Arts Education Trends: Universal Design for Learning and the Arts

Posted by John Abodeely, Sep 10, 2008 0 comments

By guest blogger Don Glass, Ph.D., Director of Outcomes and Evaluation, VSA arts, Washington, D.C.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is getting a lot of airplay in Washington this Fall. In addition to several conferences and a virtual forum, the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) just released a Tool Kit on Universal Design for Learning on the web.

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) defines Universal Design for Learning as, “…a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all."

Why is UDL important for arts educators to get to know better?

To begin with, it is a set of curriculum design principles that provides direction for including all students to be actively engaged and successful in their learning. Second, the National UDL Task Force is advocating for the incorporation of the ideas and language of UDL into federal policy legislation, including the reauthorization of NCLB.

As a strategy for arts education advocacy, it benefits us to not only understand frameworks like UDL that come from the general/special education fields, but to actively explore the relationships between arts education and the UDL ideas, language, and practices. By doing so, we can highlight how the arts may integrate with UDL, and generate some rich examples from arts education practices that highlight the UDL key features of multiple, flexible options to represent, engage with, and express content knowledge.

As VSA arts gears up to conduct a one day conference on September 19th to explore these relationships, we would like to state our commitment to continued sharing of information on inclusive arts learning strategies, and pose some discussion questions on the topic of UDL:

  • What do the principles of UDL look like when applied to arts in education?
  • How do the principles of UDL resonate with high-quality arts teaching and learning?
  • What are the implications for students with disabilities in inclusive educational settings?

Don Glass is the Director of Outcomes and Evaluation at VSA arts where his work focuses on making evaluation a useful, meaningful way to improve practice and build program capacity. He has managed state arts-in-education grants and conducted a study of arts partnerships for the Louisiana Division of the Arts, as well as held a position as a Research Associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. His doctoral work examined arts and culture curriculum reform in post-apartheid South Africa.

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