In this conversation Dr. Frederic Fovet talks with me about a social justice approach to inclusion, the challenges schools and teachers face to embed sustainable UDL practices, and ways we can support them.
Resources from this episode
Using Universal Design for Learning to Create a Common Discourse (Trinity College Dublin)
Exploring the need for sustainable ‘whole campus’ approaches
Transcript of this episode
UDL, students, schools, teachers, inclusion, leadership, diversity
Frederic Fovet, Margaret Flood
Margaret Flood 00:00
Welcome to talking about all things inclusion, a podcast where I get to meet and learn from people in the field of inclusion in its broadest sense that inspire me. I hope they’ll inspire you to stay I’m talking with Frederic. Frederic is an inclusion specialist with specific interest in critical pedagogy and Universal Design for Learning. While holding the position of Director of offs for students with disabilities at McGill, Frederick was responsible for triggering and sustaining a campus wide move towards UDL implementation. He is currently the programme head for the Master of Arts and Education Leadership and Management Programme in Royal Roads University Canada. Frederick I first met you in 2019 after and then head conference where we started planning a UDL seminar for primary and post primary teachers in Ireland. COVID meant this was a virtual event event, but all the same, it was one that sparked a life for many in attendance who were just beginning their UDL journeys. I’m delighted to have you on the podcast today to speak with you more about UDL, in particular, your work on Leadership for inclusion and UDL and sustaining media practices. But you
Frederic Fovet 01:06
Well, I’m happy to be here. How is the how’s the momentum going with that first group of teachers that you are you seeing a lift of?
Margaret Flood 01:15
I really am. And there are two schools that were at that seminar, who are still in constant contact with me and one of those schools has actually created their own UDL action plan. And they have a UDL committee in the school, and are actually developing their own resources, and even did a short little podcast around UDL, in subject specific areas as well. So considering that was like March 2020, so 18 months ago, they’ve come a long way since then, and it’s a joy actually to be able to check in with them and see how they’re doing along the way.
Frederic Fovet 01:56
That’s wonderful to hear.
Margaret Flood 01:57
So Frederic, can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and your background? And what it was that inspired you to explore and then advocate for UDL as an approach to inclusion?
Frederic Fovet 02:10
Yeah, so I’ve had a bit of a different approach to or journey to UDL. I, my background is actually in social emotional behavioural difficulties. And I was really focused on my research in my early career as well. And I was really focused on including students who, because of challenging behaviour, or did victims usually have repeated exclusion from schools, and a lot of that deep reflection around how do we engage the students? How do we change the relationship that they entertain, with school was about really already starting to think, well, we are the designers here, and we can do things differently. And the students are who they are, and they already, you know, have a very negative perception of school, so that the onus has to be on us to do things differently if we won’t have a chance to re engage them and to to bring them back into into an educational setting. So it was a natural fit for me at the time, I didn’t necessarily have a UDL vocabulary, but it was very much already that sort of a ecological perspective of saying this isn’t about them, it’s about us and it’s about us doing things differently and being a radically creative and and shaking up the system so that we can re engage the students. And then later I was a widen my interest from that original sort of ecological positioning and my focus on SCBD. As you said, I worked at at McGill in accessibility. So that gave me a grounded grounding in disability studies, where was introduced really to the social model and started working extensively with the social model. And I saw a really good connection there between the ecological lens which I’ve been using before and the social model of disability, because really both theoretical perspective again, put the onus on the designer, not on not on an individual having exceptionality but on us, as designer have an experience of a learning experience having to to change things and be creative and design inclusively. And then since then, I’ve had lots of roles. UPI was academically on the programme. Here were words and programme lead. So often I’m led to would contract faculty to have to support them now, in in developing inclusive practices and UDL now becomes useful in that sense of supporting other colleagues in in dealing with again, learned diversity, this time in post secondary and post secondary settings.
Margaret Flood 04:32
You’ve mentioned the us, as in the educators a couple of times there and I think that’s a really interesting perspective. You take Frederic, because a lot of the time we are talking students, students student and we know they are at the centre of everything. But if we don’t think about what we are doing, as you said, as the designers, then we’re not going to be able to make those changes to reduce those barriers for our students. Could you talk a little bit more More about that often our responsibility as educators.
