Brian Lutchmiah hosted a session on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at the National Association of Disability Practitioners' International Conference 2021 and he had a great panel of guests from across the world. There is never much time in conference sessions and so this podcast is a follow-up session so that you can hear more from the speakers at this popular conference session.
The expert panellists included in the podcast recording were:
· Brian Lutchmiah (Host), Former Chair of NADP (2018 – 2021)/Chair of LINK European Network/HE Partnerships and Inclusion Lead (Diversity and Ability)
· Jennifer Pusateri, Co-Chair UDLHE, University of Kentucky Lexington, KY, USA
· Dara Ryder, CEO AHEAD, Ireland
· Stephen Harper, Northern Ireland Adviser to NADP, Ulster University
· Valerie Van Hees, The Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education (SIHO), Belgium
· Judith Jansen, Expert centre on inclusive education (ECIO), Netherlands
· Martine Hoefeijzers, CINOP, Netherlands
Biographies for all panellists can be found at: https://nadp-uk.org/vic2021/conference-week-4/week-4-biographies/
Note 1: Professor Deborah Johnson (Commissioner, Disabled Students’ Commission), who was a key panellist in the Conference Webinar was unfortunately unable to attend the recording due to technical difficulties on the day of recording.
Note 2: There is reference in the podcast to Thomas Tobin and the ‘Plus one’ approach. The authors of the book, ‘Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone’ that contains the "Plus One" approach are Thomas J. Tobin & Kirsten T. Behling.
Note 3: There is direct reference in the panel discussion to a press release from the Office for Students (OfS, UK), published on 23/06/2021. The original statement can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/press-and-media/office-for-students-to-examine-assessment-practices/
Brian Lutchmiah: Hello listeners. Brian Lutchmiah here! Hope you are all well, and just a short introduction to this podcast. The following podcast was recorded on Wednesday 7 July 2021, and follows on from the discussion held by an international panel of experts on Universal Design for Learning in Week 4 of the NADP Virtual International Conference, held in June 2021. The expert panel sought to focus on some of the questions that were raised at the conference session and to explore these in greater depth and with a little bit more time. Do forgive any slight sound issues which cropped up, and do refer to the transcript as we hope you will use. We do trust that you’ll enjoy the podcast and you never know, dependent on your feedback, NADP may offer more podcasts in the very near future, for your enjoyment and for your engagement…And so it begins.
Brian Lutchmiah: Hello, everyone. It's Brian Lutchmiah from NADP, I'm currently a member of NADP and formally Chair of an NADP until June 2021. I'm joined today, I'm delighted to say, I'm joined today in a post-conference podcast that follows on from one of our conference sessions in June 2021, associated with the theme of Universal Design for Learning, and I'm joined by a number of my colleagues from across Europe and also we have a colleague from the USA and I'm going to, I'm going to introduce you to them. You should, if you've been able to listen to and watch the video conference webinar, you will have seen my colleagues in action. However, we decided to record today's podcast simply to follow on from some of the discussion, because we felt that there was some detail and content and some value that could be added to the discussions that we managed to have at the conference itself. I'll firstly, I'll introduce you to my colleague, Jennifer Pusateri from the USA. Jennifer, would you like to introduce yourself?
Jennifer Pusateri: Yeah. Welcome. Welcome. Thank you so much. My name is Jennifer Pusateri. I am from the University of Kentucky, and Kentucky is sort of in the middle of the country. My role there as a Universal Design Consultant, and I work with our Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching. So, we work directly with faculty on campus. And then my position works with the Centre for Learning and Teaching, the Information Technology folks and also the Disability Resource Centre. So, I'm meant to be a bridge between the three areas. So glad to be here, thanks.
Brian Lutchmiah: When you say meant to be, you mean, you are.
Jennifer Pusateri: Usually. Yeah. Usually if everybody plays nice. Yeah.
Brian Lutchmiah: Excellent. Thank you. Thank you, Jennifer. And welcome. Next, there'll be Martine. If that's okay?
Martine Hoefeijzers: That's okay. Thank you. My name is Martine Hoefeijzers, and I'm an Educational Consultant in the Netherlands, and mainly concerned with the flexibilisation of vocational education, especially right to education and not so much education for students with support needs, but I do try to build that bridge also good education is important for all students. And I would see the flexibilisation is a great entry point to offer more inclusive education. So when I'm consulting aspects of work about UDL. Thank you.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you, Martine. Yeah. And I think I don't think it's about trying to build bridges. I'm pretty sure from the work and the discussions we've had, we're all building bridges. We're doing that right now, aren't we. I'll pass you over to Judith. If that's okay with you Judith?
Judith Jansen: Thank you, Brian. Yes. I'm a colleague of Martine but I'm well, somehow a colleague, I work at the Expert Centre of Inclusive Education. I'm the Programme Director of our Expert Center in the Netherlands as well. And, well, we share forces and I particularly focus on inclusive education for students with a disability, but as Martina already says, we focus on inclusive education for all students of course, and we are quite busy with wellbeing of students, particularly in these these times. That's also a very important part of our job.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you, Judith, and yeah, I think that's, that's quite an important part, isn't it. You know, we're recording this this podcast at the point where, you know, the world has kind of gone through about 18 months to two years of a pandemic crisis and it's still ongoing to some degree and I'm pretty sure it's going to be kind of not only the recurrent theme, perhaps in this discussion, but also for us kind of working in our respective roles across our respective nations moving forward as well. So thank you. Thank you for mentioning that. I'll pass over to Valerie. Hi, Valerie.
