RIC professors present at international Kuwait University conference

Elizabeth Dalton and Maria Lawrence, professors at RIC, presented workshops at a conference hosted by Kuwait University held from April 11-13 in Kuwait City. Dalton is an assistant professor of special education and coordinator at the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities; Lawrence is an associate professor of elementary education.

RIC professors Elizabeth Dalton, left, and Maria Lawrence, are joined by
Khaled Almuhareb, assistant professor of special education at Kuwait
University and a member of the conference organizing committee, at the
conference closing ceremony on April 13.
The conference, “Preparing Special Education Teachers for Mild and Moderate Disabilities Conference,” consisted of 22 research presentations and six workshops in both Arabic and English. Lawrence and Dalton offered a two-day, six-hour workshop titled “Universal Design for Learning in a K-16 Partnership Model.”

The conference was the first dedicated to mild and moderate learning disabilities to be held at Kuwait University.

The three-part workshop provided attendees with an introduction to Universal Design for Learning (UDL), explored applications of UDL for educators and demonstrated educational technologies that support UDL in the classroom.

This UDL workshop is the result of a multi-year effort coordinated by RIC’s Sherlock Center on Disabilities. Rhode Island K-12 classroom teachers and faculty from RIC and URI worked in teams to redesign curriculum units based on the principles of UDL. These principles were developed by CAST, Inc., Center for Applied Special Technology in Massachusetts, and are accessible at www.cast.org.

The RIC/URI UDL initiative involved classroom teachers in both general and special education, from eight public school districts, who established teams with URI and RIC faculty and attended comprehensive professional development on UDL that was led by CAST.

Following training, teams began the task of conceptualizing, designing and implementing 12 UDL curriculum units that covered four core content areas (ELA, Math, Social Studies and Science), and ranged from kindergarten through high school levels of instruction.

Dalton is currently on leave to CAST in a post-doctoral program in conjunction with Boston College, which focuses on UDL leadership.

Several executed UDL units were videotaped and short video clips from the lessons will be available online at the Sherlock Center along with the units at www.ric.edu/sherlockcenter/udl.html. Clips from an exemplary UDL unit were analyzed by participants in the “Applications” section of the Kuwait conference workshop.

A significant outcome of the project is the Rhode Island Modified Checklist of the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines, which are an adaptation of the guidelines checklist developed by CAST, Inc. RIC and URI project faculty members developed the modified checklist to use with the video clips for instructional analysis purposes, and as a reflection tool on UDL for teachers and pre-service teacher candidates.

The RIC professors spent two additional days visiting special education schools and Kuwait University classrooms.

Lawrence described her impression of those visits: “Kuwait teachers are dedicated educators seeking to improve learning for their students. As is the case here in Rhode Island, they are looking for strategies and resources that will help them achieve that goal.”

Dalton, a special educator for over 25 years, was impressed by the Kuwait Ministry of Education’s sincere interest in increasing inclusion of students with disabilities in their general education curriculum, as evidenced by recent passage of State of Kuwait legislation that supports inclusive practices in education.