Frederic Fovet 05:05
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s the that’s the interesting shift with UDL is that instead of, you know, most of the vocabulary around and the disposal and inclusion so far and here we’re talking really 30 years of scholarship has focused on still the learners exceptionality. So yes, a human rights approach, yes and equitable approach, but still with a starting point of the, you know, the learnings, exceptionality and needs, and this is obviously holistic and important. But UDL video allows us to shift to say, well, we can work really hard at this from a human rights approach, but really, eventually, it’s about us and our role as designers, but it’s about us as individual teachers or schools or school boards in, in meeting those needs in a more inclusive way. And that really has nothing to do with the exceptionality of the learner. Again, with UDL, we take it for granted, they are in diverse learners, there are a lot of diverse learners, we’re not going to be able to do anything about that, should we even be doing anything about that it’s the beauty of the of the student body is that we have that huge diversity. But what we have power is our ability to address diversity in an optimal way. And this leads leads us on to this notion of leadership, and I think it’s a it’s an important dimension of the UDL work. Now what I would call the second wave of UDL work is, you know, there’s quite a few sessions I’ve done recently that has focused on titles such as from curiosity to implementation. And I think just as the first for us in north or north America, the first 10 years have been about saying, Oh, this is an interesting model. And it yields really tangible benefits for students. And this is much more convenient for inclusion. But it hasn’t tackled, how do we do this? It’s tackled the why, but not the how. And I really see the coming decade as being the decade where we have to really look at this from a strategic and an organisational perspective. It started in higher education, because I think we’re looking at the transformation of Hive, and particularly after COVID, etc, and how we need to do things differently. It hasn’t really started in schools. And I think we really need to go beyond just saying, Look, this is a great model for inclusion to saying, Okay, how do we actually implement this, and they have some very specific challenges and barriers in implementing this. What I talked about a lot about is now after 10 years, looking at schools, we see a lot of burnout, we see a lot of the original UDL advocates that didn’t get anywhere, despite best endeavours despite some face successful initial work. Because there was never that sort of leadership support and that and winning conditions for it to be scaled up and to become systemic to be across schools or across school boards. What we want is sustainable change. So a few people doing some great things is not going to change our practices, we need to actually to be able to dribble this down for everyone to be able to buy into it. And that’s the great, that’s the great challenge. So we can, if you like we can I can expand a bit more.
Margaret Flood 08:13
But there’s a lot of issues that like for me, it’s really that transformational. It’s not just about hey, this is great. Just put it in forget about it. Is that transformational. And when you are talking about supporting the designers so that there isn’t that UDL burnout, is that kind of going back to your time at McGill, where you did put in the whole camp campus perspective, and is it about the structures to support? Or is it still about that shifting or mindsets?
Frederic Fovet 08:44
So it’s about a little bit of both, I would say I’m doing a quick list here on a piece of paper while I’m talking to you. I would say definitely the first important challenge is a change of mindset. We still and I see this with a lot of graduate students that I work with in in courses, when you get teachers mid career and you start talking about changing mindsets. And it’s not just about UDL, it will be about inclusion more widely. We could be about constructivism, it could be about a lot of practice that we know to be, you know best practices. But whenever we ask teachers to do something radically different than what they used to it’s difficult. Is that part of changing mindsets. And I think that needs a lot of concerted sort of willing intention, a concerted effort, but also a follow up right. from a leadership perspective. We know that management of change is very difficult, and we know that it has to be planned and it has to be monitored in order to see whether we actually get to completion. I don’t think that’s happening in schools at the moment. I think UDL tends to be this really this this sporadic efflorescence. And there’s a lot of communities where suddenly there’s a burst of energy, but if we don’t have leadership that actually support the process of managers of change, these efforts will fall down you know, they will fail. because they will like energy. We know from the literature on organisational change, that change doesn’t just happen spontaneously, maybe the trigger the sparkle does, but it has to be sustained. It has to be supported. And really I’m not seeing this in schools at the moment. Now behind this, there’s a there’s a resource issue. So you know, we I think have you know, in French we talk about Lattanzi magic, the magical thought that all change is just going to happen. No, it needs resources and needs to be planned. We still have leadership’s in many schools, that assumes that a redesign process will happen on its own. And do not recognise that actually, this is a it’s a sustainable change implementation of UDL, but redesigning your course, redesigning your assignments with, you know, choosing different resources, that’s actually a really a resource expensive process. And we don’t actually at the moment, see teachers being supported in this in terms of being acknowledged in their workload, being given specific windows of time where they can actually do that work of redesign, being recognised in their merits, in that, you know, promotion system that they have done this work. And this is important. Whenever I’ve worked with teachers in Canada, and it’s been really successful, it’s been just
