As a learner, I have a strong preference for taking in information aurally, and thus listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks. I had been listening to the ThinkUDL Podcast hosted by Lillian Nave for several months when she asked me to come on the podcast to discuss my recent workshop at the Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education Conference at Goodwin College. I was honored to have this opportunity as a listener of the podcast and an admirer of the work Lillian does with her team to bring conversations about teaching and UDL to a wide audience. I especially appreciate that one of the goals of the podcast is to bring conversations and content from conferences to wider audiences, as there are many barriers to in-person attendance at conferences.
Knowing that my interview would be available to the public was slightly nerve-wracking, but Lillian did a lot to make the process fun and accessible. She let me know a few of the questions she would ask ahead of time so I could prepare notes, and also let me know that the recording would be edited and that I could “do-over” a sentence or thought if I needed to. I think those are important teaching principles too (clarity around expectations, and opportunities for students to correct mistakes).
During the podcast, Lillian and I discuss a model of instructor development that has been very important in my work as an educational developer – in which teachers’ concerns progress from personal credibility, to content delivery, to facilitation of learning, and eventually back again to the beginning of the cycle in new teaching contexts. Please read my detailed post about this model of instructor development here.
Lillian and I discussed the idea that even experienced instructors cycle back to “stage 1” when they start teaching in a new environment, be it a different physical classroom space, a course they haven’t taught before, or even just a new semester with a unique group of students. Thus, this model focuses on the present experience of instructors and the unique situational factors they may be facing at a given moment, and less on their “seniority” or “career stage.” A TA who has been teaching the same discussion for several years may be exploring student-centered learning approaches in stage 3, while an associate professor teaching a survey course for the first time may be focused on classroom management techniques in stage 1.
The UDL approach acknowledges and celebrates learner variability, and provides multiple ways to engage in any given learning experience. This model of instructor development helps me think about the variety of faculty learners who might be in a workshop or course that I facilitate, and helps me design different activities and engagement strategies for participants at different stages of the cycle. I also use this model as a metacognitive exercise for participants, asking them to identify where they see themselves in the cycle that day. This activity both normalizes the dynamic and cyclical nature of teaching development, and helps participants focus their learning for their current state of mind and teaching context.