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Reflections on Implementing UDL in Low and High Stakes Activities

The Spring I high-stakes activity I created grew directly out of the Fall’s low-stakes activity, which was designed as a scaffolded assignment, and foundation, to assist students with their in-class mid-term essay. While the low-stakes activity was extremely effective in allowing students to locate, interpret, and analyze relevant direct quotations and paraphrases from the course text, the high-stakes assignment proved to be more challenging and time-consuming.

The high-stakes assignment required students to continue utilizing the comparison and contrast format, within their research essay assignments, to specify the major similarities and differences between the respective legacies of female civil rights activists, Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer, and the more widely-known civil rights icons, Malcolm X and Dr. King. All of the students readily identified sexism and gender discrimination as the principal obstacle to the afore-mentioned women’s notoriety; however, only one third of the students fully addressed more complex issues, such as differing philosophies of grassroots organization and intersectional approaches to encouraging mass political mobilization among women, people of color, and the working classes.

As it currently stands the research assignment is on Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer. In the near future, I plan to revise this research assignment so that it will include a preliminary low-stakes assignment on how these women’s organizing strategies included proto-intersectional objectives that foregrounded the need for unity among all people, regardless of race, sex, and class.

Revising the research assignment by including this low-stakes component will introduce students to critical race theory, as it relates to intersectionality, while also allowing them to begin their own analyses before drafting their high-stakes research essays.


Reframing the Assignment

The Fall 2017 semester has been a very busy one for me. The Therapeutic Recreation program, a new Health Sciences program officially opened in the Fall 2017 semester. With that, there has been a shift in the course assignments that were originally created during the college curriculum review phase. The original assignment that was used in the Fall semester utilizing and implementing the UDL principles was for a course in the Health & Human Services program. The low stakes assignment designed introduced students to one local social welfare program of interest. This activity encouraged students to use critical thinking by allowing them to become actively involved in their learning by taking the concepts of social welfare policy and analysis and connecting it to the role of a social worker within a clinical setting. Utilizing UDL within the course and with assigning students this activity allowed students to illustrate connections with real life experience to the practical and theoretical knowledge on Social Work & Human Services and the role of a Social Worker/Human Service professional within a clinical setting. The activity received a lot of positive feedback from the students, in terms of engagement and integration of real life application of clinical skills from a clinician in the field of Social Work.

With that, I am looking to re-designing this particular assignment for one of the Therapeutic Recreation course, HTR 201- Therapeutic Recreation Clinical Fieldwork. I will develop a low stakes activity that will encouraged students to use critical thinking by allowing them to become actively involved in their learning by taking the concepts of therapeutic leadership learned in the HTR 102- Professional Issues in Therapeutic Recreation course and connecting it to their capstone course and clinical fieldwork internship (HTR 201- Therapeutic Recreation Clinical Fieldwork). The assignment will be built around the students’ interaction with patients/clients in any of the following fields of practice: children, HIV/AIDS, mental health, long term care/nursing homes, substance use. The activity will interrelate with my research on investigating, “How can UDL and its principles be implemented within a clinical environment?” “What are the best practices for clinical practice using UDL to measure competency for students with disabilities?”

As with the low stakes activity in Health & Human Services, the challenge with incorporating UDL and the three principles with the HTR 201- Therapeutic Recreation Clinical Fieldwork course is that the most of the skills required of students to demonstrate competency and mastery of concepts, coursework and hands on patient care are, in most cases, determined by federal, local and state regulatory, accrediting and licensing bodies not affiliated with the college. The idea of assisting students in establishing a “professional identity” will be incorporated in the clinical fieldwork course. The activity will assist students to who must complete an internship or fieldwork experience in a clinical setting by providing the student with some supports and/or accommodations that are individualized and flexible in order to incorporate UDL within the clinical setting.

Taking students out of the classroom so that they could develop an interest in establishing a professional identity to the extent that they are able to successfully demonstrate the ability to apply classroom theory and practice with personal life experiences by synthesizing and transferring learning beyond the classroom (Integrative Learning) will be the goal of the activity.

Reformulating Our Assignment…

I took the time to reflect on the last semester and the consideration of my UDL assignment into my SCH150 (Drugs, Society, & Behavior) course for Spring I 2018. I am working to fully implement a scaffolded assignment after implementing, a low-stakes version, in my class during the Fall I 2017 semester. Over the course of the Fall II 2017 semester, I worked to adjust the low-stakes portion of the assignment and to expand the more complete assignment for the course. The premise of this assignment is to expand upon the considerations of drug policy, based upon course information and review of current affairs related to drugs and drug policy within the United States.

