Project Vision Statement
Boston College Universal Design for Learning Taskforce: Philosophy Statement
Richard Jackson, Joanne Karger, and Frances Smith
The purpose of the UDL Taskforce is to support the mission of Boston College ever to excel well into the new millennium. The university’s mission expresses a deep concern for all members of the university community by recognizing the important contributions a diverse student body, faculty and staff can offer and by exercising careful stewardship over resources, services and supports. It is with deep respect for diversity university-wide and careful stewardship over resources that this Taskforce is convened and finds its imperative. The Taskforce adopts the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) as an overarching framework to guide the design and selection of technological systems, curricular resources, and instructional practices in order to promote a high-quality educational experience for all members of the Boston College community. Building on its solid Jesuit tradition, Boston College is poised to become a model for other institutions of higher education in the creation of an innovative, technology-rich and broadly accessible learning environment.
As defined in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA), UDL is “a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that … provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged” (20 U.S.C. § 1003(24)). The UDL framework rests on three design principles: (1) multiple means of representation; (2) multiple means of student action and expression; and (3) multiple means of student engagement. These three principles afford opportunities for learning that are flexible and considerate of the widest possible range of students pursuing higher education today.
Historically, Boston College has a distinguished record of welcoming individuals with disabilities into its community. Since its inception, students, faculty members, staff, and administrators with disabilities have advanced within the university. New technological developments, however, bring additional challenges. Recent guidance issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice reaffirmed the need for postsecondary institutions to ensure that their use of emerging technology is carried out in a nondiscriminatory manner. The Taskforce, through the application of UDL principles, can help ensure that Boston College is meeting its legal obligations with respect to the accessibility needs of individuals with disabilities.
Moreover, through the lens of the UDL framework, the Taskforce has the potential to improve the learning opportunities and enhance the experiences, not only of individuals with disabilities, but of all members of the Boston College community. Instruction that is guided by the UDL framework helps faculty become better “instructional designers,” able to address the range of learner variability among the students in their classrooms. UDL enables faculty to reduce barriers in the curriculum and maximize learning opportunities for all.
Finally, the Taskforce can support the advancement of the Boston College strategic plan. Boston College is currently blessed with an ever expanding, robust technology infrastructure that holds promise for extending equal access to all resources and services offered by the university. In this new, technological era, full participation by all members of the Boston College community can equalize opportunities for individual progress, personal development, social engagement, academic achievement, and professional advancement – all of which build upon the legacy of Boston College as a caring community in pursuit of excellence for all its members. The mission of Boston College is consistent with UDL in its statement that the university “endeavors to educate a new generation of leaders … capable of shaping the future with vision, justice and charity.”
The UDL framework also aligns with the university’s strategic plan, which discusses the goal for Boston College to become the world’s leading Catholic university and theological center and to “develop and implement a student formation program that will be a contemporary model for colleges and universities committed to student formation.” UDL can provide the Taskforce with a 21st Century pathway to enable teaching for social justice. Through the guidance of the taskforce, Boston College has the opportunity to become a leader among postsecondary institutions in university-wide implementation of UDL.