Beyond Novelty: “Innovative” Accessible Teaching as a Return to Fundamental Questions Around Social Justice and Reflective Pedagogy

Beyond Novelty: “Innovative” Accessible Teaching as a Return to Fundamental Questions Around Social Justice and Reflective Pedagogy

Frederic Fovet (Royal Roads University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2943-0.ch002


This chapter examines how fully accessible teaching and learning, and particularly Universal Design for Learning (UDL), currently attracts much attention in higher education (HE) as an innovative pedagogical approach. Having highlighted all the dimensions of UDL that currently qualify it as “innovative”, the chapter further examines the concept of pedagogical innovation and what constitutes such a perception within the field. It is argued that far from being new, the notion of accessible teaching and learning draws from other pedagogical concepts and schools of thought that are well established in the literature and very much traditional and readily accepted. The chapter discusses that despite this recent “framing” or branding, UDL is not so much a novelty as a return to a fundamental questioning on the part of educators and instructional designers around engagement and social justice and their place in pedagogy.
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Section 1: What Is Udl?

UDL is a pedagogical approach which has emerged over the last three decades in both the K-12 sector and HE. It draws from the architectural principles of Universal Design and applies these to the learning experience (Dalton, Lyner-Cleophas, Ferguson, & McKenzie, 2019). The key principles of the UDL approach is to focus on the user experience (UX) when designing a learning experience, and to ensure through inclusive design that it is optimally accessible to the greatest number possible (Meyer, Rose & Gordon, 2014; Dalton, 2018). In order to guide the instructor in the inclusive redesign of instruction and assessment, the UDL literature offers three principles to tackle the design task progressively and in increments. The literature bases itself on neuro-cognitive findings and interprets the act of learning as having three distinct dimensions. Maximum flexibility should be afforded to the student in each of these dimensions, by integrating multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement (Capp, 2018). The following sections explore in greater detail what makes UDL innovative within HE teaching and learning.

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