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Tuesday, August 1 • 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Pedagogy of Inclusion: UDL in the PSCI College Classroom

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There are deep inequalities in youth civic knowledge and engagement across socioeconomic levels that must be addressed to strengthen American democracy. Democratic governments are founded on the premise of citizen participation, and likewise, citizenship entails full expression of the rights and responsibilities inherent in societal membership. Unfortunately, studies have shown social class differences in political participation and community engagement in the United States persist, along with patterns of political behavior, trust in government, and public hope.
From a developmental perspective, some scholars argue that historical shifts in the nature of the transition from adolescence to adulthood and other social changes affecting youth indicate that social inequalities in civic engagement among young people have increased in recent years. Changes in the American education system, such as the implementation of No Child Left Behind, have forced secondary education to focus on basic subjects and deemphasize civic education (Kahne and Middaugh 2008). A 2006 study by the Center of education policy found that 71% of districts reported cutting back time on other subjects to make more space for reading and math instruction. Social studies was most frequently cited as the place where these reductions occur.
For a generation of youth who are exposed to less civic education in secondary education and who do not plan to attend college, institutional opportunities for civic engagement may be increasing important as a matter of social justice. Political Science programs at universities and other institutions of higher education now play an important role in closing this gap. Political Science instructors in the 21st century college classroom recognize that learner variability is not the exception; it's the rule. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) offers a framework that guides the design of learning goals, methods, and assessments to create an engaging environment for all students.
The UDL framework assists instructors in designing more accessible learning environments to foster skills for life-long learning. Political Science professors often share the same goal of designing a learning environment to foster skills for life-long civic engagement. In this presentation, I will provide an overview recent research on learner variability in the College classroom, recent research illustrating the civic engagement and knowledge gap, and examples and data from my own experience applying the framework to 200- and 300-level Political Science college courses. My hope is that this research on the application of UDL in higher education will engender conversations about how instructors can anticipate learner variability and provide every student with equal opportunities to become engaged members of our local and national democratic communities.

avatar for Erika Cornelius Smith

Erika Cornelius Smith

Chair, Interdisciplinary Studies, Nichols College

Tuesday August 1, 2017 4:00pm - 5:00pm EDT
Poster session