Tips and Resources for Faculty and Staff

General Tips & Universal Design for Learning

In the process of designing a course, there are several strategies you can utilize to benefit not only students with disabilities enrolled in your course, but in fact all students. Below are questions to ask and steps to consider while designing a course to optimize learning:

  • Articulate your goals for student learning in the course: In general, overarching terms, what do I want my students to learn?

  • How will I know my students have attained these goals? In other words what, specifically, will my students know, be able to do, and/or value as a result of this course? In assessment language, these are your Student Learning Outcomes.

  • What will I ask my students to do in order to demonstrate what they have learned? And how can I design the course assessments so as to give every student equitable opportunity to demonstrate their learning? The answer to this question is the assessment methods you will use throughout the course.

  • What do students need to know or experience in order to be able to successfully demonstrate their learning through the assessment methods I choose? This will suggest the content and activities that need to be included in the course, and on what timeline, in order for the students to be appropriately prepared for the assessments. And as above, this question calls on us to design so that all our students have equitable opportunity to acquire information and engage in the course.

The Syllabus and the Textbook

  • Adopt textbooks either one or two semesters beforehand. Make a list of required texts available by request to students as soon as registration begins, if possible. This allows time for students to obtain materials in accessible formats and to begin reading assignments. The same goes for the course syllabus.

Early in the Semester

  • Place a statement in your syllabus and make an announcement at the first meeting of the class such as: “If you are a student with a disability or believe you might have a disability that requires accommodations, please see me as soon as possible during office hours.” This approach preserves students’ privacy and also indicates your willingness to provide accommodations as needed.

  • Because students with disabilities may need additional time to process and complete assignments, convey expectations in the syllabus (e.g., grading, material to be covered, due dates). Statement about communication from Accessibility Services (A.S.)

  • Announce reading assignments and list in the syllabus well in advance for the benefit of students using accessible formats. Converting an entire book into accessible format takes an average of six weeks. If need be, Accessibility Services can produce the materials in installments when informed of the sequence in which the materials will be used.

General strategies for Teaching and Presenting

Points to Remember

  • When in doubt about how to assist, ask the student directly. If you still have questions, call the  A.S. office.

  • When students ask for extended deadlines or absences beyond what is approved, consult with the student's accessibility counselor.

  • Confidentiality of all student information is essential. At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, unless the student makes a specific request to do so.

  • The Standards for Student Conduct regarding disruptive behavior applies to all students. Clearly state behavioral expectations for all students; discuss them openly in your classroom, on your syllabus, and with individual students as needed.

  • If you require assistance or guidance concerning a student with a disability, please contact the appropriate the student’s accessibility counselor.

Methods of Instruction

  • Begin class with a review of the previous lecture and an overview of topics to be covered that day. At the conclusion of the lecture, summarize key points.

  • Highlight major concepts and terminology both orally and visually. Be alert for opportunities to provide information in more than one sensory mode.

  • Emphasize main ideas and key concepts during lecture and highlight them on the blackboard or overhead.

  • Speak directly to students; use gestures and natural expressions to convey further meaning.
  • Diminish or eliminate auditory and visual distractions.

  • Present new or technical vocabulary on the blackboard or overhead, or use a handout.

  • Use visual aides such as diagrams, charts, and graphs; use color to enhance the message.

  • Give assignments both orally and in written form and be available for clarification.

  • Provide adequate opportunities for participation, questions and/or discussion.

  • Provide timelines for long-range assignments.

  • Use sequential steps for long-range assignments; for example, for a lengthy paper

    • Select a topic

    • Write an outline

    • Submit a rough draft

    • Make necessary corrections with approval

    • Turn in a final draft

  • Give feedback on early drafts of papers so there is adequate time for clarification, rewrites, and refinements.

  • Provide study questions and review sessions to aid in mastering material and preparing for exams.

  • Give sample test questions; explain what constitutes a good answer and why.

  • To test knowledge of material rather than test-taking savvy, phrase test items clearly. Be concise and avoid double negatives.

  • Facilitate the formation of study groups for students who wish to participate.

  • Encourage students to seek assistance during your office hours and to use campus support services (SCAA, etc.).

Source: John Hopkins University