Universal Design for Learning in Action: How to talk to colleagues about UDL with Dr Thomas Tobin

November 09, 2023 ADCET/Dr Thomas Tobin
Universal Design for Learning in Action: How to talk to colleagues about UDL with Dr Thomas Tobin
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Universal Design for Learning in Action: How to talk to colleagues about UDL with Dr Thomas Tobin
Nov 09, 2023
ADCET/Dr Thomas Tobin

ADCET welcomed Dr Thomas Tobin as one of the presenters for our inaugural UDL Symposium with his Workshop "How to Talk with Your Colleagues about Universal Design for Learning". This podcast is an audio version of that workshop.

As instructors and support professionals, we should advocate for our colleagues around us to design their interactions with students to be as broadly accessible and inclusive as possible, in order to foster greater student agency, autonomy, and satisfaction. In the process, our collective work to support learners in addressing access barriers can shift to focus more energy on more challenging concerns.

This advocacy starts with grassroots champions who can help colleagues with practical advice, as well as lobby campus leaders for funds, resources, and time toward inclusive-design efforts. This webinar shared concrete strategies for how to approach colleagues in productive ways to talk about universal design for learning (UDL) in their own work. It also explored how to talk with your campus leaders to get them to see the positive impact of UDL on campus operations (and on the budget), especially during times of disruption.

You can view the full presentation recording and slides on the ADCET website. 

Show Notes Transcript

ADCET welcomed Dr Thomas Tobin as one of the presenters for our inaugural UDL Symposium with his Workshop "How to Talk with Your Colleagues about Universal Design for Learning". This podcast is an audio version of that workshop.

As instructors and support professionals, we should advocate for our colleagues around us to design their interactions with students to be as broadly accessible and inclusive as possible, in order to foster greater student agency, autonomy, and satisfaction. In the process, our collective work to support learners in addressing access barriers can shift to focus more energy on more challenging concerns.

This advocacy starts with grassroots champions who can help colleagues with practical advice, as well as lobby campus leaders for funds, resources, and time toward inclusive-design efforts. This webinar shared concrete strategies for how to approach colleagues in productive ways to talk about universal design for learning (UDL) in their own work. It also explored how to talk with your campus leaders to get them to see the positive impact of UDL on campus operations (and on the budget), especially during times of disruption.

You can view the full presentation recording and slides on the ADCET website. 

PRESENTER: Welcome to this ADCET Podcast, your gateway to the world of inclusive education in the post-secondary sector.

As part of ADCET’s long-running commitment to supporting Universal Design for Learning or UDL we are running a special series of podcasts called “UDL in Action - the What, Why, and How”

In this episode, extracted from a workshop at the recent ADCET UDL Symposium, we bring you “How to Talk with your colleagues about Universal Design for Learning” facilitated by Thomas Tobin. During this engaging and insightful workshop Thomas presented ways in which you can have meaningful discussions with colleagues and leadership in advocating the principles of UDL to address the access needs of all students at your institution. We hope you leave this podcast with renewed energy and new ways to engage with, and inspire others to join the UDL journey. Now here is Tom.

THOMAS: thank you, everybody, for being part of our workshop today. My name is Tom Tobin. I'm with the University of Wisconsin‑Madison in the United States. I'm grateful to be here as part of the inaugural UDL Symposium sponsored by ADCET.

This workshop we are going to talk about how to talk to people who aren't here at the UDL Symposium about universal design for learning in a way that gets them to want to work with you. First, let me introduce myself in a descriptive way. I'm a white man with grey hair and black glasses and a big black moustache. Also, let's talk about a little bit of housekeeping for our workshop today. This is going to be an interactive session, and what I would love for you to have by the time you are finished is a way that you can spark conversations with people who might not know a lot about universal design for learning at your institutions.

With that in mind, since we are using Zoom in the meeting function, you have control over your camera and your microphone. So if you would keep your microphone muted while you are not talking, that will give a better audio experience for all of us here, and if you would like to have your camera on, I love seeing smiling faces and people's reactions. If you would like to have your camera off for any reason, please go ahead and turn it off.

