The Journey of UDL
A world of possibilities opens up to two educational “missionaries”
by Dr. Lisa M. Wisniewski and Dr. John S. Kania
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that our Universal Design for Learning (UDL) journey began only three years ago and that we have accomplished so much. As an institution, Goodwin University has completed three faculty cohorts of UDL professional learning (with a fourth already launched!); hosted two national conferences; and launched the Goodwin University Institute for Learning Innovation; which disseminates information on the application of the UDL framework in higher education.
As a team, UDL has taken the two of us around the world and afforded us the opportunity to present scholarship at multiple conferences, including the Oxford Roundtable Symposiums at Oxford University. We were able to introduce the work of our Goodwin UDL learning community to other US scholars in Europe. We were named “UDL missionaries with zeal” and hoped our excitement about the topic was evident and contagious!
When we arrived back home, we prepared for another conference, this time the CAST Annual Symposium at Harvard Law School. At this conference, we connected and shared best practices with professionals in the New England area who wanted to advance UDL in their classrooms and institutions.
Travel for 2019 ended at the Learning Assistance Association of New England (LAANE) regional conference in Greenfield, Massachusetts. We presented on engagement in the classroom and introduced UDL techniques to the faculty members, tutors, and advisors in attendance.
As exciting as 2019 was, the new year is shaping up to be just as thrilling. Our proposal for the LEAP conference in Houston has been accepted, and we still have few pending proposals we are waiting to hear back on.
Why are we so passionate about UDL? As educators, the professional journey has been — and continues to be — amazing. The extensive training has brought our Goodwin University colleagues together into a community of practice, where we can reflect, discuss, and conduct research.
Most important, of course, is the transformational experience for our students. With UDL, students and instructors have the opportunity to choose their educational paths. We see our students grow, persist, and retain information. It is a privilege to be part of their development.
We are humbled to be a part of this revolution and are committed to sharing this success with the research community.
So, where will UDL take you in 2020?
Dr. John Kania is an associate professor of English at Goodwin University. He began his career in education at the elementary level teaching, nearly all grades from preschool through graduate school. John is one of Goodwin’s UDL-trained Teaching Fellows, and his primary area of expertise is Developmental English. Among other conferences, John has presented at the New England Educational Assessment Network, the New England Educational Research Organization, the Learning Assistance Association of New England, a regional affiliate of National Association of Developmental Education, CAST’s UDL Conference, the International Symposium on Second Language Writing, and the International Round Table Symposiums.
Lisa Wisniewski is an assistant professor of sociology at Goodwin University. She earned her doctorate from the University of Hartford and her research is focused on first-generation college students and immigrant students. She has presented her research regionally, nationally, and internationally.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.