In the Fall I 2017 I had my students complete a low-stakes reflection at the end of the course on their perspective related to the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Specifically, if they felt that this policy was still correct in its application and classification of substances within the United States. Students were encouraged to either write out the blog post or to record and upload a vlog post. Currently in Spring I 2018, I have more fully-integrated a scaffolded assignment with both low-stakes and high-stakes portions using different modalities to access the various strengths of students within the classroom. First, after a brief discussion on the history of U.S. drug policy and the aforementioned act as well as watching a documentary “Breaking the Taboo” and writing a brief reaction response, students record and upload a brief (up to 5 minutes) recording on their current perspective on the aforementioned act (i.e. what does it say, is it a good policy). The students will receive feedback as well as discuss their perspectives in class on the topic further. Students will begin compiling their evidence to think about potential reclassification of drugs within the current structure as we dive into discussing the different substances over the course of the semester. Students also continually watch films and write brief reaction posts that will help further inform their final paper. At the end of the course, students will have compiled the final high-stakes paper and then will work in teams to have a low-stakes debate in-class (once I provide position statement for them to approach the debate).

I am still working on adjust the assignment. However, my DfA colleagues have continued to be a wonderful support to this process. It has been through their work and listening to their assignments that I have been able to re-evaluate how to approach work within the classroom. It is helped me figure out the key objectives and understanding that there are a multitude of ways to work toward accomplishing that objective for the course. Overall, this project and initiative will help ensure a  more inclusive and accepting environment at LaGuardia and beyond.



DfA Student Application

Part-time Job and Learning Opportunity:

STUDENT LEADERS for Paid Advocacy positions


Are you a LaGuardia student living with dis/abilities? And/or have you advocated for improved access to education for all students?

The Designing for All Project at LaGuardia Community College is an initiative that will help provide increased access to education across the school. If you’ve ever had experiences in a classroom where you felt like you weren’t being invited to learn in the ways you need to learn, this project might be a great fit for you.

We will be working throughout Fall 2017-Spring 2018 to expand the way that we think about teaching and learning at LaGuardia — and across CUNY — so that all students can have access to effective, empowering learning. This means finding out what resources and curricular changes students need to learn well and figuring out how these needs can be both met and exceeded.

We’re looking for five students to take a leadership role in LaGuardia’s Designing for All Project. These students will ideally identify as having dis/abilities, or be learning academic English as their second language, and/or who have experience working to improve educational access for all.

Over the next two terms, we will be working across disciplines to generate universally designed classroom practices so that all LaGuardia students — inclusive of dis/ability status, language experience, or learning styles — will be able to more effectively access and control their own education.

Student leaders will be paid stipends of 1000 dollars total for the year.

Student leaders’ work will be published in Summer 2018, and they will play a key role in shaping the direction of this project. Meetings with students will include leadership skill development and will be driven by student needs and desires.

To this end, we are recruiting five students to take the lead in the following projects:

Summer and early Fall, 2017:

  • Apply for Designing for All student leader position by September 15th; and
  • Participate in a full team meeting with faculty and administrators to ensure students’ experience will play a key role in shaping the trajectory of the program.

Fall I, 2017:

  • Participate in weekly student team working groups (schedule to be determined), some of which will meet online;
  • Co-develop a survey for fellow LaGuardia students regarding their needs as learners;
  • Craft a plan for survey distribution/collection;
  • Distribute survey; and
  • Assist with analysis of survey data.

Fall 2, 2017 (Winter Term)

  • Begin crafting a reflective project about your experience here (possibly reflecting on the experience of creating universally designed classroom practices) that will be published in Summer 2018.

Spring I, 2018:

  • Participate in one full team meeting to share expertise and skills that students think the rest of the team will need moving forward in this project;
  • Participate in two full team meetings to evaluate program implementation and offer expertise for course correction;
  • Participate in student team meetings (schedule to be determined); and
  • Reflect on your project-related experience and any connected issues around inclusive learning through a crafting project of your own choosing.


  • Commit to fall, winter, and spring participation in the project starting Fall 2017 through Spring 2018;
  • Be registered as a student at LaGuardia Community College during Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 terms; and
  • Demonstrate a desire to advocate for your communities, or have experience advocating for your communities.


Students will apply for this opportunity by Friday, September 15, 2017 and be interviewed the following week.

To Apply

Fill out the form here: https://goo.gl/forms/zEs93bkxiYHS5rya2