Lastly, I'm totally interruptible today. There is no Q&A function so we are going to use the chat for whatever we've got going, and thank you, Kathleen, in the chat for saying a very impressive moustache. This is one of my calling cards. And when we are talking with each other, you also now have the option to come on the microphone. And you can find that under reactions and raise hand. If you raise your hand we will acknowledge you and you can come on the microphone, if something that we're talking about sparks a story you want to give support to something someone else said, or you would like to ask a question.

So with that in mind, let's actually dive into our workshop. On your screen now is a title slide that says how to talk to your colleagues about universal design for learning. There is the ADCET logo and there is a photo of me smiling in a suit. So as we get started, I would like to go a little bit beyond the book. My colleague, Kirsten Bealing, and I wrote a book called Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, UDL in Higher Education. There is an image of that book on your screen. Behind it are three other images. One of them shows a kangaroo hopping past a building that’s on fire during some of the wildfires that ravaged across Australia in recent years. In the middle photograph there is a woman in a sweater or a jumper and she's got a tissue up to her nose. She is home sick. There is a third image of a car broken down by the side of a roadway. All of these are reasons to adopt universal design for learning. And we didn't talk about any of them in the book. We are going to go a little bit beyond that today.

So climate events can keep our students away from the formal spaces and places that we have designed for them, whether those are in‑person spaces or online or technology mediated spaces. Our students can get sick, right? So it could be COVID, it could be the common cold, or anything in between. And bad things and bad luck can happen as well. You get a flat tyre, you run behind on your schedule. There is a lot of different reasons why life intrudes on our lives as well as the lives of our students. And I see Kathleen in the chat is talking about modelling incorporating verbal descriptions of the images. So thank you very much for noticing that we are doing that today.

And as we start thinking about how to talk about universal design for learning with other folks, I want to suggest something a little radical. You probably by now know the official definition of universal design for learning from the neuroscientists at CAST. It used to be called the Centre for Applied Special Technologies in Boston Massachusetts. When we talk about the three principles of UDL and the 31 checkpoints that are backed by research about how you can implement universal design for learning in learning interactions, our colleagues' eyes can kind of glaze over and they think, "Boy, that sounds like it's a lot of work, it sounds like it's really complex. It sounds like something I have to change what I do and how I do it." And that's the furthest thing from the truth, but starting with, "Here is 31 things for you to think about", that doesn't work all that well.

So in our workshop, let's start doing a little thinking together. So I see that we've got ‑ what is it ‑ 105 of us here today, which is a good number to do a little thinking. On your screen now is a group of students. They are all in a classroom. And most of them are looking off camera paying attention, I think, to the instructor. There is one student who is in the front of the classroom and she is turning right to you and handing over a piece of paper. Many of us are familiar with that disability accommodations paperwork. And when the student hands over that paper to one of your colleagues ‑ let's assume it's one of your instructor colleagues ‑ I would like to ask ‑ and we won't put music on or time ‑ but let's do a little thought experiment here. What should your colleague say to the student who is handing over the disability accommodation paperwork? I will put this question in the chat: what should your colleague say to this student? And you can post something in the chat or you can use the raise hand feature in Zoom. We will recognise you and you can come on to the microphone as well. But what should your colleague say to that student?

Andy says, “we don't have paper anymore, it's always email”. Okay, fair. When the instructor gets the email, what should they say to the student? We will take a couple of seconds to pause here and let folks think and respond. While you are thinking, did you know most instructors when they ask, "Are there any questions?", or they give students a prompt to think about, they wait an average of 6 seconds before they just barge right back into the lecture. So I wanted to make sure we gave you more than 6 seconds to do a little thinking and responding.

I see that ‑ I don't see anybody with a hand up in the Zoom session but, of course, you can use that raise hand feature. It's under reactions. It might be under your "more" menu in Zoom. We've got a lot of responses coming in through the chat. Let's see if we can find some patterns among these things in the chat. Jayne says, "Thank you, how can I best support you." A lot of people are putting thumbs up in support for that one. “Thank you, what works best for you.” Kashmira says “try to know the needs of the student first”. Tabitha says, “how can I help you get the most out of our session”. Belinda says, “what has and hasn't worked in the past”. Jacqui is saying “thanks for this, how can I help you learn in addition to this, is the plan enough?” Often it doesn't cover things that might help. Mel is asking the student “would you like to have a chat?” John says, “it's always good to have feedback”.

