Week 8 Teaching Tips

Hello Faculty,

Welcome to week 8!  If you make it through this one, you get rewarded with a week off from classes for spring break.  During last week’s professional-development days, universal design was brought up more than once.  What is universal design?  How can it help create an inclusive learning environment?  What are things you can do in your classes to improve in this area to help students?  We will start to explore these questions here, and then look for future resources on this topic.

What is universal design, and how can I use it to increase learning?

“While courses, technology, and student services are typically designed for the narrow range of characteristics of the average student, the practice of universal design in education (UDE) considers people with a wide range of characteristics in the design of all educational products and environments. UDE goes beyond accessible design for people with disabilities to make all aspects of the educational experience more inclusive for students, parents, staff, instructors, administrators, and visitors with a great variety of characteristics. These characteristics include those related to gender, race and ethnicity, age, stature, disability, and learning style.​”  To learn more, go to: http://www.washington.edu/doit/universal-design-education-principles-and-applications

To see a 13-minute video overview of universal design and strategies to use to help you classes be more inclusive, go to: http://www.washington.edu/doit/videos/index.php?vid=13​ ​

Some easy things you can do in your class to make your learning environment more inclusive​

  • Use video captions.  If you show a video in class, turn the captions on.  If you provide links to videos, choose ones with text or captions.  This will not only help students with reduced hearing but also students who are English-language learners, visual learners, etc.
  • Post class materials online before class to provide all text in a digital format​.  This can help all students prepare for class, can help students who need to miss class, and can help students who need to convert materials (for example, into braille).  If a student can read your class materials and gain as much learning as attending class, then modify your materials and class time so that students gain learning in class that they could not gain on their own.
  • Provide various ways for all students to participate.  If you like to pose questions to the class and hear responses from a few students, first have students do a pair up to answer the question so that all students get the chance to respond in their pairs.  If students are assessed for participation, provide multiple ways for students to participate such as writing their answers in class and turning them in, bringing resources to the class/group in the next class session, posting on online Discussion between classes, or submitting a response online or in the next class.  As we heard from the disability student panel next week, writing or speaking in class can create anxiety for students, and these methods can allow students to participate in other ways.
  • Experiment with moving the tables and chairs in your classroom to see what works best for you and your students.  For example, if you have an interpreter in your class, moving tables so students sit in a circle provides more places that the interpreter and student can communicate.
  • Include various types of assessments in your classes so that students have many ways to demonstrate skills.  Including many low-stakes assessments can reduce anxiety for all students (and can help to decrease cheating).  These might be ungraded tasks in class or between classes or smaller assignments or quizzes building up to larger assignments or exams.  Scaffolding skills can help all learners.
  • Include various teaching methods and order of activities in your classes.  As we heard in the student panel on Friday, some students love lectures and some hate them.  Breaking up your lectures with activities or breaking up your activities with explanations and clarifications can help all students.  Different students not only benefit from different learning strategies but also different sequences of activities.  For example, some students learn best by first hearing an explanation then  seeing a visual, and other students might learn best in the opposite order.

How can I see all D2L Discussion posts from a single student?   (Thanks to Beth Jensen at Bemidji State for sharing this tip)

  1. Click the drop down arrow next to the Topic and click Edit Topic.
  2. Click the Assessment tab and enter a Score Out Of point value.  Even if you do not plan to grade the discussion, add a number.
  3.     If you wish to send scores to the grade book, choose the appropriate grade item.  NOTE: if grading Group Discussions, skip this step; you will need to manually enter the scores in the grade book.
  4. Save and Close.

To Assess or Read the Topic Postings:

  1.     Click the drop down arrow next to the Topic name and click Assess Topic.
  2. For each student, click the Topic Score link.  Scroll down to view all posts made by that student.
  3.     To send a score to the Grades, scroll up and enter a score and click the Published box.  You can also type feedback the student will see.  ​NOTE: For Group Discussions, manually enter scores in the grade book.
  4. Save and Close, repeat for next student.
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