Valerie Van Hees: Hi Brian, nice to be here, and thanks for the invitation. I'm a Valerie Van Hees from Belgium, the Flemish community, and I'm the coordinator of the Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education. We also call it SIHO and yeah, we are a co-operation between the government and universities and trying to support each of the parties in implementing equity and inclusion measures and as such, we focus on inclusive, higher education.
Brian Lutchmiah: Brilliant. Thank you. And welcome. Welcome. I think next on my list is Stephen. Hi Stephen.
Stephen Harper: Hi Brian. And thanks very much and welcome to everybody. My name is Stephen Harper and I'm an Accessibility Adviser based out of Ulster University in Northern Ireland, and I suppose my role, really works with the students and with the disabled students, putting reasonable adjustments and supports in place for them. So I suppose, I like to bring along that kind of disability practitioner perspective. In addition to that, I've taken on a role as a Country Adviser for Northern Ireland to the NADP board, which I have been really enjoying so far so yeah, nice to meet everybody again.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you, Stephen. And last but not least...Dara.
Dara Ryder: Thanks Brian. My name is Dara Ryder, I'm CEO of AHEAD which is an Irish NGO, focused on creating inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities. The main focus of our work will be access and participation in further and higher education, and then support in the transition on into graduate employment. So we work directly with students but also with staff and furthering higher education with policy makers and with employers to start to get the job done across all of our work. And as well as looking at the kind of accommodations and supports the individual combinations of supports for students with disabilities, a lot of our work would focus on the promotion of Universal Design for Learning, so looking forward to chatting about it all.
Brian Lutchmiah: That is our group for this podcast listeners.
And I wanted to start with, as a result of that, one of the comments was around collaboration with academic departments and the cultural challenges that may exist within and across organisations. From your individual or organisational points of view, what have been the levels of engagement from academic departments and colleagues, and have there been kind of factors that have helped, assisted or hindered the process in those discussions?
Dara Ryder: Yeah, I suppose just my jumping in on an Irish context, if that is okay. And I just to say, yeah, I suppose we're, we're still on a journey with this very much in terms of the application of, UDL in in the academic sphere and for us, I mean, there's a whole range of barriers that have prevented, or certainly hindered it in terms of the culture of higher education, aren't. They're still very much many of our universities value research as king, you know. Research is, is probably a higher level than teaching and learning in terms of institutional value. So when we look at things like the promotional systems, for example, around staff. So I think a big thing is how much we value teaching and learning, though thankfully I think that’s beginning to shift which is great news for one, we're talking about UDL, because that means that people are looking at excellence in inclusive teaching and learning as part of the overall teaching and learning picture. So I think that's one thing that's starting to shift here in Ireland. I suppose. One of the great things that's happening in Ireland is that we're beginning to build a more national understanding of UDL. So I think the recognition, for example, of UDL and national strategy has been very, very important for us in terms of seeing changes on the ground and seeing how different departments and across the, the academic sphere are beginning to engage with it. So, as we were saying, the language of UDL began to creep into national policy. I think what we're seeing is that shift and that journey moving on now, we're seeing more and more people come on board with it.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you Dara. Have there been, there's quite a few nods for listeners, have there been kind of similar experiences in other countries in terms of that respect of, I suppose we're talking about culture aren't we, and a shift in culture. Has that been something that's been recognised in other countries at all?
Martine Hoefeijzers: Yes. We see that in the Netherlands too, that shift. Because what I already told in my introduction is that flexible education is a hot topic here in the Netherlands. And that makes that yeah, it's a good entry point and it's a good opportunity to have a conversation about inclusive practice. And that makes that that culture is changing. And we're not thinking about one student with all the different students. So now we see that too.
Stephen Harper: I suppose, just to build on that from a Northern Irish perspective, I suppose within the big two universities there with Ulster University and Queens University, we're probably seeing a move towards the conversation's becoming more prominent now in relation to UDL. In terms of that culture shift, I think we're at the very beginning of it. I do think we can look to our, our neighbors across the pond and also down in Ireland because they, they seem to be a little bit further along. So there's, there's some learning there, but it's quite an exciting time from my engagement with some of the academics is that they're, they're really starting to embrace this at an individual level. And I think the challenge now is to make it slightly more systemic. So it's coming from top down and from bottom up, and from the middle out so to really kind of see that culture shift, but the direction of travel is positive at this point in time.
Brian Lutchmiah: Valerie, I think you might have had a point?
Valerie Van Hees: Yes, I think it's very important to have also the, the system level at that point that it's an important topic. And as we see, for example, in the, in the Flemish community, we are not speaking really up about UDL, but more about universal design because we think it's really a transfer on all the topics of higher education. For example, we are now writing our new internationalisation strategy and there as well, inclusion of universal design is staking as the starting points. And I think that's needed in all the processes of, of higher education internationalisation, but also, studying abroad and so on. That's all the topics of universal design, more as a principle that inclusiveness for all students is taking into account. And that was the change a little bit also, now, in our new government that they really took that as a starting point and see it as an important topic in all the, the new topics that we are developing at strategy level in higher education. So I think that's an important movement, not only in teaching and learning.