Frederic Fovet 11:18
sort of the luck of a small school board, being able to offer teachers these conditions being able to reach to do release from teaching, and to have extra staff there to support teachers. But I think without that structural support system, we’re never going to get there it will remain sporadic sparkles, but not not, you know, won’t go beyond that. Now, in terms of management of change, also, we know that any organisation is resistant to change. And I think we need to realise as a third point, that resistance to change is something that needs to be analysed, addressed, and then tackled systemically. I don’t think people are necessarily opposed to UDL, though approach to inclusion. But I think any organisation any system is opposed to change generally. So as we are trying to move schools towards something radically different, we need to really think of all the fears that people have a lot of these resistance are often fears, fears of not having the right competency fears of the unknown. And we can prepare people for that. But that, again, is a concerted effort. The way you address fear is that you give people the information that they require, and you you have a plan ahead so that they don’t feel lost. And they don’t feel like they they’re losing, you know that that’s sort of the feeling of job satisfaction and competency. There’s another part as well, that we don’t talk about much is working with community. And I think a lot of the work is very teacher centric. So you know, there’s a spark of interest, we start UDL work, and we want to scale it up, and we want it to become big. But if you haven’t spoken to your community, particularly your parents, and even your students, it can actually be doomed for failure to their essential stakeholders. And if they don’t understand what you’re doing, that’s gonna be problematic. I’m also and I say this in quite a few presentations, but I’m often paid as a consultant to walk into schools or school boards after the fact. And given a large check to say, Okay, you go in there, there’s 100 payers, you explain to them what we’re doing. This is a year or two years after the fact, this is not the way it should be happening, it should be happening at the very beginning so that they are informed partners, and they understand what’s going on. And that’s very important because UDL can be perceived as a loss of services. You know, we’ve told parents that they have to advocate for the child, they have to require request services they have to fight for services of the services are not there. So imagine, you know, a great age parent who suddenly realises there’s no support that year, there’s no accommodation, there’s no teacher system. The first perception will be my child has lost their right to the support that they need. If they haven’t been told that in fact, this is a teacher who’s doing UDL and that all of those supports are now universally available to all of the students in the classroom without the need for labelling or stigmatisation, they are going to their first reaction is going to be an opposition to UDL because they’re going to misunderstand what it’s about. But if that communication has happened, and they understand that, in fact, this is a game, it’s not a loss, it’s a game that is in fact, everything that was already in place remains in place, but for all students, and therefore we can do away with the coding of students and their diagnosis and all that because everyone in the classroom has access to this measures. Of course, parents will be on board and students will be on board too, but it has to be explicitly spelled out to them. And that’s not happening in schools. And I see that as a real danger in the future if we don’t engage the community and parents from the start.
Margaret Flood 14:51
And I think Frederic it comes down to us again, having to change our mindset on what our learning community is. And when we’re talking about that. Diversity and variability. It’s not just the group of students sitting in front of us, that is the school community, the parents, all the interdisciplinary teams that are working with us as part of that learning community. And when you were speaking, what actually struck me was actually, in all of that in all of us having to think about all of these different people in us having to think about the fears around losing resources for our students, that that actually is a really tension between the rights human rights agenda, the deficit model, and the social model that you are advocating as part of inclusion in your area.
Frederic Fovet 15:45
Absolutely. And I’m publishing a chapter at the moment on this on the fact that we are sometimes that at the last moment, because we end up in absurd circumstances where a school or teacher who’s doing UDL in an extensive way, can sometimes be the target of criticism for not providing basic accommodation, because of this confusion. So I think there’s also a wider and this is a much broader picture. But we in all of our jurisdictions, we need to start thinking about the way we frame inclusion in legal terms, so that we remind ourselves that accommodations and retrofitting are the safety net. They’re not the ideal, sort of, you know, sort of metamorphoses and the ideal outcome, they are there just to say, well, if everything is not inclusive, you are providing retrofitting to at least come to, you know, counterbalance the fact that your design is not is not inclusive, but we should keep in mind that the ideal and the target is really not that it’s much further ahead. It’s actually providing inclusive environments from the start. So that when someone is doing that they shouldn’t be, you know, question about, you know, what, oh, you haven’t provided extra time? Well, I’m providing extra time for all students. So yes, I don’t need to, to categorise students and label them and identifies them as having special needs. So we have a wider issue with the way we we are clinging to from a legislative perspective, we’re clinging to this notion of, you know, human rights always being defined in in terms of retrofitting. And, of course, that needs to be the analyst to stay there. But our goal should be much further than that. And that’s what we should be working within in schools.
