When I think of Universal Design (UD) or Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in my teaching context, I have to stop and consider all the aspects of the course that I am delivering.
- The cultural diversity of my students (social, political, cultural, economic and the natural ability etc.
- The standards that are stipulated by the governing body of the units that I deliver.
- The resources of the teaching environment (space, tooling, equipment etc).
- My abilities as a facilitator and experiences both in a teaching context and industry experience.
- Current industry requirements and expectations of staff.
- Where the industry is headed in the future and how this will impact what is required of my students (technology, depth of knowledge, skill etc).
What are the factors that influence diversity of this course?
- The course is open entry, apart from the students must demonstrate English language skills up to an overall score of 5.0. And it is an advantage to have completed the level 1 in automotive foundation skills. This on its own can cause problems as some of our students have had little to no exposure to the industry the course is designed to cater for and after 3 to 6 months they can decide that the automotive industry is not for them and lose interest in the course.
- The level and outline of the units is decided by NZQA and they have stipulated exactly what the criteria are that the students must be assessed at. This does limit what can be in the assessments and to some extent what material is delivered to the students.
- The students themselves come from a wide range of backgrounds in society there economic situation can often inhibit their ability to access computers and literacy and numeracy can be an issue. They often say they “know how to use a computer and smart phone” and are what we would call internet savvy, but in reality the only know how to text message and “surf the net” for cool videos.
- Also the average age of our students is 17 – 20 which tends to make them school levers, this tends to mean their maturity and discipline especially towards learning is low. A majority of the students are male and say ‘they only learn with their hands’, more often than not being a young male they don’t like to standout from the crowd and be independent and are more concerned about what their mates think over how their training is going (I can remember what it was like way back then).
- The industry over the years has become more and more technical and has more focus on the electronic control and interfaces that are used in modern vehicles. If you don’t believe me next time you’re in your car think back to what your first car came out factory with and what you as a consumer expect your modern car to do and how little time it has taken for your expectations to drastically change.
- Also consumer demands and economic constraints have pushed for more competition towards the industry and made the employers expect higher productivity and efficiency rates of apprentices and staff in general.
How does the above factors influence the way I deliver the course and how can I make the UD more diverse and still meet all the demands that is required of the course?
For starters with the course being open entry and having the problem with exposure to the industry my personal opinion is that as their facilitator I need to expose them to what the industry is about as soon as possible, let them experience what is expected in the industry and also what is expected of them in my classes. This allows them to (hopefully) understand whether or not they will want to do the course and start a career in the automotive industry. Failing to do this can set the students up to fail and not allow them to find the actual career they are looking for. Reducing their chances to become work ready.
With the maturity and study discipline that is lacking in the students the way I deliver the material and experiences needs to encourage them to do more active learning on the subject. Not because I am telling them, but because they want to learn more. This on its own can be difficult as not every student responds to the same method. This means my UD needs to incorporate many different learning mediums and cater for all learning styles. Also the design has to encourage them to use different learning mediums that they haven’t used before to expose them to a wider range of learning possibilities. This allows them to grow not only as a student but as a person. I have noticed that my students have grown up over the teaching year and this also helps them to get work ready.
As for their economic diversity the UD has to incorporate material that is readily available to them and/or give them the access to facilities and training that will aid them to complete the course. This can be ensuring computers are readily available and they have been taught that there is more to a computer than face book and youtube. Allow assessments to be delivered on different formats.
Even though the Unit Standards are “set in concrete” the way we assess the students and How we deliver the material is totally up to the facilitator, so understanding the students diversity and adapting the assessment and material to better accommodate these needs helps to actually assess them fairly and make the assessment more transparent.
Ensuring the students that pass the automotive course are of the standard that is required of the industry means that close ties are needed to the industry. By understanding what employers need to meet the current demands of the customer, technology and economy ensures that we adapt the teaching styles, content and delivery to meet these demands for them. We may even anticipate these demands before they do. This means that looking into the future is very important to ensure the future of our students in the current automotive industry.
Taking all this into account the UD of any of my courses needs to allow for all the above and also be easily modified to adapt to future requirements and innovations. It also must accommodate the learning needs of the students and help to shape their future.