We have a bunch of things running around the theme of “thanks very much, how can I help”, and “what does the student need in order to be able to learn well”. Fantastic. That is wonderful. That is the correct answer to this question. But this is a two‑part question.

Now, the same image on the screen. The student is paying attention and the one student handing over the disability support paperwork. But the question is different. How might your colleague actually feel when they get that paperwork? How might your colleague actually feel when they receive that paperwork? Oh my gosh. The things are coming into the chat so fast. Okay. So “stressed. Oh, no, not again. Anxious. Oh, great, more work. Irritated, more work. Sigh. Scared, nervous, worried about discriminating. Oh, no, not another one. Some people are annoyed often by the extensions. Fearful thinking they lack knowledge or the time. What do I do? Is that for real? Am I giving this student an advantage over the other students? I don't know what to do with this. Don't we have disability people to take care of this for me?”

Okay. So let's pause for a moment and thank you, everybody, for doing this little thought experiment with me to get our workshop started. When I asked how should our colleagues respond about the disability paperwork, you all did very well with that question, but it took you a minute. I imagine some of you were thinking is there a trick to this question? No, it was a straightforward question. But when I asked how your colleagues actually might feel, I couldn't talk fast enough to keep up with all the things that were coming through the chat. And you notice that those feelings were often negative emotions. Angry that perhaps this is work that we didn't see coming or it's "extra" work. It's not, it's the law. Or nervousness that if I do this wrong or I don't have enough information or background knowledge to respond well. Or it was confusion. How do I do this? This is a different thing than other accommodations I might have seen in the past. And a couple of people are saying, you know, the faculty colleague or the instructor is happy that the student is getting the attention but for every one of those responses there were 12 people saying, you know, what do I need to change in my course? Or is this being fair to the other students? Am I giving this one student an advantage?

Now, let's give ourselves credit. We would never say those emotional things to the student. There is that one person who does but we don't like that person all that much. We would never say that stuff out loud. Most of us would do what is necessary and do what is right. And Darren is saying in the chat “Oh my God, I know that person.” No names.

But the point of this thought exercise is when we say universal design for learning to our colleagues back home at our institutions, they will think about their experiences with student disability accommodations. And all of those negative emotions that can go along with them, even though we don't say those things out loud, will colour their experience of when we share universal design for learning with everyone else on our campuses and at our institutions.

So when we start thinking about how do we frame UDL for our colleagues, we have to be aware that their experience of inclusive design often begins and ends with their experience of working with a disability support office and with students who have disability barriers in their environments. So thanks, everybody, for the little bit of a thought exercise to get us thinking.

Part 1 of our workshop is UDL advocacy. On your screen is an image of the Australian actress Shareena Clanton speaking through a megaphone at a rally for Aboriginal rights. And she is sending a clear message about what she wants other people to know and do. And we want to do something similar in terms of UDL. And Andy is in the chat saying if we can share UDL as alleviating some of that stress and some of that workload, then it's win‑win. Andy is on the track I want everybody to think about today. Thank you for posting that in the chat. Good timing.

On the screen ‑ you saw this perhaps in the keynote a little bit ago ‑ this is a group of students all studying together in a classroom. And there is the official definition of UDL on the screen, giving students multiple means of engagement, so how do they get engaged with us and then stick with us when things get challenging. Multiple means of representation. So putting captions, transcripts, having alternative versions of multimedia. And multiple ways to show what you know, for people to take action and express themselves. We also talked in the keynote about + 1 thinking, simplifying things down to if there is one way for an interaction to happen now ‑ and I will expand on this ‑ if there is one way for learners to interact with materials ‑ and that's where we always start, our web pages, our virtual learning environments, our content that we post up on YouTube, or wherever we put it ‑ but also if there is one way for learners to interact with each other, with us as instructors, with support staffers at our institutions, with the wider community ‑ if there is one way for any of that to happen now, we can make one more way. And that's a wonderful starting point for universal design for learning.