Margaret Flood 17:26
And this is actually something that I’ve heard you talk about before, when you’ve asked the question, Have we gone the wrong way in terms of or us feeling that we need to be experts in diagnosis to be experts in inclusion and accessibility, and really, what we need to be doing is we need to be presuming that competence and putting in challenges and then putting in as you call it, that safety net of supports and accommodations as well.
Frederic Fovet 17:58
Exactly and, and again, I’m not changing the fact that the you know, that, that that historical legal structure of retrofitting needs to be there will remain there. And you will always have some students that have significance, you know, impairments that require that safety net, because inclusion can simply not completely be, you know, be completely provided within the classroom itself. But there will be a minority of students and really, instead of being the 10, or 15%, that we have now, those students will be able to be accommodated fully in the classroom through inclusive design and inclusive teaching. And then you retain that, you know, that retrofitting safety net for the minority that really has exceptional requirements, just as it was in the 1960s, when you would have a couple of peep students there that made it an inclusive classroom but had significant need and then needed individual sort of interventions. But it will mean that the majority of your students are quite happily functioning in the classroom without being labelled without being stigmatised with full access to social capital and interaction with others never needed to go to a segregated environment or having to, you know, access title systems. So I think that that’s really important that we have lost the plot, I think and lost their way in a sense that we’ve so over focused on, on, you know, exceptionality and understanding escapes, exceptionality that we forgotten, but again, it’s just about that shift, right, that I think it’s an endless rabbit hole if we keep thinking, I need to understand everything by the exceptionality of that students. But if you step back and think well, about 50% of our students have some form of exceptionality I just because of culture because of language because of you know, new neurological impairment etc. So instead of focusing on why are diverse and oh my job, so many of them that are worse if we simply focus on what we have a job and as to create an hospitable environment that actually accommodates the needs of a wide variety of students. That doesn’t really acquire an expertise in exceptionality, it requires an expertise in design and in inclusive design. And even then, it’s a fairly common sense process. And that’s the beauty of UDL, stopping in your tracks and saying, Okay, I’m doing this at the moment, what could be some of the possible barriers that I may create for students? And how can I remove them, that doesn’t require an expert, you know, expert skills, it requires a common sense skills in reflecting on your own practice. And, and I think once we’re able to operate that change of mindset, it’s very liberating for teachers, because I think a lot of them for the last decade, have felt this huge burden that they need to be almost, you know, the specialist in every diagnosis that they encounter, and understand the legal funding requirements, etc. And that’s not what it’s about, it’s actually about saying, you know, I’m the master mind classroom, there’s a lot I can do here. And that can be done with fairly common sense, again, reflection on practice.
Margaret Flood 21:02
And I think sometimes times, and I know from my own experience, when I was in the classroom, that I often felt that the diagnosis or the requirements to find those reasonable accommodations was actually the master. And that was influencing my design. And as I was, as I was becoming more comfortable with universal design for learning, I also realised that I was using the language of diverse diversity and variability and UDL interchangeably with the deficit language of accommodation and diagnosis of needs. And I think that might still be the case for some teachers, and have you any advice or ideas on how we can actually change our mindsets that we’re not using them interchangeably, that we can see the place for both, but that they are different?
