Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction

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Rectangles move across the screen. Various scenes fly past, including a student at a computer, a young woman building a paper airplane, a dark haired student tosses his paper airplane and it lands on a desk. Someone reads a Braille document and a man signs. The screen reads "Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction." With our host...
[Sheryl Burgstahler] Hi, I'm Sheryl Burgstahler. I used to be a math teacher.
A chalk stick figure is near an algebraic formula.
I used to be a technology teacher.
The stick figure is near a computer.
My students were in middle school, high school, college, and online. In all these settings, I've experienced the challenge of connecting to all of my students.
The stick figure Sheryl is in front of a class. Three students' smiles turn to frowns.
Today, I'm the director of DO-IT at the University of Washington.
The screen reads "Do-IT". Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, Technology.
DO-IT stands for:
Back with Sheryl.
DO-IT serves to increase the success of people with disabilities in education and careers. We have ideas for you on how to reach every student in your classroom.
On the computer chalkboard, happy faces dot the screen. In a lab...
[Professor] So we're filling it about halfway up...
[Narrator] At every academic level, there are students with a variety of backgrounds, interests, abilities, and disabilities. Some learn best visually; others are auditory learners. Maybe English isn't their first language. Or perhaps a student has a physical, sensory, or learning disability. The challenge is to maximize learning for everyone in the class. Universal design can help you do that.
[Rodney Pennamon] I think that, really, the whole notion of universal design is really an exciting concept that really allows a professor to really explore a lot of different methods of teaching and instructing.
[Al Souma] And one method does not fit all students. Traditionally, we've always used the oral method of teaching, but universal design offers us other avenues. More options. Therefore, we can reach more students.
Outside
[Sheryl] Universal design isn't new. It's been applied in building construction for many years. Doors with sensors open for everyone, regardless of their size, their ability to walk, their strength, and an armload of books. In education, universal design means instructors anticipate student needs, rather than simply react to them.
[Rodney] I try to teach to all different ability levels, all different interest levels... and so showing the captioned videos, having discussion groups, finding different ways...to really capture their knowledge and kind of breaking out of that traditional mold that I think we've become accustomed to sometimes in higher education.
[Narrator] Universal design of instruction strives to make the environment, teaching methods, curriculum materials, and all other aspects of instruction accessible to all students, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
The goal is to maximize the learning for everyone.
[Linda Walter] Good teaching is good teaching. And if you use really good strategies, it really benefits everybody in the class, not just the students with disabilities.
[Narrator] Universal design can be looked at as a process in which teachers proactively plan for students with diverse characteristics, or as a set of strategies for inclusive curriculum and instruction.
[Grace Hanson] Not knowing who you have as an audience, what their level of preparation might be, what their life experience is, what their cultural background might be, when you present materials in a variety of different formats...you're going to reach as many individuals as you can and assist them to be successful.
[Narrator] Universal design of instruction can be applied to lectures, discussions, visual aids, video presentations, printed materials, labs, and field work.
[Student] That is awesome.
[Narrator] And again, it improves instruction for everyone in the class.
A teacher releases a ball.
[Professor] Bang...
[Christina DeMille] A really good professor, to me, is someone who is obviously engaged when in class; you can always tell, because they face the class when they're talking; they make eye contact with specific students...they'll make comments about coming to see them at office hours; and you can really tell that they are interested in your learning and interested in you getting something out of the class.
[Narrator] Flexibility is key. Select curriculum materials that can be accessed in more than one way, use a variety of methods for teaching content, and offer alternative ways to participate in class activities. These examples apply universal design.
Class Climate In a classroom. In an inset, students work at lap top computers. In a classroom.
[Deborah Casey] I might put on my course syllabus, "If you have questions or concerns that I could assist you with in regards to the class itself," to come and see me. And what that does is it allows any student who has an issue that needs to be addressed to be taken care of.
A girl types at a computer. A student peers into a telescope. As a professor speaks to a class, a man interprets using sign language.
[Deb] When I'm in the classroom, I'm looking at each student as an individual...So I might use audio, visual, and kinesthetic methods to get across the information I want to share with my students. So rather than just look at one learning style, I try to diversify to include and encompass a variety of methods to help all of my students learn.
A man speaks in front of a dry erase board.
[Christina] What I find helpful is when a professor hands out an outline or some kind of summary of what he's going to talk about, either daily or weekly, because I find that when taking notes, it's kind of hard to listen to what they're saying at the same time, and still get the level of detail and the level of information that you want in your notes.
A student watches a video.
[Deb] One of the suggestions that was made was to create some documents of my course in alternative format. And I was concerned about doing that, because I'd have to prepare my lectures ahead of time to put in alternative format. So at the beginning I was frustrated, because I thought it would be difficult for me to coordinate my course work up front, put it on line, and at the time I was thinking it was really for a few students who may need that as an accommodation. In the end it benefited me; I was prepared for the course work; and the students actually, in all of the courses, commented at the end of the semester that it was beneficial to them.
[Scott Laurent] What I found is that when professors were well prepared, when they thought about different ways of presenting the information, different ways of explaining the information, when they think through that process and come in the classroom ready to teach, that I learned more. Interaction
A dark-haired girl is wearing safety goggles in a lab.
[John Pedraza] I use my computer to design my course, to put my material in electronic format, to put my outline or my lecture notes on line; and then that way my students can get access to that whenever they need the material. I don't have to make copies to hand out that way.
A teacher works with a student in a classroom. A teacher and a student wear safety goggles in a lab. A student is sitting at a table.
Tests should include questions that require a variety of responses, such as multiple choice and essay.
In a classroom.
Of course, there are still going to be times when you'll need to provide accommodations, such as a sign language interpreter for a student who is deaf. But applying universal design will minimize the need for these accommodations.
[Richard Ladner] One can do some very generic things that'll work most of the time, you know, for example, making sure that you know your class lectures are in some accessible form, like electronic form for example. Very simple things like that. And I think most of us do that nowadays anyway in the electronic age after all. One thing maybe I should do is do a kind of a test with this image....
[Narrator] Universal design is measured on a continuum. A first step could be getting course materials on a Website. The ideal is to make sure those notes are presented in a universally accessible way.
[Meryl Berstein] Although it might take a faculty member a lot of extra time to create the materials that they want to teach in their classroom through universal design, once they do it, it's done. And then their planning time and their execution time will be minimal in the future.
[Sheryl] Outside the classroom, universal design can be applied to tutoring and learning centers. And the same principles apply. Make sure students can get to your facility and maneuver within it. Once inside, all students should be able to access printed and electronic resources, and be able to participate in all learning activities.
[Kristina Michaels] We want to make it accessible for all students who want to study in our centers.
The screen reads "Tutoring and Learning Centers". A female student sets down a stack of books near a lamp.
[Kristina] Anytime, you know, a student should come in and express a need that they have, we definitely address their need, and find out how it is that we can best assist them.
On the chalk board, happy faces pop onto the screen.
Universally designed instruction makes everyone feel welcome and fully included in the learning process. It assures access to course content and learning activities for all students.
[Sheryl] We have more information on the universal design of instruction.
Back with our host:
Our goal is to help you make your curriculum accessible to students with disabilities. By doing that, you'll make your instruction better for everyone.