Brian Lutchmiah: Yeah. Sounds like that. That's kind of a big shift, actually, a very important shift there. That's really interesting. How is it, how does that translate for you, Jennifer in the States?
Jennifer Pusateri: Yeah. So we've found that a lot of the divisions seems to be along fields. So, when we're thinking about the sciences versus the humanities folks, and the humanities tend to be a little more quick to jump on board with UDL. And I, I don't have any research behind this, but my guess is that people who are in the humanities see their field as a little more flexible, just inherently. Whereas people who are in the, especially the hard sciences, Physics, Maths, Chemistry, don't see what they do as flexible. So they see that there's a, there's a right way and there's a wrong way, is sort of the mentality. And so, UDL can be a little bit harder of a sell in those areas but one of the things that we've noticed is instructors who are in the sciences tend, they see that the students are struggling, but they don't always know why. And so it's always been really useful to take what we have in the UDL guidelines and point to, oh, it sounds like the problem that you're having here is maybe with engagement. So let's look and see what those checkpoints have to say about what we can do on our end as instructors. And so really looking at UDL through a problem-solving perspective seems to be helpful for folks in the sciences. And that's kind of where, where we are on our end. As far as kind of an administration, like a, like a university wide overhaul of UDL. We don't see that a lot in our research focused universities, we have a couple schools and universities in the US and in Canada that are that kind of have adopted UDL as part of their overall universal mission, but not a lot. And I, I've spoken to some folks at a couple of the larger research focused universities and, and it seems to be trending toward UDL, especially after the pandemic has, has shown a lot of us that we in fact can we can be flexible when we have to. And so I think that's opened a lot of eyes and hearts, if you will, on our end, we're really looking forward to see what what's going to come out of this in terms of, of moving toward UDL.
Dara Ryder: If I might respond there if that's alright Brian, just to follow up on something Jen was saying. Yeah. I mean, I think we've experienced similar in terms of the discipline you're talking about, but actually some of our great success stories in terms of thinking about people who've won our national award around UDL are actually in those disciplines. So we find that when people do make a commitment to it and feels like health, for example, that you can often get really, really amazing results from it. I think maybe there's probably a thing there, where culturally in Ireland, certainly those courses are very high points, courses and their entry requirements are, are very high and there's probably been so many barriers to entry in the past that maybe the group has been quite homogenous in, in the past and until quite recently, we're starting to see obviously much more diversity break into those fields now. So I think that's an important factor. And one thing about the whole. These sort of hindrances around that, I think and Jen mentioned the research institutions and that being, I suppose, an area where maybe less value is placed or it's kind of only coming in in that area. Again, I think that the whole nature of how we treat a teaching contract in higher education is actually a problem in and of itself. And that many of the people involved are very, on very precarious contracts. Very little time. Now, the value given to time for preparation and design of the programs, rather than the actual hours that they're there just in the classroom actually teaching. So I think from a kind of cultural shift point of view, that's another thing that needs to be addressed in the longer term is that we start to place value on that time and energy in design.
Brian Lutchmiah: I would agree totally with that Dara from, from my own experience working with academic colleagues, I think understanding the pressures that academic teaching and learning staff have both in terms of actually, how are they designing the curriculum, but also the amount of time as you kind of mentioned, there are many factors that if you're working in professional services in slightly different areas of an institution, you might not be privy to. You might not necessarily see. So I suppose that crossing between the boundaries of those departments and understanding each other's kind of respective challenges and pressure points and supporting collaboratively in that sense is, is part of that culture shift. What are the respective kind of directives in your respective countries from a government level, that's really focused on UDL? Is there legislation in place in your respective countries that is, is really detailing the need for Universal Design for Learning and that in that design and application associated with teaching and learning?
Judith Jansen: Brian, in our country, there isn't at all. There is no governmental legislation concerning UDL. It's, it's more focusing on inclusive education and we all know UDL can be a perfect part of that, but we're in a mindset at this moment. I think. I like this expression from one of our disability practice in our country, success, we still are very focusing on fixing the tyres instead of picking up the nails on the roads. So, so real changing. And, but still, we're very good in fixing the tyres and we're working on that, especially also from a governmental point of view, but to pick up the nails, we need some more universal design perspective and just, I have to mention in the Netherlands, we're not there at this moment. It's going to be there, but not at this moment.
Brian Lutchmiah: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you, Judith. I really like the, the analogy, the tyres and the nails. I really like that. Thank you.
Jennifer Pusateri: In the US, decisions about education are made at the state level. So each state kind of decides what they want to do within their state. So there actually is no federal UDL or excuse me, no federal education legislation. Now there are acts, and there are things that are suggested like, 'Hey, this would be really helpful. Maybe your state should look at this thing'. And so we have several of those and UDL has been mentioned recently, in quite a few different things, so a lot of what we call acts. So we have a UDL is mentioned in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act of 2018, and the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was from 2016. And so a lot of these acts have money tied to them. So all those states are not told what to do. They are said, they tell them, okay, well, If you do this thing, then you're going to get a lot of money, so states tend to follow a lot of these, even though they're not mandated, but it's also appeared in national education technology plans in ed tech developers plans, even in the UDL or excuse me, the Higher Ed(ucation) Opportunity Act of 2008. So. It's starting to make an appearance in some of our acts and our regulations that are around education, but I've not seen anything at the state level. I've seen a few states, but not nationwide by any stretch of the imagination.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thinking about our own kind of setups in our own, do we think that actually from a government point of view, relative to our experiences, that governments themselves should be looking at this as more of a central focus in joining up, to really focus on Universal Design for Learning as a whole?