Frederic Fovet 22:02
Yeah, and I think that ambivalence is going to be there for a while, because to be honest, and we have to be lucid here. The reason why we have to, we have this ambivalence is because we have an ambivalence in funding models. And all schools are still functioning in an environment where your funding is linked to your diagnosis, information, and data is not information and that disclosure, and the coding of students, we are not doing away with that yet. I think we will do away with that. And I think most jurisdictions are moving away from that. So until we end, that, we will still have remnants of, you know, this, this language of deficits and special needs and coding and the funding that goes with it. Because it’s structurally needed, right, governments still talk in those terms. But I think we have to make people comfortable, what I tend to say is sitting on two chairs, that’s an old model, it’s coming, it’s coming apart, it’s obsolete, it’s, it’s gonna go we know, in most jurisdiction, there are already plans to reform that funding model. And we’re moving to something different, which in all likelihood will be a funding that goes to school and school boards, not on a per head on a per capita basis, but on simply on the fact that we know that all schools are dealing with diversity, and funding will be proportionate to the simply to the size of the schools. And also some of that funding will no longer be directed at students, but will be directed that teacher training and professional development right, which is much more sustainable. So we know that that’s in the in the on the way, and that will happen eventually in the coming decades. So now it’s a matter of getting teachers to be comfortable sitting onto chairs, knowing that that is still there. But you’re also working towards the future, you’re working towards a new model. So what can you do without over relying on that model? You know, you may still have students that are coded in your classroom, that doesn’t stop you from being an inclusive designer and creating an environment where you will not actually require going back to those categorization. Right, you will be providing universal sort of accessibility features to all of your students. Therefore, even if the students are still coded, it will not matter to you in your classroom setup, because you will progress every move into something which is more focused on design. But being comfortable in change being comfortable in this in the sense that we you are in an organic process of change and things that moving. That’s another issue that’s difficult for teachers, because often teachers will want a very clear delineation and you know, in the picture, that’s just not what life is like. We live in organically changing environments. And I think you just have to accept that. Yes, there’s this whole model. We know it’s no longer sufficient. We’ve got to work with it to the extent that we need to, but we’re moving towards something different. And we have to start already feeling comfortable in this new model without over relying on this obsolete model.
Margaret Flood 24:47
And I think that goes back to where we started about in terms of leadership for inclusion, and sustaining inclusive practices UDL or otherwise How do you? How do you feel our leaders should support the teachers in the classroom? And do you think it’s just the owners of the leaders within the schools? Or do we need to go bigger than that? Do we need to start looking at our policy designers, our professional development providers, in terms of offering that leadership to teachers?
Frederic Fovet 25:22
Yeah, so again, I’m taking some notes, right? Well, before I start, but I think the first thing is, yeah, there’s a duty for leadership to do much more in terms of embedding this vision into policy and mission statements, etc. From the work I’ve done with some credenza dishes, we see a huge difference in the schools that have actually done that work. Because it may seem small, but it doesn’t mean that then everything else that you do within the school is going to be able to refer back to the mission statement and say, Let’s not forget that this is what we’ve said ourselves as well. So I think it’s, it’s it can be symbolic, but it is a very important sort of step. The second one in terms of support is resources, as I’ve said, and it’s not Nestle, tangible, you know, everyone always and that’s a danger, too, we tend to say in schools, oh, this is beautiful change that we want to work towards. But we don’t have money, right? It’s the money of humans. And we get, we keep saying, Oh, we would like to do this. But when we have funding, I think we’ve got to be careful that in this neoliberal environment, we’re not going to get extra funding for anything for the coming decades. And the message is very much do more with less. So we’ve got to be comfortable with this notion that it’s it’s about being creative with funding and creative with resources, it’s not necessarily about expecting that landfall where one day we will get sort of a million to be doing things. But knowing the limits of our funding, I think we can be much more creative about really being subtle in the way we support each other. So again, I talked about release when teaching, if you want people to redesign, and it is a task that requires time, we don’t expect them to be doing this on a Saturday night on their holidays, it has to be you know, it has to be actually sort of marked out in their, in their work schedule has to be recognised as well. A lot of people do incredible things in UDL in schools, but they are not acknowledged in the in their performance reviews and in their promotion. You know it because there’s no category for it at the moment. So we have to create the categories that acknowledge the work that those those teachers are doing. The third element of support is management of change, as we’ve discussed already, so I’m not going to go on too long, but it needs to be monitored and planned for and, and, and I’m not saying that I think a lot of leadership at the moment expects, if we sowed the seeds, it will work. But no, that’s not sufficient. It needs to be you know, strategically plan in terms of years and process and then debriefing and looking if you’ve met your objectives. I think also the time is communist made is going to lead us to another part of the conversation the time has come as well to really shift this away from just impairment and disability. And to really say this language in this discourse, and his framework works for the full spectrum of of diversity in our classrooms. So you know this this last two years, we’ve had the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve had the need to movement, we have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada. So we have this, this push to say, you know, we need to dribble this down into schools to what do we do we have in British Columbia, for example, we have Soji policies around sexual and gender identity in schools. We have a lot of fragmented policies and documents that that said, the imperatives of recognising the full diversity of our students in the classroom. But we again, we don’t have frameworks. Talking about EDI is very well right Equity, Diversity Inclusion, but it doesn’t mean much to a teacher. If you tell the teacher we’ve got to really your class has to reflect you know, new EDI focus. They’re gonna say to you, but how do I do that? How do I you know, how do I tackle all these these imperatives in my teaching? Now, when you introduce me, you said that I work in critical pedagogy. And I think critical pedagogy is one of the models that allows you to do this sort of political reflection on your on your on your content and your practices. But it is daunting, it’s scary. And when I teach courses in critical pedagogy, teachers are scared. It’s a highly political environment. They’re not quite sure how they can do this without being subversive in their in school board, etc. So I think UDL is a really convenient framework that allows us to do some of that work, but allows you to do it and maybe a less political way, a more structured way, and a more designed focused way. And that is going to be really useful because people can get very worried about how do I you know, how do I tackle the needs of racialized students in the classroom? From a political lens? It’s very hard from a UDL lens, it suddenly becomes much more practical, right? You go back to your three principles. You look at your sentiments, you look at your content, you look at learner engagement, and you work with your three design principles to actually try and make this work in practice in reality. So I think this is another piece for The leadership is to really widen the discourse and say UDL is not just about, you know, five to 10% of students with disabilities. This is actually about a fairly much wider percentage of our classrooms.
