Shauna Hanna

UDL from a Human Perspective

​We’re counting down to this year’s sixth UDL-IRN International Summit, taking place in Orlando, Florida from 27-29 March. It’s the landmark event for everyone who’s interested in Universal Design for Learning from an educational and academic perspective. And at this year’s Summit, proudly supported by Texthelp, we’re taking another deep dive into some of today’s hottest topics in learner-focused education. Hear what Joni Degner has to say in anticipation of the event.

Speaking on Thursday March 28 at 3.20pm, Joni Degner will be urging us to think about UDL from a human perspective – and dial out unconscious biases that can unintentionally overlook the real needs of students ‘on the margins’, including learners from disadvantaged demographic groups, ELLs and reluctant learners.

A member of the CAST Professional Learning Cadre and full time UDL facilitator for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) in Columbus, Indiana, Joni designs professional learning in Universal Design for Learning, Cultural Responsiveness, and Developmental Assets and Relationships for teachers and leadership. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with learners and educators, she’s a recognized international expert on the implementation of UDL for schools, districts and institutions of opportunity.

In her End of Average talk, titled ‘Empowering Expert Learners through Developmental Relationships’, Joni will be asking educators to think about people as much as the process of UDL when it comes to creating truly inclusive learning opportunities.

Creating inclusive environments

“As educators, we’d likely all agree on the importance of having great relationships with our students” says Joni. “In everyday life it’s easy to like and relate to other people who think, outwardly appear and behave pretty much the same way that we do. Like it or not, we all have our own implicit biases that draw us to these people – our ingroup. We have to be intentional in all of our work as instructional designers – how we design opportunities, resources, and even relationships. If we don’t acknowledge our biases, they will outwit our well-intentioned design every time.”

As Joni argues, it’s time to rethink our own attitudes and check our own biases to ensure that the UDL environments we design really are just that – universal – and not unconsciously excluding those ‘other’ students who don’t fit a standard template.

“Don’t just be a lesson planner,” states Joni: “be an education designer. We can foster equity and social justice by intentionally creating inclusive environments – and intentionally extending positive developmental relationships to benefit all learners.”

See the full programme for this year’s UDL-IRN International Summit here.


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