S. Lievens

Ghent University (BELGIUM)
What is Universal design for Learning (UDL)?
The underlying idea is that lectures, exercises and evaluations are designed for maximum accessibility right from the start. UDL is an educational framework stating that students assimilate what they have learned in various ways. Therefore students’ learning capacities and needs differ widely. Traditional teaching methods do not always take into account students’ backgrounds and previous trainings.

UDL offers a scientific framework to develop an inclusive learning environment that meets a wide range of needs, strengths, backgrounds and interests of current students. It offers a method to diminish barriers in the learning process without the need to find various solutions for the individual need of each separate student.

Project UDL
The policy Unit Diversity and Gender (Ghent University) offers its lecturers an UDL-coaching project. The aim is to get teachers from different faculties acquainted with the concept of UDL and to help them to apply the theory to their teaching and evaluation methods. In doing so, the policy unit wants to support teachers in their educational tasks and to bring them together to investigate how to make academic lectures more accessible and effective. The outcome is to enhance the involvement of all students.

Together with the coaches, the lecturers will examine the way in which their study material is currently structured and how small adaptations can be made to reach a larger group of students. The participants of the coaching sessions will learn how exercises and lectures can grip and hold the students’ attention.

Central to the coaching sessions are:
- Teaching method and material
- The use of ICT-tools in lectures and exercises
- The way in which students process academic texts
- The importance of exercises and practice-based tasks
- The students’ involvement
- Methods to stimulate students
- Methods to evaluate and give feedback

Although the project has a central theme, each participant will be able to give UDL a highly personal interpretation, depending on his or her needs and wishes. To guarantee this personal approach the group of participants is limited to 20. Participants come together with the project coach four times a year. During these meetings the principles of UDL are explained and the progress the teachers make is monitored.

This coaching project enables lecturers to motivate a large amount of students with various backgrounds. They learn how to make small adjustments to their everyday teaching and evaluation practice. Moreover, by exchanging experiences and ideas about the principles of UDL we hope to bring about an enduring dynamic between the participants.