Curriculum and professional development using the universal design for learning framework : a case study with an action research component
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that has the potential to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014). However, because the UDL framework is a relatively recent development, limited studies address curriculum and professional development using the UDL framework in higher-level institutions. In this study, I used Merriam’s (1998) step-by-step process of designing a qualitative case study. In particular, a practical action research component was used to improve my own practice and training skills and to help me document how an educational problem was understood and solved (Sagor, 2000). This study had 4 participants (one Chilean, one Korean, one Chinese, and one Filipina) from an international graduate school who were purposively selected according to specific criteria. The duration of the data collection was 5 weeks. I used observations, interviews, documents (journals and lesson plans), and literature to collect data. As a result of this study I learned (a) UDL requires a healthy productive learning environment conducive to learning prepared and accessible for all the students, providing the same opportunity for all of them to learn and grow to their full potential; (b) I developed a UDL adaptation manual and syllabus, and (c) an instructional video to enhance the curriculum and professional development of the teachers; (d) as a trainer, I was able to help teachers implement techniques, structures, and strategies and adapt them to the UDL framework using the training model based on Joyce and Showers’ (2002) work. The data collected from the participants suggests the UDL framework enriched the participant’s professional development because they learned (a) different ways to cater to the needs of every student in school, (b) effective ways to eliminate learning barriers, (c) to think about the students while preparing the lesson, and (d) to make an intentional effort to provide multiple ways of presenting the materials, multiple ways for students to express what they learned, and multiple ways of engaging them in the learning process. As a result of this study, I also developed and designed a detailed action plan to use the next time I conduct training.