Frederic Fovet 30:13
immigrant students are racialized students, you know, all issues around gender issues around indigeneity. culture, ethnicity can be tackled through UDL. But again, teachers don’t necessarily have that reflex of seeing UDL as being the tool for that. So I think leadership has a role there to say, we have a mission, we have a direction we want to take you on in terms of, you know, really widening the way we approach learner diversity in the classroom. And UDL is the tool that in practice, we can sort of, you know, offer you and train you in, so that you can use it to tackle these goals and tackle those objectives.
Margaret Flood 30:57
What I two things that I love that you said there was highlighting that UDL isn’t just about our special education and our students with exceptionality, because I know that’s where it’s grown from. But sometimes it does create another mindset of awesome them. So it’s just the job of the special education teacher. So I think that’s so important. And you listed a wide range of diversities that fall under that UDL, it really is everyone, it’s not even putting them all into their different groups. It is everyone. But you also talk Frederic about giving the teachers the opportunity to reflect to see how UDL will support them in whichever path they’re taking, or within whichever community they’re taking, or sorry, they’re working in. And through you, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a really diverse range of teacher leaders in Roy Rhodes. And the majority of black group are either from indigenous communities or working with indigenous indigenous communities, and three reflective practice, they’re really starting to see an embrace how UDL can work within their learning communities? Could you just because it is so contextual, and something that my listeners in Ireland wouldn’t be too familiar about? Could you talk about UDL in that context of indigenous and First Nations, peoples, and including them in their learning? Yeah, well,
Frederic Fovet 32:28
I think the best way to you know, it’s gonna be hard to, to summarise, you know, 200 years of history of Canadian history, but but if we look at the end result, we basically are often dealing with students who are feeling very marginalised and very ambivalent about school. And this is the, the legacy of the residential schools, and of having families who are feeling themselves very ambivalent about schools. So they disengage, lack of trust in schooling as an institution. Clashes well, even in terms of living, lifestyle, and, and, and culture, even in the way our school calendar doesn’t match. The seasonal preoccupation of many of these of these of these communities, we’re still very focused on hunting and fishing and fish, and various seasonal sort of activities. So that’s one of the outcomes that we see is a great, a great sort of disengagement with with the school as a whole and school as as an institution. The second element is the fact that really we are we are left with a curriculum that really has very little pertinence for indigenous communities. We call it their you use your century go your vacation, in a sense of beliefs, you look at our learning outcomes and our content, it’s really focused on what we call a society from the south, which is a very European settler society, and really doesn’t address the needs and the very practical outcomes that that communities might be looking for in terms of education in other contexts. So if you look at these two elements, the reengaging students so that school seems worthwhile, and then really transforming the curriculum so that it really has pertinence for the learner. That’s where UDL comes in. Because again, it is it’s a very political landscape. It’s something that can be really daunting for teachers. How do we do these two things? How do we reengage visualise learners, and change the content of what we do? Again, critical pedagogy could be useful, but it’s very threatening the radical, the political, I think UDL is going to offer people of a convenience framework within which to tackle this in a progressive way, one step at a time, focusing on an on an inclusive design perspective. And that inclusive design perspective is going to be really important because it’s really going to take you simply back to that user experience. What I’m doing is it relevant to the students? Is it engaging to the students Is it? Is it easy for the students to comprehend? Well, if the answer is no, then you have to design differently. And that can be a very simple way into starting this process of decolonization and engagement. So I think it’s a it’s a convenient, user friendly, non threatening framework that leads into much bigger reflection for teachers. But that’s fine. I think maybe that’s one of the dangers at the moment is we expect all of these teachers and school boards to be doing the work instantly. It’s not going to be an overnight change. And I think that’s where UDL is useful, because it recognise the fact that this is a career long process. Every year you do a little bit more. And then you notice the effect and impact of your students and then motivates you into trying another UDL tool, and another bit of UDL reflection to transform yet another aspect of your of your practices. And I keep saying to people, it’s not it’s not overnight, you’re not you don’t do redesign overnight, you redesigned progressively. And that’s where UDL comes in handy, because it does support teachers in a progressive transformation, rather than an overnight transformation.
