Part 6: Fall 2017 Labs

91 Universal Design for Learning with Morton Gernsbacher – 11.29.2017

In the November 29, 2017 Active Teaching Exchange, Morton Gernsbacher shared how she draws upon Universal Design principles in her courses for more student learning and less work teaching.
Morton Ann Gernsbacher

This brownbag-style Exchange varied from regular labs in that there was no lab part — it was just story and discussion.


  • Students (as well as faculty, staff, visitors, etc.) do not need to be registered at the McBurney Center to get access and accommodation; it’s required by law. In fact, many students opt not to register.
  • People tend to overestimate the number of mobility-related disabilities and underestimate the number of psychological disabilities on campus.
  • Video captions help everyone, especially ESL students. For that matter, all accommodations help everyone!
  • Multiple, low-stakes opportunities are a preferred method for students to demonstrate mastery of content (vs. a few high-stakes exams).
  • Providing information and assignments in advance allows students who have less-predictable disabilities to plan and work ahead. In the same vein, providing as much course information as possible at registration helps students make informed decisions about their enrollment schedule, thereby reducing drops and time to graduation.
  • “Drop the Lowest” options for assignments and grace periods with minimal but real consequences better reflect real-world flexibility when emergencies or unplanned events intervene with school/work.
  • The “What if” grading function in Canvas as well as transparency with grading policies enables students to prioritize their studying.
  • A simplified grading system for multiple low-stakes assignments works well (e.g. 2 points: Did they do it well? 1 point: Did they do it? 0 points: Is it missing?).
  • Immediate feedback is vital for student progress!
  • The use of laptops in class has not been shown to affect performance.

Active Teaching Labs are held Fridays from 8:30-9:45am (and every other Thursday from 1-2pm, see events calendar for dates) in room 120, Middleton Building. Check out upcoming labs or read recaps from past labs. To stay informed about upcoming Labs, sign up for regular announcements by sending an email to

Watch Morton’s Story here:



Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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