Dara Ryder: My own view. Is that a bit like what Valerie was talking about there within the Belgian context is like governments need to be thinking about universal design as a central focus in all of their decision-making processes, not just in education, but that, I mean, that's probably beyond the scope of what we can talk about here today. But as an example, our colleague who many in the virtual room here will know is from Norway. Kjetil will often talk about the approach they've taken at Norway, where they have an action plan around universal design that's entirety across all departments of the government to them. So it's Norway University designed by 2026 or something as to the very ambitious plan that they have. Now, that's not to say it's perfect, but you know, it's supposed to show strategic intent that every level of life should be, it should be done on you know, it should be, we should be considering that as universal design aspects and in terms of yeah, so absolutely, I believe that, from an educational point of view, that that UDL is is a central pillar on universal design. It should be a central pillar of how we designed these education systems because exactly like Judith was pointing out there, you know, there's actually a huge amount of waste and energy going in to fixing the tyres, you know, which could be redirected into much better quality outcomes for all students that are led by understanding them as individuals from the beginning and designing, you know, systems and curriculum that flex to them rather than trying to try to tack on a million different solutions for a million different students. So I absolutely believe that there's a demographic imperative, a moral imperative and a financial imperative for, for it is for this move towards UD and UDL.
Brian Lutchmiah: Two terms come to my mind. Cause and effect, and what we tend to do in education because of the pace and the pressures and everything. We're dealing with the effect a lot of the time and responding a bit like, like you were saying, Judith, in terms of fixing the tyre. But actually understanding the causes and, and, and having the time to route right back to, okay, what are the causes for this? How can we look at that slightly differently? Because that would have a slightly different impact at the other end. But time is one. We talked about time as a metric, I think in the, in the conference session. But time attributed to doing that is something that not many practitioners, institutions, organisations, have the time for, simply because of the pace at which they have to function. As you mentioned Dara I think we could talk about this for hours, days, probably weeks, easily. And you made a very good point in terms of actually universal design, shouldn't be just for learning. We would all agree with that, you know, if universal design was applied to society in its totality, then some of the conversations that we're having in terms of those challenges, that understanding that awareness and it being part of our living, breathing world around us, maybe less of a challenge and much more inclusive. I always think if we don't have to think about it in quite the same way, then we're, we're actively doing. The next point was around co-operation to support multiple universities. So this, this kind of stems back and I can speak from a UK perspective. So this stems back to how individual institutions, organisations, interact and engage with each other, whether that's collaborative or in partnership or in design. And whilst there are huge pockets of best practice in the UK at doing that, it tends to be along considered lines and the need really in the UK is to increase that. And part of, part of that is associated with the financial model that's associated with delivering higher education to students in the UK. And so this element of competition, I would say across the sector, so how we need to get as many students as we can on these programs. We need those students on the programs to, to, to fund those programs to run, to make sure that we can run those. And, and also ensure that we're financially capable as an institution. I don't think that's unique necessarily, but it has introduced that level of competition. And we all know that competition can be healthy. [00:23:00] How does that translate to your respective nations in terms of the partnership working, the collaboration between and across universities and institutions educationally?
Judith Jansen: Well, what helped in our country is we used, well, we didn't use, but the UN convention on the rights of persons with a disability, that was very helpful. Of course there is also, it's also saying interesting things about universal design if you look at it truly. And we asked a lot of universities to sign a declaration in which they, this, they signed the intention that they are going to be inclusive, and that was very helpful. They start working together within thinking about the young convention and start making plans together to be more inclusive. And yes, first it worked out very well. This, this intention to, to make this UN convention happen within their universities and together.
Brian Lutchmiah: Judith, was I there when they were doing the signing? Was that at the conference a few years ago?
Judith Jansen: Yes, that's right. We started there with the first four universities, and it's 18 now, and we're aiming more universities to sign and to work together. Yes, you were right. You were there.
Brian Lutchmiah: I was, I was there. Yes. I'll share with listeners, I was also introduced to the Princess of the Netherlands as part of that. In fact, there's a whole story to tell. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I remember it well, I remember it well, and that's quite interesting to hear, but that was kind of, I suppose, a bit of a turning point actually, was it, in the Netherlands?
Judith Jansen: Definitely. Yes. Yes.
Brian Lutchmiah: Great. Thank you. Thank you, Judith.
Jennifer Pusateri: In the US, we love competition, and we love individuality. And like, 'this is mine', and 'that is yours' as a thing that we do here all the time. So having said that, there's this concept that comes up constantly in higher ed, especially this concept of intellectual property. So this is, 'I've created this course, this course is my intellectual property'. And so that is really the norm. I mean, people will get, they will go to court and sue people over intellectual property, and it gets a little ugly. What I've seen, however, is the UDL folks across the US have more of an idea of intellectual generosity.