I love Rae's comment here in the chat that Shareena Clanton and the other image, “her expression is gold, full of energy, passion, confidence and strength”. Those are words that I hope will describe you when you are talking about universal design for learning with your colleagues at your institution.

So here is how I like to frame universal design for learning. My hope is that you will start taking some notes for yourself, or maybe use the chat feature or you can use the raise hand feature to come on the microphone and let's start putting together a message that will resonate with your colleagues, with your support staff and especially with your institutional leadership. On the screen is a worker in a factory. She is wearing a white coat and a red hoodie. She has a plastic net over her hair. She is using a long grabbing tool to take an apple off of a conveyor belt full of apples. What I want to do with this image is to say that universal design for learning actually reduces the need to make routine accommodations. Will we ever get to the point where, you know, we won't have to do disability accommodations? No. We will still do one change one time for one person. But we can make it so that far fewer people have to say, "Please treat me differently." And we have lots of ‑ we have lots of research and data that show us that inclusively designed environments help people not to have to claim accommodations because they are just designed to be multiple format or multiple path. So that's one part of the argument that I like to make.

Another part of the argument is providing more time for study and preparation. When is the last time you heard your colleagues say, "My students haven't done the reading. My students aren't prepared for class. My students sit there like lumps and they don't engage." Right? So when we think about universal design for learning, our students, many of them are traditional 18‑year‑old freshmen students but many of them are also returning adults, many of them, even your traditional 18 to 22‑year‑old students, they have family responsibilities, work responsibilities. They are definitely jamming their studies into already busy lives that they need more time for studying. So on your screen is a woman at home, she is sitting on her couch, she has her book bag open, textbook open. She is writing on her notebook on her lap, and her young son is asleep on her lap clutching a stuffed animal to his chest. You can imagine if she’s a single mum, she has to drive her son to school, then maybe drive further to work, then drive back, pick him up, and maybe drive to campus to take an evening course with one of us. All of that travel ‑ whether that travel is from the residence halls to your classroom, or travelling many kilometres in a circuit around your locality, all of that travel is time that usually isn't for study.

But if her instructors posted the readings in PDF in a place where she could get at them on her mobile device ‑ and I'm holding up my phone now ‑ she could use a read it out loud to me app ‑ and there is hundreds of free ones out there on the Google Playstore or Apple iTunes store. Most of them were people’s PhD projects. She could transmit that information through the speakers in her car and she has just found 20 more minutes for study that she didn't have before. And the challenge that we face is when we are talking with our colleagues, you notice I didn't mention disability yet. And it's counterintuitive, but if we start with a disability argument, our colleagues will only hear us with a small percentage of their ears if you want to use a metaphor here. They will think, "Oh, our colleague is only talking about the 2 or 3 students in my 25‑person class who have claimed a disability accommodation."

What our colleagues fail to realise is that it's more like 1 out of every 3 students in our institutions could claim a disability accommodation. And many of them do not for reasons of stigma, for reasons of cost, or for reasons of complexity or for personal reasons. So the argument about disability typically doesn't ‑ isn't a good starting point. And I have to be very careful when I say that in a workshop like this. I am an advocate for the rights of people with disability barriers in their environments to get an education. When I'm talking with campus leaders, though, I want to talk to ‑ I want to talk to big budget level things. And I see we've got a wonderful side conversation rolling in the chat. Keep that going. That's fantastic.

