Universal Design for Learning: An Inclusive Pedagogy

Dr. Sujata Bhan is a Professor and Head of Department of Special Education, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai. She is a trained psycho-educationist and teacher educator. She is actively involved in teaching, administration, research, and training teachers in Special Education for three decades. She is a registered guide for Ph.D. in special education. Her blog introduces the context for inclusive pedagogy through universal design for learning.

The curriculum of the majority of educational institutions is tailored for a uniform cohort of learners and lacks the capacity to address varying educational requirements. This places the onus on students to conform to rigid curricular structures. Educators are tasked with developing customized instructional materials tailored to the diverse needs of learners with varying neurological profiles. It is optimal for educators to offer educational experiences within the mainstream curriculum that are comprehensive and efficacious for all students. This practice ensures that no individual student is singled out, and each student, including those with disabilities, feels a sense of inclusion.

The global educational development agenda outlined in Sustainable Development Goal 4 similarly aims to guarantee education that is inclusive and of high quality, while also fostering opportunities for lifelong learning for all individuals by the year 2030. Therefore, the educational system should strive to cater to the needs of all children in India, ensuring that no child is deprived of the chance to learn and succeed due to their circumstances of birth or background. Given that both the NEP 2020 and SDG 4 prioritize addressing diversities and providing education to all, it becomes imperative to explore various inclusive pedagogical approaches to render education accessible, engaging, and significant for everyone.

UDL, as an educational framework, is strategically crafted to enhance and optimize the pedagogical and learning processes for individuals, drawing from empirical understandings of human cognition. Infused with the core tenets of accessibility, flexibility, and inclusivity, UDL aims to eliminate impediments to learning, ensuring equitable opportunities for achievement for every learner. It offers a structured approach for formulating educational objectives, strategies, resources, and evaluations that resonate with all individuals, presenting adaptable methods that can be tailored to specific requirements.

The significance of UDL is particularly pronounced in specialized educational settings as it furnishes a holistic structure for catering to the varied requirements of students with disabilities. Through the provision of multiple pathways to achievement, UDL fosters the development of resilience and perseverance among children with special needs. By advocating for adaptability, accessibility, inclusiveness, autonomy, and differentiated teaching practices, UDL fosters the establishment of an educational milieu within special education classrooms where all students can flourish.

The Department of Special Education trains the B.Ed. trainees in UDL framework to be implemented both is mainstream schools and special schools. We as a country, are still at nascent stage of following UDL therefore, research needs to be conducted on the effectiveness of using this inclusive pedagogy.

Professor Bhan believes the cognitive and conative domain of learning is incomplete without enhancing the affective domain. Her passion lies in creating a workforce of teachers who can make a difference in the life of a person with special needs. To find out more about her work, register for an online space to the conference…

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