University of Waterloo 11th Annual Teaching and Learning Conference: 2019

Teaching and Designing for Diverse Learners

UWTL 2019 Conference Image Rocks Under Water

May 2, 2019

For our 11th annual University of Waterloo Teaching and Learning Conference, we asked participants to be cognizant of the fact that students and instructors alike come from a wide range of backgrounds, possess different life experiences, and approach learning and teaching differently. Hence, it is important to design our teaching strategies, assessments, and curricula so students can access the material through multiple pathways and engage meaningfully in their learning. Further, as instructors, we must consider how we can meet our diverse students’ needs in a way that complements our own approaches to teaching. 

This process requires building respectful and inclusive learning environments that recognize the needs of both learners and instructors. For example, incorporating flexible assessments in our courses allows students to demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. Yet, at the same time, there are significant challenges in implementing such practices. How do we meet diverse and conflicting student needs? How do we assess what really matters in a way that is rigorous, and importantly, fair to all?  

Keynote - Inclusive Instruction: Reaching and Teaching Diverse Students (Dr. Allison Lombardi, University of Connecticut)

Today’s postsecondary students are increasingly more diverse with respect to socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, ability/disability, and age. As a result, instructors are challenged to meet the needs of this increasingly diverse student population, and consequently, are under more scrutiny than ever before to devise creative, innovative, and inclusive classrooms and courses.  However, most instructors receive little or no formal pedagogical training in inclusive instruction. Based on the principles of Universal Design for Instruction (UDI), inclusive instruction offers a framework that can be utilized to guide and support instructors in course planning and delivery, as well as evaluating learners.  While the potential of universally designed teaching approaches has been emphasized for the past decade, widespread implementation remains a persistent challenge.

Allison Lombardi, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut, as well as a Research Scientist with the Center for Behavioral Education and Research, and a Research Associate with the Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability. Dr. Lombardi studies the transition from adolescence to adulthood, with a particular focus on college and career readiness (CCR) and higher education experiences of underrepresented groups, including students with disabilities. She has experience in the development, field-testing, and initial validation of several measures intended for secondary and postsecondary students and college faculty.  

In efforts to focus on diversity and disability in higher education, she has developed and facilitated workshops for postsecondary faculty focused on inclusive teaching and universally designed instruction. She’s also continued to work on the validation and refinement of the Inclusive Teaching Strategies Inventory, a measure intended for college faculty that has been used in research studies across two- and four-year colleges in the United States, Spain, Canada, Germany, and Taiwan.  

Since 2012, Dr. Lombardi has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in the Special Education Program in the Department of Educational Psychology. She’s also the director of two online graduate certificate programs: (1) Postsecondary Disability Services and (2) Special Education Transition to Adulthood. Dr. Lombardi currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Diversity in Higher EducationJournal of Special EducationCareer Development and Transition for Exceptional IndividualsTeaching Exceptional Children, and the Journal on Postsecondary Education and Disability

Igniting Our Practice

Dr. Markus Moos is Associate Professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. His research is on the economies and social structures of cities, particularly the sustainability and justice implications of urban change. Over the past decade, he has taught courses at various levels on planning administration, planning history, public finance, location theory, statistics, research methods, and urban demography and generational change. He was graduate program director in the School of Planning from 2015 to 2018. 

In his Igniting Our Practice session, Dr. Moos involved conference participants in an interactive exercise from his first-year urban planning course that helps students define and understand the meaning of planning administration in practice.

Dr. Carol Hulls, P.Eng. is a Continuing Lecturer in the Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering Department at the University of Waterloo. She has been teaching courses in programming, computer hardware, and robotics since 1999. Always looking to improve classroom learning, she has tried a variety of techniques including Tablet teaching, blended learning, and experiential learning, and she is a co-founder of the Engineering IDEAs Clinic. In 2016 she received the STLHE D2L Brightspace Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning. Her favourite day each term is "demo day" when the first year mechatronics engineering and mechanical engineering students demonstrate their course projects.

In Igniting Our Practice, Dr. Carol Hulls invited us to remember how it was on our first day as an undergraduate student when we didn't know whether it was safe to put up our hand to ask a question, and we thought there was a single answer to every problem.  Carol presented an example from the first lecture in her programming course that is meant to set the tone for the rest of the term, where discussion is encouraged and the answer can be different depending on the application or context.



Visit our official conference website to learn about current and future conferences.

For questions about the conference, please contact Kyle Scholz at the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

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