Margaret Flood 36:05
Yeah, and I think like you, you’ve hit on the three principles there, as you’re, as you were talking, I was really thinking about in terms of engagement, those prior knowledge and experiences and just welcoming them into our classroom and building on those so that when we’re designing, we’re thinking of all these prior experiences that our diverse range of students have. And then even in terms of the representation, that the student students see themselves on our classroom walls, or they see themselves in our curriculum, as you said, it’s it’s a Eurocentric curriculum, so they’re not going to see themselves in a conversation I have with one of the students in your group actually really resonated in terms of how I see UDL. And they said that the indigenous culture is that everyone everyone is expected to come sesh lesson speak and contribute. And that really is what a diverse, successful learning space looks like to me, which I think is UDL and inclusion and equity in a nutshell.
Frederic Fovet 37:15
Absolutely. And and this is something that will come up in all jurisdictions. I think even if you look at a Europe and you look at some of the work that the European Union is doing around the world for students, and it’s a similar and there’s also a lack of tools and a lack of strategies around the inclusion of women students across Europe. There’s been a couple of reports, you know, large scale reports, but I think UDL might become interesting there as well in the same sense because you have very similar sort of damages. Students who feel marginalised, feel stigmatise feel disengaged with school as an institution, and we have to be very creative and creativity is going to come through with through inclusive design, and through UDL, I think those will be answered.
Margaret Flood 37:55
Absolutely. And even. I don’t know if you know, so in Ireland, we have our traveller community, which which would fit into that Roma community. And it is actually through me learning more about indigenous peoples, that I’m actually starting to view the traveller community in my own country in a different light. And while I thought that I was designing for them, and with them in mind, I wasn’t doing it 100% Because I wasn’t seeing the indigenous 80 of them. I was still seeing them as another. So I think like, there’s room for us always to learn and learn from contexts outside of our own as well, which again, is the joy of inclusion and Universal Design for Learning. Absolutely. Yeah. Frederic, we’re coming to the end of our conversation. I’m thank you so much for that. I’m just wondering, have you any resources for further independent learning that you would like to share with us today?
Frederic Fovet 38:54
Well, just briefly, before we get to the resources, there were two things I noted down that we didn’t get to, but again, in terms of leadership support, two aspects that I think are minor, we can tackle them very quickly, but they’re important. This notion of dribbling down UDL implementation throughout your school. This is something I learned when I was in McGill, I think we’ve got to be very careful that sometimes we focus our professional developments only on certain stakeholders, but not on all the members of your school. And that can you know, if you’re talking about hidden curriculum or school culture, if we wanted to really become embedded in that school culture, we need to look at all the stakeholders and don’t forget in in schools, you have maintenance people, you have receptionist you have a lot of people who contribute to that hidden curriculum and that school culture and if they don’t understand what you’re doing, it will still fail it will not be fully embraced. When I was in McGill, you know in the the office of students with disability one of the things that we realised is that we can change the way we we look at inclusion and the way we look at students support, but if we don’t talk to our frontline staff, and I receptionist and the people who answer the phone. The practices that are perpetuated in these in these spaces are still deficit model based, right? The person who answers your phone says you got your documentation. Well, that clashes entirely with what the rest of what you do in the office afterwards. So it’s really important in schools as well, we look at staffing widely, and that we find some professional development models, obviously, they need to be made more simple and more user friendly. But that can be used with all of your staff in school, not just the teachers, that your administrators, your receptionist, your secretary, everyone understands what you’re trying to do. So this is really important for the systemic adoption. The last one thing I want to talk about is we talked about working with community and working with parents. But working with students in UDL can be tricky as well. And then we got to realise that when we shift students to UDL, it, they can be resistance there, they can be an initial lack of confidence, because you are introducing something different. You’re introducing something which let’s be fair, is clear, it’s clear to the students that it’s going to require more more involvement on their part and less passivity. And that can be daunting to students who settled into a passive role. And it can it can, it can look like it’s going