During my tenure as a Faculty Fellow at ACERT, I led a series of workshops where over 30 faculty, staff, and students joined forces to learn about the principles and practices of Universal Design and its application in higher education.
The student body at Hunter College is exceptionally diverse with regard to race, ethnicity, native language, culture, age, learning style, background knowledge, ability, gender, veteran status, and other characteristics. For us faculty and staff, this means that we have to continuously challenge ourselves to design our teaching in ways that is welcoming, usable, and accessible to students with a broad range of characteristics, including students with disabilities.
During my tenure as a Faculty Fellow at Hunter’s Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching (ACERT), I led a series of workshops (i.e., a Lunchtime Seminar during Fall 2015, and a Teaching Scholarship Circle during Spring 2016) where over 30 faculty, staff, and students joined forces to learn about the principles and practices of Universal Design and its application in higher education. Through reading, invited speakers, and discussion, faculty learned about incremental changes in their own courses that give students (1) multiple ways of acquiring information and knowledge, (2) alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and (3) a range of opportunities to actively engage with the course content.
Moving educational innovations into practice is always a bumpy road, and often requires a group of champions to take the lead and demonstrate that the innovation is feasible and effective within a given institution, an honest look at potential barriers (e.g., time and workload constraints), and a strategy for spreading the innovation throughout the institution. We hope these events created enough momentum to continue implementing Universal Design of Learning strategies at Hunter College in the future.
Michael Siller is Associate Professor of Psychology and was a 2015/16 Faculty Fellow at Hunter’s Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching (ACERT).