And we tend to share things with each other. And you know, I don't necessarily care who uses anything I've created. And, and that, that seems to be the same for others who are also UDL advocates in higher ed, and it seems like UDL has disrupted what we call the norm in higher ed. Like it comes in and says really, maybe we could just work together on this thing and that might be more beneficial for, for the student, for the end user, if you will, and even for the instructor. And so I've, so far, it seems like UDL has kind of gone against and challenged that individualistic idea of 'no, I did this and this is my thing', and is really advocating for more of a collaborative environment in higher ed. And so for some people, that's, that's a welcome change, but for a lot of folks, that's uncomfortable. So that's an issue that we are kind of facing on that end.
Brian Lutchmiah: Dara?
Dara Ryder: Yeah. And I kind of echo what Jen's saying here at the fair for folks, you know, your audience. I mean, I think it's essential that you take that approach when you are trying to embed UDL that whatever you do is shareable. You know, that's a really, really important, and especially coming from the disability practitioner community, It's really, really important to get friends in that are in other sectors that are better connected with the academic community and so in Ireland for example, we have a partnership with both UCD which is University College Dublin, and also from our partnership with the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, which is the national body promoting excellence and teaching and learning. I suppose, through that partnership, we've developed a kind of more common understanding between us and we're starting to see that reflected in the national forums work. So for example, we have a student success strategy that they have been commissioned to produce from the government, and universal design features as a strong pillar within that. So we're starting to see that language being much more shared in a collaborative way, and we're seeing that then being rolled out for it in the ground, for example, around UDL badge which is a national training course that we run once a year in collaboration with UCD and the forum. It's, it's kind of actually delivered entirely in collaboration. It's thoroughly free to an engage with, but as part of the course, we train the people themselves, but we also try and facilitate so people can join to be part of the rollout for the next year, and look after colleagues and their institutions. So it's all collaborative. It's all about building community. And I think mostly, although on the surface you can think of people as being very competitive, I think mostly human beings actually like to work together and like to collaborate. So when you get behind some of that institutional kind of layer that sometimes put on these things, I think you find generally people do want to collaborate on these issues. And in terms of the UK context, I can imagine, you know, the likes of ADVANCE HE, the likes of JISC, there's plenty of really good collaborative forums that already exist for people to come together to start talking. So I suppose the suggestion will be for the disability practitioner, community and organisations like NADP to making sure you're getting in and having lunch with those folks and start to talk about it, you know?
Brian Lutchmiah: You're absolutely right. You know, it's the membership organisation is those forums that kind of provide that crossover rather than being driven, if you like, by the organisations that are being represented themselves. Going back to the very early stages of the conversation that we're having, which was about I spoke, we were talking about culture and academic culture, in the academic world around research, there's lots of joining up. It's inherent that there'll be collaboration. There'll be sharing of papers, there'll be challenges. And that, that, that is how the academic world works, and rightfully so. But I think in, in practice when we're talking about kind of the fields that we work in and that level, it happens in a slightly different way, and I think it's about how those two can perhaps join up because there is so much research out there. We know from discussions that we have, whether that's meeting up at conferences or accessing training, meeting peers in other countries and, and discussing the similarities and the differences that there is. There's always this scope to kind of, to join up because there are these similarities more than differences across those, those elements of work, and also as time is going on that greater scope for deeper and deeper research into disability and inclusion and how that actually weaves into the academic world as well.
In the UK, there's been a recent post. It's a news post that's gone out nationally from the Office for Students, where they are looking at critical review of assessment marking practices in the UK. And the focus is on aiming to not penalised spelling and grammar mistakes for disabled students. And the Office for Students are suggesting that this is a lowering of educational standards in doing so. Now, there are numerous discussions on the NADP forum and various other forums nationally. It's an interesting topic in itself to pick up in terms of, you know, how, how does spelling and grammar really impact on someone's ability to demonstrate their knowledge of a particular specialism, subject or program. I'd like to open that out really to the group in terms of any particular views that you may have around assessment marking practices, how they are considered in your respective nations, and also from your perspective, what you think there could be, what changes there could be, or other suggestions or thoughts associated with with that particular subject?
Stephen Harper: Brian, maybe if I, if I just pick up here and I'm actually thinking back to Dara's presentation, busting all of the myths, and Dara had mentioned about Thomas Tobin, and the whole plus one approach. And it's just something that kind of struck me because on occasions I've maybe been working with a student to maybe had specific learning difficulties, and there were issues around them being able to get their thoughts down on paper, to use the language that they wanted to use and to get that across when writing a script within a three-hour exam or a typical kind of three hour exam. And I suppose as, as an individual reasonable adjustment, we explored the possibility of that student doing a a verbal presentation as an alternative, that met the same learning outcomes.