So let's do a little deeper dive and let's actually do the workshop part of our workshop. Thank you for sticking with me in the introductory times here. So as we are thinking through all of our ideas together, I would like to offer three different frames in which you could make an argument to your campus leaders and to your colleagues. There is a visual pun on your screen. There are three picture frames turned with their back to us, and this is my really bad visual pun way of introducing these frameworks or three framing devices. The first frame is scope. When we think about universal design for learning, we always talk first about what individual instructors or individual staff members can do in their own work with learners. I would like to suggest that universal design for learning works best when it is done at scale, meaning, UDL if an entire department adopts it, an entire school, an entire University, an entire institution adopts universal design principles, then it is much more difficult for one person to say, "Yeah, I don't buy all that stuff. You progressive people can do all that handholdy stuff. I'm just going to teach how I was taught and lecturer is just fine with me and my students can sink or swim. It's appropriate that some of them fail." It is much harder for that person to say, "I'm going to continue to stick with my older ways of teaching when the entire institution says, "We are all moving toward this inclusive goal and we are going to support everyone to be able to get there." So scope.

Another frame that I would like to suggest has to do with the students on your screen who are flinging up their caps at graduation. This is the kind of image that most of our campus leaders, our Chancellors and Presidents, they love to share smiling graduates of the institution. So impact. We have 30 years of data ‑ and I would be happy to share that information with everybody ‑ we've got 30 years of data that show that inclusive design principles, especially universal design for learning, helps with student persistence, students are there on day 1 and they are still there to take the final exam or finish the course project. It helps with student retention. More students take a class with me this term and then come back next term and take a class with you and continue their educational journeys. And satisfaction. More students say that they felt supported, that they belonged, that they were part of the institution and that they recommend others to come and study there with us as well. So these are all keeping our pay cheques coming and keeping the lights on in the buildings kinds of arguments. Kate Mitchell says in the chat she says “yes, preach. I have been trying to sell UDL and accessibility around evidence for retention and student satisfaction because there is real evidence of this and it affects the bottom dollar.”

I hate to be crass, at the same time these kind of arguments are the kind of things that your campus leaders are already thinking about when they are looking at other campus‑wide initiatives. And that is why my last frame to suggest for all of you is the budget. On your screen are some budget documents with a pen and a calculator sitting on top of them. When we think about whether our students belong, whether our students feel like they have voice, choice, agency, safety and belonging, that translates to a leadership argument to say more students will stick with us. If it costs us ‑ and we have data on this for North America where I practise, and there is also data for Australia where you folks are as well ‑ if it costs us $10 in marketing efforts to find a brand-new student and bring them into our institution, it usually costs us only about $2 every year in programming and services to keep the student with us. But if that student drops out, then we have to spend our $10 again to go find another student. So it's actually a lot cheaper to invest in the support services and principles like UDL to help keep the students we already have. We've already looked under all the other rocks and places where we try to find new populations of students, and usually the one population we haven't really looked at is the ones who are still with us, who are right here with us.

Belinda is asking is there a link to the data and research demonstrating these benefits of investing in UDL or similar? I will point you to I will put that into the chat. That's where you can find links to a lot of this research. As well as the UDL IRN which stands for, which is another place where you can find links to this research. And right now the research is being done in a lot of these areas for higher education. This is people's doctoral dissertations within the last 3 or 4 years where we have a lot of the data and research to back up some of the statements I am saying in a general way with all of you. Kate is saying “for Australian context, there is proposed legislation around the Universities Accord which will put the emphasis on what the University is doing around student support”. Fantastic. Thank you.

Now that we've got the frames here, now that we've talked about some of the pitfalls of how our colleagues might hear us, let's actually put some words together. Here is more students from Business Insider Australia tossing up their caps at graduation. It's outdoors. And we talked about persistence, retention, satisfaction. These are the kinds of arguments that our leaders will listen to. But how do we get data for our own institutions that show what these larger studies are also showing? Justin is saying early in his UDL journey “I left many colleagues and educators looking like they came out of a wind tunnel after my UDL justification”. This is why I like to simplify this as much as we can. Your executives, your campus leaders, they will want to see the 40‑page report that you produce. But what they really want to see is the one‑page overview that helps them make decisions.