to be a lot more work. I’ll give you an example. If I have a reading list for a course that’s prepared, and I want to be a UDL, I will include a lot of options. So I will have a lot more text. If I don’t work my students through the logic of that, they will look at my reading list and say, okay, has he gone crazy? Does he want me to read all this? Right? Then it needs that sort of that that voiceover that says no, this is not about you accessing all this, so that you reflecting on your strength and reflecting what you need, and then choosing amongst the resources, what it is that you need. I call that transitional friction as you transition a student into something new. And that works also to some respect with constructivism and social construction. But as you move them into a non traditional format, or less passive format of teaching, you need to spend an awful lot of time explaining to students what you’re doing. When I was working in McGill, we had a UDL, one on one workshops for students. And it was very useful. And I think in schools too, we need to find a way that is palatable to explain to our students something that is age appropriate. And a specific that explains to them what it is we’re doing and why things are changing and why there’s a benefit in it for them. Because otherwise you can get some resistance to the unfortunate from leadership perspective, we forget that we sometimes over focused on oh, let’s roll it out from from the staffing perspective, but we don’t think of the students as being important stakeholders as well. Now, in terms of resources, I’m probably going to be frustrating, because I’m not going to point you to anything specific. But what I would say, and this is really something that I really encourage is to really, there’s an awful lot of work at the moment that is very important work that is not being published, that’s being done by teachers in in communities of practice around our island around Canada and the United States. For reasons that are obvious the teachers are overworked, over solicited, maybe a little don’t, you know, find a little don’t the process of publication or don’t think so they don’t necessarily get that work out. But that work is there, either in the form of action research, or at least in the form of reports. And what I’ve started doing more and more is browsing the net for schools that are doing UDL, and usually they will have a landing page, they will have some sort of, you know, of presence on the web, showing that they’re doing this work, and then taking the time to approach them and say, Do you have a report you have anything I can read, you have anything that you can give me that would show me what you’re doing. And I really would encourage all of your listeners to do that in each of you jurisdiction, because there is a nice body of work starting to be created. But it’s not necessarily at the published, published level work. But there’s a lot we can learn from that. And I think particularly when we look at the strategic implementation of UDL, that’s where we’re going to find the data that we need to map out what needs to happen for the for the next decade. So it’s, it’s a it’s, it’s a bit of a hard us task, you need to get on the web and find these schools and make contact but I think it’s well worth it. And there’s a lot to be learned from these experiences at this stage.
Margaret Flood 44:14
That’s a great piece of advice because it is teachers and schools learning from teachers and schools. So you know, it’s working and you’re going to get the reality check with it. So thank you for that. That is a huge resource, which I’ll be dipping into myself. Frederic, have you any final words that you would like to share with everyone?
Frederic Fovet 44:34
And well, I hope I haven’t been too negative in my outs. My outlook for the future because I am fairly positive. But I do think that whenever we have a great outburst of energy or enthusiasm towards UDL, we just have to check that we are setting ourselves for in with winning conditions for for success, because otherwise, you know, we’ve got to be careful they don’t last 20 years in school. They have been A lot of initiatives, lots of reforms, lots of new policies, and we don’t want this is a crucial part of transformation. This isn’t a trend, this isn’t something that just passing it’s there and we need to make it stay needs to transform the way we do inclusion. So we need to signpost this to people by saying this isn’t just something you can ignore. It’s not something that’s going to go away something that’s going to stay for the long term. And the way we do that is by being really organisational, strategic structural, laying the grounds for this work to actually be carried out for the next 30 years. So that’s all I would say is whenever we’re positive, as make sure that we actually are doing the groundwork for this to stay and grow and mature into something that changes our system.
Margaret Flood 45:43
Yeah, it’s really about seeing the positive impact of our intentions really isn’t. Exactly, yeah, I’m Frederic on that note. I’m going to say goodbye to everyone. So thank you so much, everyone for joining myself and Frederick for talking about all things inclusion, and I hope that you will join me again soon. Frederic, thank you so much for your time today.
It’s been a pleasure.