02.09.2020 Universal Design for Learning in Times of Online and Homebased Learning Activities

Image of event invitation

CBM Latin America organising webinars on inclusive education based on the new UNESCO Global Monitoring Report on Education 2020

Last year we had a meeting of CBM partners and staff of the Latin America region in Lima, Peru. Katharina Pförtner, Regional Advisor for Inclusive Education facilitated a part of the meeting on inclusive education, and several partners developed the idea of realising trainings in collaboration with education authorities in order to advocate for systemic changes in inclusive education in their countries. 

This year, a face to face meeting was not possible due to the pandemic, but the  growing need to support teachers and families confronting a situation in which more and more people with disabilities and others living in situations of vulnerability are excluded, was obvious.

An online webinar was planned together with CBM partners in Peru and Honduras in close collaboration with Ministries of Education and recently took place - on 18 August in Peru and from 19 to 21 August in Honduras.

In Peru, 500 education employees and authorities, members of parents organisations and education networks (100 more could not access the platform as it was full) participated in the 2-hour webinar. Meanwhile in Honduras 400 teachers, CBID staff and education authorities participated in the online platform, while 100 took part in the three 2.5 hour sessions via Facebook Live.

Katharina Pförtner shared the recommendations of the Global Monitoring Report on Education 2020 (CBM is member of the GEM Report Advocacy Team), showing the gaps which exist worldwide in the implementation of inclusive education and proposing changes. The participants learned about strategies following the need for systemic changes and making schools a place where all learners can participate based on their interests, abilities and achieve a good preparation for life. The key concept for these changes is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

UDL is an approach to designing instruction, materials, and content to benefit people of all learning styles and provides equal access to learning, not simply equal access to information. The learner is able to control the methodology of accessing information, responding and taking action in a way which is aligned with his/her abilities, while the teacher facilitates and monitors the learning process and initiates any beneficial methods. Using UDL, you assume that barriers to learning are in the design of the environment, not in the student.

This is important in the design of online class activities, taking into account the learners’ interest, learning style and capacities, providing options for communication and collaboration that are accessible to all individuals (including those with a variety of disabilities), adequate opportunities to practice at home and options for demonstrating learning together with other peers.

Learning at home also has to be accessible for all learners, taking into account that many have no access to technical items and internet (often in rural and marginalised areas). Activities have to be playful, alleviating learners from pressure by strengthening skills to give the learner a confidence boost during a difficult time. Teachers must stay in contact (e.g. via WhatsApp message) and teach how to self-evaluate learning effort and results. We know that social support is the most empowering factor to face stress and pressure. Persons who count on social support are able to deal with stress and are less affected by trauma.

At the end, participants worked on the project-based learning approach. The project building activities are orientated around life skills, games and investigating interesting topics. Teachers are the facilitators of the activities, while learners are working in collaboration with peers, accessing information in different ways, processing and performing their learning outcomes to the public. This is an approach which allows the UDL to be realised in any environment (including home). Learning becomes a real-life activity, approaching the learners´ curiosity, active participation and interest in the results.

The team of CBM partners actively supported the planning, implementation and evaluation of the events.

In the evaluation of the event, the Peruvian Ministry of Education stated, that the event surpassed their expectations, regarding the number of participants, their comments were very positive and they suggested to organise a follow up meeting in order to further elaborate this important topic.

The Vice-Minister of Education participated in the event in Honduras. He claimed that the result of the meeting will be considered as a turning point in education policy and that he is committing to put in practise UDL in Honduras.