And again, this links back into the whole UDL approach and that plus one approach. So if we're get a variety of means and a variety of assessments for the learners and for the students to demonstrate their ability, then we can kind of navigate around this a little bit. Thinking specifically around the actual spelling and grammar issue that has been raised, I mean, I'm a little bit horrified personally about this and for me, it's clearly going to put, under the current system, it's clearly going to put some disabled students at a disadvantage if there is no allowance for that, because we know there's some commonalities that are there in terms of difficulties with kind of getting the flow of ideas and stuff across within that kind of time contained examination. So as well as common mistakes and terms of tense and things like that. And you know, I think too, to potentially disadvantage those students without having something in place would be wrong where the debate has really come in within my own institution has been around at master's level, because they're asking whether or not the work that is submitted, needs to be at a publishable level for masters, and that's another question mark, that is currently being debated. And, but that's just some of my initial thoughts.
Dara Ryder: Can I echo Steven's horror at this? I cannot believe that a body that is supposed to be representing students as far as I can see, am I correct in saying that Brian? A body that's supposed to be representing student interests is putting this forward.
First of all, it's demonstrating a complete lack of understanding about diversity and inclusion, but it's also demonstrating a total lack of understanding about academic quality. You know, what we have when we deal with assessments, you have to look back at what the purpose of assessment is. It's about construct relevance, right? So what we're doing when we assess something, as we're trying to test learning outcomes. Now, if there isn't a learning outcome that says I have to spell and have perfect grammar. In other words, that that is an essential part of whatever someone is going to qualify as, then we shouldn't be putting in spelling and grammar, as it shouldn't be there as a marking criteria anyway, you know, so it shouldn't be existing. We only have to point it out because of this kind of cultural norm that's built and built up around it. But actually the cultural norm is kind of hogwash to be honest. So I think this is the kind of feeling that to this whole bigger piece around cultural norms, around assessment that we have to tackle. You know, the kind of, I suppose, another big one would be in our white elephant is, is the examination as the primary mode of assessment. It's still in a large body of our programs. Now there's nothing wrong with exams per se, in and of itself, but by not offering alternative modes of assessment, then we're really disadvantaging a whole bunch of students. And we're actually testing things that aren't learning outcomes. That's what's happening, so, we have people who are just essentially getting worse marks in their exams because they're being tested on stuff that's not part of the actual gig. So I think that's the big issue here. So this OfS statement to me really suggests that they don't actually understand academic quality in the first place. And then the kind of robust piece around the robustness and academic integrity in that, because there's two sides to academic integrity. One is that the students played our part in terms of plagiarism. And I know that side of it, but the other thing is institutional integrity. Both sides have to live up to that, to achieve a good result.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you, Dara. I mean, just to put it into context, I've just got the document up. So there's a quote from Susan Lapworth, the Director of Regulation at the Office for Students. And it says, 'Rigorous assessment practices are essential if students' qualifications are to stand the test of time. Students from all backgrounds should expect a high-quality academic experience and a qualification that reflects their achievements. We have been clear that standards should not be reduced for particular groups of students. And it is patronising to expect less from some students under the guise of supporting them. Effective academic writing requires good spelling, punctuation, and grammar from all. We want to understand the approach universities are taking to these important issues. It is a matter of strong public interest that the English higher education sector is able to demonstrate that the degrees it awards to students are a reliable indicator of academic achievement and that high standards are maintained.' Now, when I read that, the first thing that came into my mind was, kind of get that, but what about assistive technologies? What about assistive software? What about, and this goes back to the central core theme of our discussion. The design of the curriculum, the design of the teaching and learning experience, because they're all surely a crucial part of that in order for that to work, if that was the case. Are there any comments on that?
Jennifer Pusateri: Well, I have a lot of comments, but they're not nice ones. I've begun to hate the word rigour and rigorous because it seems to be the thing that's thrown up in as a wall when someone is talking about authentic assessments or options for assessments. And, and I guess my question is rigorous for who, like, there are some people for whom writing a paper is no problem whatsoever. No problem whatsoever. They'll spell all the words, right. They'll do all the grammar correctly. Everything will be perfect, but there are other people that that is not the case. Whereas those folks might do a fantastic job presenting it in another way, which is exactly what we've talked about. And to say that Writing at the master's level or, or even the college level requires that someone is good at spelling. That is not true. That is not, it's absolutely not true. If I'm filling out, if I'm sending a cover letter for a job, for example, or maybe I'm writing an essay to, to get a scholarship or whatever, if I have the money to pay somebody to go back in and edit and check that for me, then it's not a problem, but that's, that's then putting, some people at an advantage over others. So how is that different? Like, do you know what I mean? Like, there are so many different ways that that can be kind of disqualified. Like, that's not necessarily what we're here for. And so I really appreciate what Dara said. It goes back to a lot of what I hear about UDL. Well, what's the goal? Is the goal of this assignment, is this a spelling test? Like, are we actually coming in and testing whether you can spell or not? Or are we testing whether you actually understand the content and can explain it to someone in an effective way, because whichever one that is test that thing. But when you're testing the other things that are not that thing, that goal, then you are putting up barriers in front of people and that's, that's not called for.
Brian Lutchmiah: Go for it Martine.
Martine Hoefeijzers: Yeah, because I don't understand why, why grammar and spelling is so important. I'm a Dutch language teacher also. And language is, is it's alive, it's actually a kind of utensil, which you use to, to bring across information. And so why are you testing us? But that's not the learning outcome, so you don't have to make that so important. Because way back, years back, we didn't spell even the same as we do now. So in 50 years we spell our spelling and grammar is different. So why is that so important?
