Faculty Q&A

The Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) Committee at MCC is in the process of exploring ways to foster learning and to create an environment that is inclusive for all learners. Universal Design for Instruction is an approach to teaching that consists of the design and use of instructional strategies that benefit a broad range of learners, including students with disabilities.

Our committee is interested in finding out about unique instructional techniques that youíve used in your classroom to make learning possible for the diverse student body here at MCC. For example, in a class where a student with Tourette's Syndrome was concerned about a required presentation, all students in the class were given the option of taping the presentation and using props and other people in their videotape: This option did not change the essential character of the assignment. Please describe one strategy that you've used that has helped you to meet this goal of creating access. Our intent is to share this information with faculty in the future. Thanks for taking a minute to reply to this.

Faculty Responses

  • One thing I have done with students who have acute test anxiety is to discuss with them in private what their concerns are.  Then I tell them that if they mess up their test due to nerves I will let them retake the test later on their own.  Often just knowing that they will have another chance at the test is enough to reduce the pressure so that they don’t need to retake the test.

    Barbara Place

  • Last semester, in my Intro to Cultural Anthropology class, I realized students were having trouble with a foundational concept in Anthropology, ‘Culture is learned, shared and symbolic’.  We took an extra class period and went to the Unfinished Wood store on Spencer St.  Before we left, I divided the students into teams of two, taking care not to put students who knew each other together.  I gave them the following task before we went:

    ”You are one of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  You and many others have lost your jobs, homes and maybe your families.  You relocate to another town with what is left of your family.  How do you explain your experience to your new friends and coworkers, and how do you pass down the experience to your children?  Using small wooden objects from the store (I gave them a $ limit of $3.00 which I gave them), choose artifacts and objects that will help you to tell your story.”

    The results were amazing.  Several students came to class and were incredibly prepared to give a talk on how their transformed wooden objects transmitted, taught and shared their ‘culture of Katrina’.  Some did beautiful paintings on the sides of small boats – paintings of Mardi Gras, paintings of huge waves, paintings of dark clouds.  One team picked a helicopter and painted it with images of the catastrophe.  Several had small boxes with caches of important items like a small apple, a tiny plate and fork.  One team had a small house that they destroyed (almost) – torn from its foundations and splintered, and a new house next to it painted a joyful red color.  Several had painted angels and spiritual beings on their objects as representing God’s help in the tragedy.  The students were clearly moved by the experience and I was so surprised that such a small thing could turn out so well.  So many of our students are creative in other ways besides reading, researching and writing, and imparting real understanding of difficult concepts like culture takes more work than just assigning readings.  They obviously got their hearts involved in the project.

    Oh, and I threw it at them with no warning, I just announced a ‘road trip’ for part of that week’s class.  So it had an element of excitement in it as well.

    Patty Burke

  • I am teaching Introduction to Microeconomics as an adjunct lecturer this semester.  One of the initial requirements for the course was the presentation of a research paper on a microeconomic topic by each student.  However, after some students expressed concerns about stage fright and some general fear of public speaking, the individual presentation requirement was changed to a group presentation wherein a group of students would research a topic and present their findings as a group.  This approach fulfilled two purposes:  it allowed students to develop their teamwork skills while at the same time allowing them to obtain comfort in the company of their peers during their presentations.  In the final analysis, even students who had initially expressed concerns about individual presentations appeared relatively comfortable discussing their topic in the midst of the group members.  I think flexibility in teaching and learning strategies is crucial for both sides of the equation:  the teacher side and the student side.

    Fadel Sesay

  • Several times in the past year, students have expressed concern about publishing their draft work on VISTA for peer editing by the class at large.  I have allowed such persons, when they make that specific complaint, to pair with another student and either exchange e-mails or papers to meet the peer editing requirements. However, when I had a student with IBS who could not sit her final exam, the only option that the Department approved was to delay the exam until her condition improved.  This took 4 months, well into the “automatic” cutoff for Incomplete grades.

    Edward Savage

  • I’ve used the 1) present the case and just hand in notes OR 2) write up a typewritten paper.  I also had a few (3-4) students who had many difficulties last semester and I referred them to one of my advanced students (in the same class) to form a study group.  This proved very beneficial.  Two of these students would have failed the course but with this student’s help they both received Cs.

    Barbara Fox

  • I had a blind student in my Oceanography course.  I became more aware of how much hand waving I did to simulate different motions or topics that I was describing.  Thinking about this, I put much more effort into describing with words what I was displaying, or even drawing on the blackboard.  This not only helped the blind student but others as well to get a better grasp of the subject matter.

    Elaine Kotler

  • I had a student who had to sit in front of me to read my lips when I spoke but she had trouble seeing my face when the lights were off in the room.  The lights needed to be down when we were looking at programming code on the screen otherwise it was difficult to read.  We solved the problem by having me turn on the document camera lights and shining them up on my face so she could see my face when I spoke.  (I probably looked ghoulish but she said it worked out well!)

