re looking at the back leg, and you see it’s really sturdy. And I say it’s flexible. But we’re all looking at the same kind of giant, moving, important. Movement, right, this thing that’s, that’s happening, but it, it opens up for so many. And because, you know, UDL is saying people are different learners are different. And on the diversity, equity, Equity and Inclusion side, they’re like, yeah, they’re culturally different. They’re ethnically different. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, so I said they’re different, and then disability, but they’re neurologically different. And they have different, you know, abilities. Yeah. Yeah, they’re different that way, too. Yes. Yeah. I
Lindsay Masland 50:49
mean, it’s really I think what it all kind of boils down to is us needing to be aware of intersectionality, across all of the identities. And that may be historically UDL has been the champions for ability identities, and that historically, D focused individuals might have been the champions for race, ethnicity, and culture based identities. But like, it’s all the idea of you guys, we’re making this too simple. And by looking at it with too simple of a lens, we’re causing some problems. So to me, that’s the thing that’s bringing it all together, even though people might be working on a different corner of the pie.
Lillian Nave 51:34
Right, right. And I really liked that you brought in that people might be using different language. And language can be difficult to hear sometimes and can be. Also, depending on how you define your terms, right? It is, like you said engagement might be a differently understood by somebody else. So I think the more we can bring this up more we can talk about it, the more we can share to then with the more connections, all of these folks who seem to be we’re all like making small ripples in a pond. And we’re slowly moving forward. And I think we’re all moving in a similar direction. For the better for the good. Have all of us,
Lindsay Masland 52:25
kind of certainly the hope.
Lillian Nave 52:27
Yeah. So well, Lindsey, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you on the podcast. And to get this talk out to our listeners. And for your willingness to really think at a high level, about what Universal Design for Learning is at this particular time. In 2021, which is when we’re recording this and after it’s kind of gone through several different iterations, both in my life and your life and in higher ed, what is going on. So I really appreciate your brainpower in, in helping me and my listeners think about its importance and how also we might be able to talk to others about universal design for learning. So thank you so much.
Lindsay Masland 53:17
Absolutely. It was a great conversation as it always is.
Lillian Nave 53:21
Well, thanks, Lindsay. And if we’re ever back on campus again, at the same time, I will see you there. Great. Alright, well, thank you so much, and thanks for joining me on the think UDL podcast. You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the think udl.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 college star.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Coachez our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the think UDL podcast.