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you, Martine. Jennifer, Jennifer. I just noticed you stepped away from your desk! I thought, she's felt so passionate, she's left the room... and the podcast!
Jennifer Pusateri: Well, if it makes you feel better, I was refilling my coffee, a necessary thing at 10am, but I'm actually going to pop back in because this, this whole idea of spelling and grammar being a thing that's absolutely necessary. In the US, that comes back to systemic racism. And, and the problem is, you know, in a lot of places unfortunately, especially in the south half of the country, people weren't allowed to vote unless they could pass a test, and so like that. And so obviously, you know, if this is 1895 and folks of colour have only been free for 20, 35 years or whatever. Like, they're not going to pass that exam because they have not been able to read until that point, right. So those, in our country at least, those kinds of things, really, if it's boiled down to the, to the causes and conditions, it comes back to ideas of systemic racism. Like, if you can't talk like the rest of us and you can't write like the rest of this, then you're not good enough. That seems to be sort of the general idea. And I think we all understand that that's not true, but unfortunately it's, it's ingrained so far in our society and it's something we continue to battle in education.
Dara Ryder: Can I also point out how absolutely utterly absurd it is in a world where we all use technology, every single one of us every day to correct our spelling and grammar, to correct our sentence construction. And even to predict what we're going to say next. You know, it's just totally absurd. And so I suppose the other side of this, the thing that gives me comfort in all this is that we all know in the room here, that there is a quality and legislation in place in the UK, which would presumably prevent that from happening or at least would have it taken down very quick, very quickly if it was challenged, I would imagine, but Brian, obviously you'd have a better, Brian and Stephen have a better concept of that.
Brian Lutchmiah: I'd like to think so, Dara. I think, I think one of the things that could come out of this is, 1. It opens up the discussion. 2. I think there's a right of reply. And I think the right of reply is based on actual experience of higher education and education as a whole. So first and foremost, direct consultation with disabled students about the student experience, the level of support, what is the level of, what are the levels of inclusivity? What, what is the reliance in the link between academic study and progress and the inherent relationship between that and assistive technology to aid that? And you're absolutely right Dara. The majority of us will use a spellchecker on a work document, on a daily basis, even if we're okay at spelling. I know what my fingers are like, they don't always translate to what my brain is trying to tell my fingers to type. And I've only got small fingers, but it seems like sometimes they feel like they're massive because when I look up at the screen, there's many, many words with red lines underneath them. Does that mean I'm not academically able? I would say not. The other element of this could be about context. The comment was published. It was published on the 23rd of June. How in context is that? How far along is that process? So, we can only deal with the information that we're presented with. I'd like to go back to what Jennifer, so passionately said, which was about rigour, because how do we define rigour? And I think that's, you know, this comes back down to use of language and the common factors associated with language. And I'm saying this in an environment where we have colleagues who have English as a second language, we're working with, we're having a discussion in English and I will know that if English is a second language, there's a level of translation internally that you're processing that you're needing to go through in order to do that. That element of the time that's required is part of creating an inclusive and safe environment. And we do that on a daily basis. We can do that verbally. So, why aren't we able to translate that level of understanding into something that's much more coherent from an inclusive education point of view. That's me waxing lyrical as always. And what I will say is, is to kind of hear that passionate view from your perspectives. And I think that would be something that our listeners would be really welcomed to hear. And I'm pretty sure from an NADP point of view as being quite a significant voice in the sector in the UK, that will be something that will also strengthen those influencing factors that as an organisation can occur as a result of having active discussion, and also having an outside perspective. So I think it's also healthy when we're having discussions. I know this from a LINK European point of view, it's so healthy when we have discussions, and you think about that external perspective looking in, and I think having that fresh perspective is a great thing. So one of the things I wanted to, and I think this kind of feeds in quite nicely, which is about use of language and terminology, and I'll use an example. So in UN convention, people are referred to as 'people with disabilities'. In the UK, there is this ongoing discussion about continuing the use of the terminology, 'disabled people'. And listeners will probably heard some of our colleagues using people with disabilities, and some colleagues using disabled people. And I think there's no right or wrong in either. And in UK in terms of context, as a historical context in that probably going back about 20 years, there was a full consultation with disabled communities, and what came back is that at that time, people would identify much more holistically with being a disabled person, rather than a person with a disability. And I think this is a common factor and I'm picking up on that because I think that's one of the most common elements in terms of their differences in language. That doesn't, that's not at detriment to the discussions that we all have because the discussions that we will have, have equal value, but I think opens up that discussion about particularly building those cultures within our own organisations and, and establishing, I suppose, consistent forms of terminology and language and structure, and thinking about the conversation that we've just had. There's part of me that thinks, you know, when I read out that comment, it's a bit clunky, you know, in some ways I would be saying. perhaps, those two paragraphs that I read out needed to have had a little bit more rigour in terms of drafting them, ironically. What are your thoughts guys, thinking about your kind of areas of the sector, your respective nations, about terminologies. Do you think that that is something that collaboratively thinking about higher education in it's totality globally, is something that should be addressed or do you think that is something that actually there's too much focus placed on that?
