A Bird’s Eye View of our Teaching and Learning Practices

Christina Perry and Ashley Clark discuss their session entitled ‘UDL Principles and English Language Learners: Enabling Success’

Often our learning and teaching methods are based on the assumption that all students have the same point of reference. However, have you stopped to reflect on whether your methods and expectations provide the best opportunity for all students to clearly understand course content and to demonstrate their understanding?

One particular group of students to consider are those who speak English as an additional language. These students bring with them much more than the knowledge of another language, they bring all that has been taught to them by their parents, community, and culture.

When creating class assignments and establishing student expectations, the assumptions we make about the best ways to present and represent information may be exclusive rather than inclusive.  These ‘best practices’ may not be what the EAL students in your classroom have been taught to value and does the opposite of what you intend; they create barriers instead of foster learning.  These students may not fully understand, have the skills, or the background knowledge to complete the assignment as per your expectations.

Taking time to stop and consider how our course expectations may create barriers is the first step in dissolving these barriers.  Look at your course through the lens in which your students view the learning and teaching methods employed. How can you change your expectations to include the values and knowledge of your EAL students?  Use the UDL principles to explore and learn from them, with them, and through them.

Applying UDL principles and practices provides all students, including EAL students, a new lens to view learning and creates more opportunities to enable and empower them to become expert learners.  The session “UDL Principles and English Language Learners: Enabling Success” explores how UDL principles can enhance the learning experiences of international students at our universities. Participants will explore further their assumptions when working with international students and create strategies to reduce barriers and promote success.

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