Fellowship Prepares Leaders in Universal Design
The Lynch School of Education at Boston College, in collaboration with the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), Inc. of Wakefield, Massachusetts, has implemented a new, four year Post-Doctoral program to prepare leaders for the emerging field of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in order to improve the provision of educational services to students with disabilities nationwide. The program is made possible by a $787,975 grant sponsored by the Office of Special Education Programs, Division of Personnel Development, U.S. Department of Education.
In its inaugural year, the program accepted two Post-Doctoral fellows, and will continue to accept two additional fellows for the next four years. The Post-Doctoral fellows are mentored by special education and general education faculty at Boston College actively engaged in UDL-related work to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Fellows are placed at CAST to be mentored by senior research scientists actively engaged in significant research and development projects, state-level professional development activity and policy initiatives including the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard.
“We are proud and excited about this new program and our Post-Doctoral Fellows,” said Richard Jackson, Ed.D, Lynch School of Education Associate Professor and principal investigator of the grant. “Boston College has been committed to providing students with disabilities access to education since the 1950s. Universal Design is an emerging field and the Lynch School of Education is well situated to lead the development and dissemination of the practice.
The post-doctoral program of study emanates from a partnership formed between Boston College and CAST, which began in 1999 with the establishment at CAST, of the National Center on Access to the General Curriculum. Subsequent projects have brought Boston College and CAST professors and researchers together to work collaboratively following the UDL framework.
UDL Fellows are selected on the basis of prior training, relevant experience and a commitment to seek or resume employment in occupations or professional activities where UDL holds promise for improving opportunities for all learners including those with disabilities, English language learners and children living in poverty. Through mentoring from Boston College and CAST colleagues, UDL Fellows will complete a series of activities in two of the following focus areas:
1. UDL in Teacher Preparation and Professional Development
2. Policy Development in UDL at National, State and Local Levels
3. Development of UDL Curriculum and Instructional Practices
4. Universally Designed Formative and Summative Assessment Systems
Disability and diversity are well represented among faculty mentors at Boston College and researchers at CAST. An external advisory committee is also reflective of individuals with disabilities. Strategic attempts will be made to recruit UDL Fellows from among individuals with disabilities.
“The goal of the post-doctoral program is to provide knowledge and experiences to Post-Doctoral fellows that results in the competence to provide state and national leadership needed to address pressing policy and systems issues concerning UDL,” Dr. Jackson said. “The project will result in 8 new leaders who will shape the way that policy makers and educational leaders view Universal Design for Learning.”