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UDL theory into practice: Dr Angelica Risquez

We asked our faculty and staff at the University of Limerick to give us examples of how they have implemented Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In this example, Dr Angelica Risquez, Centre for Transformative Learning, tells us about the UDL changes she made to an existing module and the effect it had on her students.

Summary:

I re-designed a three-credit module (Blended Learning) which is delivered to a cohort of academics in our Graduate Diploma for Teaching, Learning and Scholarship to facilitate multiple means of expression, increase mastery-oriented feedback, and make progress towards student-generated feedback.

Details

Department: Centre for Transformative Learning 
Faculty: Interfaculty 
Discipline: Education 
Class size: 15 
Cohort: Mature learners of HE teachers
Tools used: Collaborative documents 
Tags: #UDL #Assessment #PeerReview

UDL principles used

✓ Multiple means of engagement
✓ Multiple means of representation
✓ Multiple means of expression 

What motivated the change?

It coincided with the swift move to online learning as a result of the Covid-19 emergency situation, but more importantly, I focused on optimising the relevance, value, and authenticity of the syllabus, sacrificing some content on the way in favour of activities that focused on interaction and collaboration.

Which UDL principles I met

Multiple means of engagement

  • collaborative learning contract for the module: I created a collaborative learning contract for the module using Padlet, where participants had a chance to suggest how they would engage in order to guarantee the success of the module and maximize their own learning. I compiled a summary of their contributions and referred to this learning contract at different times during the module.
  • weekly e-tivities: The syllabus was re-structured around weekly e-tivities that included elements of independent acquisition and investigation, followed by application to practice through collaborative, discursive and productive group tasks using Padlet, Wakelet, open Microsoft documents, etc.
  • checklists: Participants were provided with a weekly checklist in the VLE to monitor their own progress. 
  • ongoing monitoring and feedback gathering
  • peer evaluation based on rubrics
  • negotiated approach to grading: during one of the life webinars, the class decided on the grade breakdown for the assessment and peer review exercise, and the number of reviews required.

Multiple means of representation

In the past, module participants had found it difficult to navigate self-guided study materials and struggled to understand the criteria behind the application to practice. Renewed emphasis on providing multiple means of representation included: 

  • recorded introduction to the module and sessions
  • breaking content into more manageable chunks
  • ensuring the accessibility of materials

Multiple means of expression

  • a more authentic approach to assessment: participants had a choice on the aspect of their teaching that they wished to re-design for a blended and online delivery, were encouraged to underpin their choice on previous evidence and reflection and were supported to choose the scale of their innovation, which a view to applying these changes in the next semester and evaluate the impact on their students’ learning.
  • using multiple tools for construction and composition (in this case, a visual storyboard)
  • flexible formats for submission: The format of the assessment is more flexible, with a choice between written report or video, and choice over diverse software and format for storyboard (MS Planner, Powerpoint, picture, Trello, and Padlet).

Read more about my UDL implementation here

What was the result?

The result has been very satisfactory from a personal perspective, and the feedback was really supportive about the accessibility of the material; the support received; having a voice on the running of the module; the variety of the approach; the building of a sense of community; and the depth and breadth of the curriculum covered. I also received suggestions for improvement which will inform my future practice.

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