So I would like to ask what's your 5‑minute message? If you had, as the student on the screen has, a couple of minutes with the Chancellor or Director or leader of your institution. I'm going to put 5 minutes on the clock and we will play some music to hold some space for thinking and I will post the question in the chat. Remember, you can post your ideas in the chat. You can just lurk and take notes on a piece of paper for yourself. Or at the end of the five minutes, use the raise hand feature, it's under reactions, and we can recognise you, you can open your microphone and come on the microphone and share an idea as well. So let's get some music playing here. We will take 5 minutes to think about if you had five minutes, how would you frame your message to the leadership at your campus? Here comes the music.

That one ended a little abruptly with the music. We are coming back together. Thank you for posting your ideas in the chat. Anyone want to come on the microphone and share an idea about how you might want to talk with your leadership colleagues or other folks on your campus or institutions? I am not seeing any hands raised. This, by the way, is another universal design ‑ here is Kate Mitchell with a hand and a couple of other folks. I was about to say here is another UDL lesson. Even if no one chooses one of the options, it's still UDL. Kate, would you kindly unmute your microphone and share your idea, please?

KATE: Sure. Our institution is really having conversations around retention at the moment. So I think, where possible, trying to show that there is a clear link that there is something actionable we can do around retention and that's really around student support and universal design for learning. We are lucky here at University of New England that we are kind of in the midst of doing a big project around uplift and having some new design principles that will apply to all of our units that also includes UDL. So I think, you know, there is a little bit of a university strategic alignment there that helps. But I do really try and push that - we've got the new possibility of this support for students policy coming into action, which I can share in the chat. That's part of the University Accord I mentioned, as well as retention issues, and these will potentially support both of those as well as student engagement and satisfaction. Really it is trying to hit all of those key points around, you know, it might be financially and quality related that leadership might care about, especially where we are currently.

THOMAS: If I'm summarising a little bit of what I just heard you say, there are already mission, vision, values, policies that reflect things that universal design for learning also aims at, and if you can position UDL within those existing policies and goals, then you are already speaking the language that is part of the institution's path that it's trying to carve through the world. I love the way you are framing that. Thank you for starting us off. I see a couple of other hands. Let's take a look at some of the ideas in the chat and we will come back to the folks who are queued for the microphone. Belinda in the chat says, “I would tell my leadership instead of funding multiple ambulances at the bottom of the cliff, let's remove the cliff”. We've got a lot of laughing emojis and thumbs up and hearts for that one. I will also say ‑ I will be blunt and honest here ‑ that that kind of argument typically doesn't work with our campus leaders. By framing things as deficit or crisis, then you are just getting in a long line of other people who are saying deficit and crisis.

So one of the differences in the arguments that I like to share with folks is ‑ I'm going to scroll down in the chat and pick up another one ‑ Jacqui Tinkler says “I start with how it aligns to the University's strategic goals and how it helps compliance with organisations like TECSA and student safety and support. It is something that is an answer to their problem. In other words they have defined the challenge and we can use UDL to address that challenge or meet that need or satisfy that criteria.” And Jacqui continues by saying “then they are interested. Then you need to show evidence and results. Start by addressing those needs and they are thinking abstractly and not about individual students and staff. Then I work towards details if needed and we're getting there.” I love the way Jacqui is framing that. You know, Darren is talking in the chat about four brief points, good for students, good for staff, good for reputation and good for the bottom line. If you have some evidence for all of those little pieces, that actually works really well when you are having the conversation with campus leaders. Justin Wylie, I see your hand up. Would you like to unmute and be part of the conversation?

JUSTIN: Thanks, Thomas. Yeah, look, I have borrowed a lot of words from what you said, taking down notes furiously as you were speaking. I made a spiel - I often go way over the top. “Students are the reason that our institution exists, giving them belief, choice, agency and belonging means more students will feel supported to be successful in their studies. UDL allows us to be proactive to provide evidence‑based support for all students that will help with motivation, retention, and bear results. Our vision is to be the most inclusive University in Australia. That's part of our vision. And we want CQU students to have the best learning experience they have ever had and carry that knowledge and understanding of how to learn into their careers and lives.”