Stephen Harper: Brian, I suppose I picked up maybe a conversation that we've actually had previously, but I was involved, and I did engage with a stakeholder forum with the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy, and they basically brought representatives from further and higher education together and one of the views they were looking to find out was, was there an appetite for changing, we call it the Disabled Students' Allowance over here, the support fund, and did that need to be changed, or was there better terminology around that? And there was a consultation and they, the Department for the Economy wrote in on number of the charitable groups as well. And they either received minimal feedback, or feedback to say, 'it's not broke. Don't try to fix it'. You know, it's kind of working and people know what it is, it's established and people know what you're talking about when you use that specific terminology. So it's actually easier to stay that I suppose, the status quo because then people kind of know where they stand. But I do think that the language and the use of language is really important and I think that, although that didn't initiate any change, I thought it was very, it was great that that conversation had happened. It was great that the government did say, look, let's re-engage with the main stakeholders here. Let's see, is there an appetite or are we getting it wrong? Are we using the wrong terminology? Is this putting people off, maybe applying through for this fund? Is there any stigma that's existing there still. You know, so the conversation was had and some feedback was taken back, you know? So I think it's just a case of keeping that in mind and keeping the conversation open. And, and I suppose that kind of awareness and creating some reflection about the language that we all use in our communications, you know and always listening to the experts, you know, who are the disabled people or the people with disabilities dependent on your context, you know? And, taking that feedback back really.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you, Stephen and I think that brings us to a very fitting end to this discussion. And I would say an end to this wonderful discussion and if we had more time, I would have loved to have carried on some of the conversation that we've had. I've written down three words I want to kind of end on, and I think it kind of feeds back into perhaps the, the latter part of the podcast, but I think it transcends all of the conversations that we've had. And I think one of the main challenges that we're probably all facing in some way, shape or form, whether it's to do with kind of work with academic colleagues and professional colleagues, work between individual institutions and other institutions, or institutions across higher education and government level. And the three words are 'class in class'. And when I say class, I'm thinking about it from an educational point of view, when I'm saying class at the other end of that, I'm thinking in terms of the structure of our societies and thinking about actually, how do we ensure that through Universal Design for Learning, we build equity as not only something that we should do, but as, as just an inherent part of the fabric of our culture holistically. So I want to end with those three words, 'class in class', and hopefully that kind of makes more sense as people really think about it. I'd like to say thank you so much to every single one of the panellists, you've been wonderful, not only in this discussion, but also at the conference itself, it has been a delight, not only working with you, but also getting to know you and also getting to know your passions. And also particularly for a few of you, just seeing you're fired up my friends, which is always good. And I think we work in, we work in a sector that enables that, we need passionate practitioners, we need passionate staff. We need, going back to what Stephen was saying about, we need that direct contact with disabled people and disabled students and find out the lived experience, understand what that perspective is rather than sometimes, frequently, we live in a world of assumption and that can be an assumed thing that influences decision rather than an evidence-based element, which again is ironic, when you think about the fact that we're all working in education. So lastly I will hand over to each of you, if you, if you have something short and sweet to say that you would like to, to our listeners before we sign off for the podcast, please do. If you don't want to, just say thank you and bye, then we'll wrap up. So over to you, Jennifer.
Jennifer Pusateri: Thanks Brian for getting this group together, this has been really, really powerful experience. I feel like I've learned so much just in the couple, few hours we've spent together. So I appreciate that. And I will look forward to hearing from anyone that has that, that listens to the podcast. And you can find me on Twitter at @jen_pusateri. And I look forward to hearing more from this group, thanks.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you, Jennifer. Martine?
Martine Hoefeijzers: Yeah, thank you for being here and for sharing all the, all the practices. I've learned a lot as well. And I'd like to talk about these kinds of things with each other. So yeah. Thank you.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you Martine. Judith?
Judith Jansen: Thank you for meeting all you and sharing thoughts and also sharing our struggles. It's not struggles, but our intentions to create a bit more inclusive world. So that's helpful as well though. Thank you very much for sharing all the faults and ideas and good vibes. Thank you very much.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you Judith. Valerie?
Valerie Van Hees: Thank you for being here. And yeah, it was lovely to to hear the discussions and to see that a lot of organisations across Europe and even the States also are working really towards inclusive, higher education, so that's great to see.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you. Stephen?
Stephen Harper: Yeah, just lovely to meet everybody again, and kind of just get to know everybody's personality a little bit more. Yeah, I think we're kind of developing those links, we talked about how we can kind of learn from each other and, you know, I think this has been a fantastic opportunity to be part of this group. And then even beyond this, for us to be able to continue to be able to link up and share some of that experience, you know, to help, to push UDL forward, you know, within our respective countries will be great. So thank you.
Brian Lutchmiah: Thank you Stephen. And, and again, last but not least, Dara.
Dara Ryder: Yeah, no, listen, it was lovely to connect with some, some old friends and some new ones and just see what's going on in everyone's country. And hopefully in Summer '22, we can all get together and join your audience in real life person. And then we'll have an actual cup of coffee or a drink together at NADP in the summer of '22, so looking forward to that. Thanks a million for having us on.
Brian Lutchmiah: It's been a delight. Thank you ever so much. Keep in touch with us listeners via the NADP forum. And so we're going to leave it there, class in class, remember those words. Do with them as you wish. Thank you ever so much for listening. Have a good day and we'll speak to you soon. Goodbye.