    Catherine Seaver

  • My technique is to talk to the students in a clear, uncomplicated manner showing that I care about them and the subject matter, and then to listen to what they have to say.

    David Litrico

  • I am very interested in this, please forward results!
    As homework, I had my students take the “how to learn” survey at www.howtolearn.com and print out the results for me.  They do have to give out their email and get a welcome email from e-learning strategies.  I have used the results to help pinpoint how to help the struggling students especially (only 20 students in this class, so it was easier).  I also found a visual mnemonic book for those who were more auditory/kinesthetic and not grasping diagrams.

    Kathryn Mashey

  • In my Microbiology course I use a learning portfolio to help the students develop good study habits.  This portfolio includes all of a student’s work for the entire semester.  I tell the students that a well developed learning portfolio is as good an indicator to me of the effort they have made to learn as exams are, maybe better.  I therefore use these portfolios as a part of their grade.  Below is a brief description from my syllabus of what I expect to see in the portfolio.

    Students will be required to keep a learning portfolio during the semester.  Your portfolio will be a learning tool as well as a map of your progress throughout the semester.  Periodically during the semester I will review your portfolio to access your progress in the course.  If problems arise in studying and retaining course materials, the portfolio should provide clues to what could be done to improve your performance.  Portfolios will be given points that will be taken into account when final grades are determined.  These points will then be used to add percentage points to your final course grade.

    Jonathan Morris

  • Raised computer desktop for wheelchair bound students.
  • Assisted disabled students with electronic equipment or had teamed student(s) with another student to assist.
  • Investigated sound proofing, sound/audio issues in V101 for hearing disabled.  This particular problem is ongoing and even effects students who are non-hearing impaired.  I talk very loud and walk around the room in order to be heard and repeat questions from students so all can hear.

    Deborah Simmons

  • Providing a variety of methods to measure learning.
  • Inform student on the 1st day of class, the support systems available to them through the college.


  • Math is a difficult subject for many students.  The notes students take in class do not help them because they do not understand what we did in class.  So whenever we do something in math, I write the step out right next to it so that students understand what we did when they refer back to their notes.  Diagrams are also helpful.

    For example:

    Let us find the perimeter of a rectangle whose length is 4 feet and width is 5 feet.

    2L + 2W      Write the formula
    2(4) + 2(5)      Place the values for length and width in the formula
    8 + 10      Multiply
    18 feet      Add the products and attach the correct unit of measure

    It takes time but it makes better sense to the students (I hope).

    Sonia Mihok
  • When I took a survey, several students told me they liked how I drew pictures and diagrams on the board to explain my point.  Imagine – such a little, insignificant thing!

    Kathy Bottaro

  • I teach Public Speaking.  I usually assign a group speech near the end of a semester, if at all.  But for the winter term, I decided to introduce it earlier in the session so that students would have a chance to work together and advance their comfort level with one another.  It was a very successful project, exceeding my own expectations, and so I decided to assign a group speech early in this spring semester.

    To complete the assignment, students were asked to rely on their powers of observation (and cooperation) as opposed to researching material.  In order to avoid conflicts with employment, family commitments, or other classes, I allocated some class time to ensure that they could all meet.  The results were very positive, and I plan to incorporate a group speech early in the syllabus each time I teach this course.

    Groups comprised three to five students, and prior to the exercise, I reviewed the basics of a group presentation.  For students who were uncomfortable standing alone in front of the room, it provided them with support.  For those who needed help organizing their ideas, they had peer assistance.  I also require them to videotape each speech.  For this speech, each group had a chance to watch it together, and critique themselves and their fellow classmates.  This exercise enabled them to evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, to identify with one another, and to feel connected.

    Joan Walden

  • I meet with all the students individually at the beginning of the semester during my office hours (usually works best just before or just after class).  In these meetings I just want to have some face-to-face contact with the students.  I ask about their major, what classes they’re taking and how they’re doing, if there is anything they think I should know about them.  I find these meetings help create the rapport I am looking to establish with the students.  Then, occasionally I’ll ask to speak with someone after class for a moment to check in on how they’re doing, if they’ve met with an advisor, what they’re thinking about transferring, etc.

    Karen Warner

  • To assist students that are having problems, I put them with good students that can help them and, if this does not work, I will give them an assignment that is similar to everyone in the class, but much easier.  Most times when I have done all of this and it is still too difficult for the student they realize it and when I talk to them they are aware I have tried and they have and it is not going to be a good grade.  This is simple, but it helps some and the others may drop the course and are understanding.

    Linda Coons
Last Update: April 09 2009
For additional information, contact: Gail Hammond