THOMAS: Did you all just hear what Justin said? He dangled bait in front of his campus leaders. He said this is an opportunity for us to be the best regional University among our peers. There is nothing our campus leaders want more than to be first in line in something. So I love that piece there. I'm going to pair, Justin, with what you said with what Amy Webster is saying in the chat, and that's an effective 1 and 2 for this. Amy says “think about a time when you needed to alter your hours to get to an appointment, or when you opted to Zoom into a meeting because you were feeling under the weather or when you left your camera off because you were eating your lunch at the same time due to back-to-back meetings that day. These are all examples of UDL and it isn't all about disability. You are already doing a lot of it and it is easier than you think.” I love the idea of putting administrators in the shoes of learners or asking them about how they accomplish their day by utilising affordances, and making barriers go away or get lowered in those ways.

And I want to end our time today with the next maybe 10, 15 minutes with a little thought exercise to wrap things up. And I see a couple of other folks had their hands up. In the interests of time, I want to make sure you can get on to your next workshops, but thank you everybody for all of the ideas that you have posted into the chat. We will be sharing these chats with everyone after the conference is over with as well.

Okay. On your screen now is the second part of what I wanted to share with everybody. And that is practices for universal design for learning. On the screen is a room with 7 doors on a wall and one of the doors is a different colour. So when we think about practising UDL and we want to get up to scale, we can make arguments in slightly different ways. Now on your screen is a street somewhere in Israel, and it has steps that go up the left‑hand side, there is a cat sitting on one of the steps, and on the right‑hand side is a set of ramps that go back and forth. By the way, this is really bad accessible design but there is someone pushing a colleague in a wheelchair up that ramp. And we can fall into the trap of doing things for our students versus designing agency into those interactions. And we do a lot of ‘doing for’ for a lot of our students, disabled and not. We do a lot of helping our students or giving them the lecture or giving them the idea. For example, I know a lot of faculty colleagues who bemoan the fact the students aren't engaged or haven't done the reading. When they say, “did you do the reading, can anybody summarise the reading?”, and its crickets and silence among the students. After a couple of minutes, the instructor goes into a lecture about the reading. What you are doing is you’re training your students to keep quiet so that you will show them or teach them or tell them what they should have done in the first place. So we do a lot of doing for rather than designing into.

This is an argument that really helps when we are talking with our faculty and instructor colleagues. Do you want to do less lecturing to students and have them more engaged? Do you want them to see value in doing the readings and preparation, then design some of these options into their content. Here is a quotation from a scholar. Her name is Elizabeth Gregory. This makes me break a presenter's rule. I will read this one to you. She says, “A system that focuses only on disorder and individualised interventions misses the opportunity to address trauma through relational repair in every interaction. It is not too far of a stretch to say that our students experience trauma when they are trying to navigate the systems that we have put into place. They don't have models for how those systems work and only we insiders really know all of the jargon, all of the steps, all of the forms, and we are talking not just about classroom instruction here, we are talking about the systems of our institutions as well.”

So when we think about UDL in fields like disability support services, like the folks from the Koori Deaf Mob who are standing outside in a conference that they were attending a little bit ago - and Kathleen is saying systems can cause us trauma too as well - when we think about support services for our students, we use UDL paradoxically to lower barriers and make our work more focused on the people who need the more intensive affordances. Jacqui is saying it is also powerful to see other students cared for and powerful to see trauma acknowledged, it shows a safer and caring place for everyone.

So while we were talking about those big budget conversations with your leaders, when you are talking with your faculty colleagues, acknowledge their challenges, lean on their shared experiences. Kate is saying in the chat how during the pandemic people are coming to terms with that collective trauma.

I would like to suggest, as we wrap up and do our final thought exercise for our conversation today, that there is really four different ways that we can approach UDL. And I mentioned these at the top of our conversation. So on the screen are some students writing in notebooks or working on their mobile phones, and also a student working at home on a laptop. How do students interact with materials? Can we make that + 1? How do students interact with each other? + 1 for that, with our institution with instructors and support people and how do they interact with the wider community. I love Rae's idea in the chat similar to the statement she has heard that “we can't empower people but we can stop disempowering them. We can guide students to strategies that are becoming increasingly available and useful for lots of folks”.

