universal design for learning approach

UDL at Goodwin University: The Proactive Approach to Teaching

Goodwin University’s Master of Education program provides educators with an in-depth look at how their classrooms can thrive by advocating equity and inclusion. Through content heavily centered around the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, our master’s program participants focus on removing the barriers and providing pathways for their own learners. Assistant Professor Robert LeGary, Ed.D., who has been incorporating the UDL method into his teaching since working on his dissertation, is the director of the Goodwin program. On March 10, 2022, he held a virtual conference presentation for a group of educators from Auburn University. This was the first of a series of seminars he’s presenting to other universities this year on the foundation and heart of Goodwin’s M.Ed. program.

This 30-credit master’s program isn’t easily overviewed within the time limits of the seminar, so LeGary focused primarily on the importance of building effective connections between student and instructor that create a sense of belonging and representation. Offering that “learning is emotional [and] understanding emotion is key,” he provided examples of learning strategies to the Auburn University participants that authentically encourage emotional connections in the classroom: engagement, collaboration, and relatedness. A positive classroom experience is created when students feel their voice is appreciated.

UDL is about optimizing teaching and learning for learners of various backgrounds, and that’s why it has become, along with social justice and teacher leadership, one of the structural foundations of Goodwin’s master’s program. These three factors overlap within the program; participants learn how to teach through these core aspects and explore them from the viewpoint of their learners. Authentic relationships hold a high value within the classroom and school building; the importance can’t be stressed enough.

The M.Ed. program maintains intimate cohort sizes of about 10 students per semester, allowing for meaningful relationship building, a vital component of proactive education. During their asynchronous classes, students meet in person and dive deep into the course material and its importance. The level of sharing and learning that each small group achieves is invaluable. Cohort members build a foundation of trust in one another, which reduces their overall stress and increases their sense of belonging. As they experience how to navigate in these spaces for themselves, the program encourages them to then create similar spaces in their own classrooms and schools.

The structure of Goodwin’s program ultimately empowers teachers to encourage the voice of their students, create collaborative learning spaces, and build their capacity for learning through feedback and support. LeGary summed up the importance of our M.Ed. program by saying, “Getting a master’s should advance you to that next level of professional growth, where you’re really looking at your teaching practices through a highly critical lens and — most importantly — through the eyes of the learner. You should become more empathic with your learners and more skilled at removing barriers and challenges.”

Every avenue that current and future teachers take to make their classrooms more inclusive will benefit each one of their students. Effective teaching may start with positive attitudes and practices, but the ability to present the materials and convey the information is equally important. In LeGary’s next seminar, he focuses on the cognitive load capacity of the young mind and how educators can support their students and the information building up in their memory warehouse. Becoming an impactful educator is an intentional decision. As LeGary offered, “It’s a practice; you have to constantly be applying and challenging yourself.”

Learn more at:

Goodwin University Universal Design for Learning Institute

Goodwin Institute for Learning Innovation