I would also like to suggest that the people on our campuses who need to carry this message probably aren't our disability support officers. In fact, when the disability support people speak up in the meeting, everyone else says, "Oh, yeah, they are just talking about the students with disabilities. And there can't be many of them, right?" Of course you hear the irony in my voice. We want to go beyond those individual inclusion plans. And we see some students around a table talking through some of those conversations.

As we wrap up, I would like you to do that role play over again in your head. You already have the ideas that we did for those five minutes. I would like to encourage you, on your own time after our session, describe what a UDL implementation would require so make the request to one of your leaders. Actually write this up in several pages. Or put on your leader hat and, from the perspective of one of your campus leaders, what would you want from an inclusive project that lots of people could get involved in? In other words, if there were going to be a message from the Chancellor that says, "We are moving in this direction and we will support everyone to do it", what would that look like? Or how would you frame, like one of our colleagues did at the beginning of our conversation ‑ how would you frame universal design for learning inside the existing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts already going on at your institution? Like the people on the screen here, these are faculty members at a faculty Senate meeting and one person is speaking into a microphone.

I would like to leave you with that charge and I would also like to leave you with two quick tricks that you can use. One of them ‑ here is the woman on her living room couch writing in her notebook again with her young son asleep on her lap ‑ one of the tricks you can use is go look at the language that is already in your guiding documents and see where universal design for learning echo’s that language. Make universal design for learning an answer to a challenge that your institution is already engaged about. And quick trick number 2, on your screen are two pilots. We are looking over their shoulders and we can see the instrument panel in their small plane. I am not talking about these pilots, I am talking about the word “pilot”. When you say, “we are going to do a universal design for learning pilot”, that means “we may never do it again. It doesn't matter if it was successful”, all that kind of stuff. So don't use the word "pilot" unless you are talking about someone flying a plane. Talk about phase 1 of the UDL implementation. That implies that there will be a phase 2 and 3 and 17 and so on down the line. I know that this is a very specific shift in the language, but when you talk about pilots, people don't give a lot of money to pilots and they don't put money in the budget every year for pilots but they do do it for campus‑wide implementations.

So here at the end of our workshop, I hope that you have learned something from your colleagues about how to talk with faculty, staff, and campus leaders once you get back to your role and your everyday work. And I would love to hear what your big takeaway is from the workshop too. Here again, if you saw this photo in the keynote is a table laden with food, guacamole, salsa, Mexican street corn, blackbeans and a litre Margarita in a jar. So what's your one takeaway? What's your one biggest takeaway from our workshop? And I will put the question into the chat. And I will read them off as quickly as we can put them into the chat. Or there is about 107 of us left here but “I will have the Margarita, please”, says Darren. Kerrie says, “very validating”, James loves the idea of changing language from pilot to phase 1, Rae says facilitation tips, Tabitha says “don't talk about pilots unless there are planes”, Amy says “invite Tom to come to our university”. I would be glad to, by the way. Cathy says, “Phase 1 replaces pilots”. Neil says, “practical skills”. Elizabeth says, “this was fantastic, I want to model this and I want to frame from a strengths‑based approach all the things to be gained”. Cathy says, “I’ll talk about phase 1”. People dig that Phase 1, don’t they? Jennifer says, “the concept of doing for versus designing into”. Chris says, “Frame by staff members' own experiences with affordances”. “Good reminder all around linking to strategic vision all the way”, says Kate. And there is a bunch of other ones coming into the chat, but I want to make sure we have time for passing on to the next set of workshops.

I hope you are enjoying the UDL Symposium. Thank you so much for being part of this workshop and being part of our event. I will turn it back over to our host for some closing comments.  

PRESENTER: Thanks for listening to our UDL Podcast series, UDL in Action, the What, Why and How. You can find out more about Universal Design for Learning by visiting our website at Thanks for listening. 

ADCET is committed to the self-determination of First Nations people and acknowledge the palawa/pakana peoples of lutruwita upon whose lands ADCET is hosted. We also acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands across Australia, and pay our deep respect to Elders past, present and emerging.