Terry Cumming

Professor Cumming is a Professor of Special Education in the School of Education and Academic Lead Education for the Disability Innovation Institute.

Terry has had extensive leadership experiences in learning and teaching, including a three-year term as Deputy Head of School, Learning and Teaching, and membership on the Faculty Academic Programs and Academic Quality Committees. Her teaching and research focus on promoting the use of evidence-based practices to support the learning and behaviour of students with disabilities and the use of technology to create inclusive, accessible, and engaging learning environments. Her expertise in special education has been acknowledged through invitations to be a panellist providing evidence to the Legislative Council’s Committee investigation on the education of students with disabilities and a consultant to the NSW Ombudsman inquiry into behaviour management in schools.

Terry’s passion for teaching has been recognised with two Faulty of Arts and Social Science Dean’s Awards for Teaching Excellence, an UNSW Australia Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and the Australian College of Educators Ralph Rawlinson Award for Education of Students with Disadvantage. Her publications include 3 co-authored books and a co-edited book, as well as many book chapters, journal articles and national and international conference papers. Prior to her university and research work, Terry has many years’ experience as a special educator and behaviour mentor in the United States.

Terry is an Academic Mentor at UNSW. Read more here

Title: Research Methods in Special Education (Course)

Year: 2018

Description: This course is designed to support students to explore and critique their chosen area of research by locating it in the context of key issues and approaches in special education and viewing it from a diversity of methodological perspectives. The course provides an introduction to the impact of different epistemological and methodological approaches in special education research and will also encourage students to build collaboration with others in the course using self and peer review. 

It will be a core course in our MEd Special Education program, giving students both accreditation as special education teachers and a pathway into higher degree research if they so wish.

Title: Specialist service provision for students with disability in rural and remote schools

Contextualising a multi-tiered culturally responsive system of support (MTCRSS) with Strnadová, I., O’Neill, S., Bishop, K., Lee, J. S., and Kimonis, E.

Year: 2019

Description: The CIs will examine the provision of specialist services provided by schools in rural and remote areas for the 20% of students with disability designated as needing specialist support, identified through the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (Education Council, 2018). The research team will identify gaps in practice, as well as exemplar schools and their characteristics. They will also contextualise and apply a multi-tiered culturally responsive system of support (MTCRSS), a model with a strong evidence base for improving students’ academic, behavioural, and socio-emotional outcomes. This will enable the CIs to make recommendations to guide policy and practice regarding the provision of specialist services provided by schools in rural and remote areas. This project aims to improve educational equity, access and excellence, which are foundational aims of the Gonski Institute for Education. 

Title: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a Framework to Design Online Courses

Year: 2020

Introduction 

The number of students with disability enrolled in tertiary education has increased significantly in the last decade. This has prompted a move to make learning and teaching more accessible to ALL students. Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, can be used as a framework to guide tertiary educators in the planning and delivery of their courses. The effective implementation of UDL allows all students to access course materials, removing the need for some of them to actively seek support and disclose their disabilities.

For the past two years, I have been working with the Scientia Education Academy, Disability Innovation Institute, PVCE, and USNW Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to promote the use of UDL in course design and delivery, including drafting UNSW’s UDL framework. With the advent of the pandemic in early 2020, my focus shifted to using the UDL Framework to guide the design of courses that have traditionally been delivered face to face to online delivery. 

Theoretical Background 

Universal design began as an initiative in architecture, to design environments that are accessible to people of all ages and abilities from their inception, without the need for customisation or specialised design (Burgstahler 2012). Universal design for learning, or UDL, emerged from that idea, with the premise that all learners, regardless of ability, could benefit from curriculum planning that caters for a wide variety of learners (UDL-IRN 2011a). UDL-IRN (2011b) argues that UDL places the student at the centre of instruction through a curriculum that is deliberately designed to reduce barriers to learning and to reach and accommodate all students before they experience academic or motivational failure.  

The UDL Guidelines, developed by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) are grounded in research on cognition and learning (Meyer, Rose, and Gordon 2014). UDL as an instructional pedagogy is centred around three planning and instructional design principles: Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,  Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn. (CAST 2015). These principles guide curriculum design with regards to providing content, activities, and pedagogy that address multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement. These three principles are further defined by 9 guidelines and 31 checkpoints derived from best practices in the literature (CAST 2018). The UDL guidelines can be applied in various ways and at different levels (e.g., educational environments, curriculum and instruction, and digital tools and online environments). 

Aims 

  1. To raise the awareness of UNSW teaching academics to the existence of the Universal Design for Learning framework. 

  1. To provide support to UNSW teaching academics in using the UDL framework. 

  1. To highlight exemplars of practice of inclusive education  

Progress / Outcomes / Next steps 

  1. DIIU/SEA Inclusive Education Showcase (2019, 2020) 

  1. Creation of the UNSW UDL Framework  

(https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/u378/UNSW%20Sydney%20UDL%20Framework_final.pdf ) 

  1. The establishment of a university-school research partnership: University researchers as partners in implementing school wide UDL: An Action Research Project (2020, with O’Neill, S.) 

  1. A number of presentations for the UNSW community: 

Cumming, T. M. (September, 2020). Universal Design for Learning in Tertiary Education: A Practical Example. UNSW PVCE Foundations of Learning and Teaching, Sydney, Australia. 

Cumming, T. M. (June, 2020). Digital Accessibility/UDL. Round the Room Online Event, UNSW Roundhouse Accessibility Project, Sydney, Australia. 

Cumming, T. M. (May, 2020). UDL Considerations for Online Courses. School of Education Online Teaching Series, Sydney, Australia. 

Cumming, T. M. (April, 2020). UDL Considerations for Online Courses. UNSW Education Focused Academics Lunch and Learn Series, Sydney, Australia. 

Cumming, T. M. (November, 2019). UDL in Tertiary Education. Professional Development for casual/sessional tutors and convenors, UNSW Sydney School of Social Sciences, Sydney, Australia. 

Cumming, T. M. (September, 2019). Online audience participation and UDL. Disability Innovation Institute UNSW Inclusive Education Showcase. 24th September, UNSW Sydney. 

  1. The submission of the following publications: 

Cumming, T. M., & Rose, M. C. (under review). Exploring Universal Design for Learning as an accessibility tool in higher education: A review of the current literature. Higher Education Research and Development. (submitted on 8/9/20). 

Cumming, T. M., & Rose, M. (2019). Universal Design for Learning review of the evidence base report. Sydney: Disability Innovation Institute UNSW.  

UNSW level contributions

External level contributions

  • Australian Association for Special Education (Nominated NSW Committee Member)
  • Australian Teacher Education Association
  • ANZMLearn: Australian & New Zealand Mobile Learning Group
  • Council for Learning Disabilities

There are over 1,300 UNSW students registered with Disability Services who have declared they have a disability that needs to be accommodated with educational adjustments to their studies.

This reflects a lack of accessibility in how we present information. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a relatively new concept in higher education and requires us to reconceptualise how we think about educational practice so that a greater diversity of students is included. This means thinking past traditional lecture and text-based learning. 
 
In order to respond more effectively to the different learning requirements of our diverse population of students, we need to rethink the system. Universal Design for Learning means designing learning to be accessible from the start, limiting the amount of accommodations and modifications that must be made. This involves providing multiple means of representation, action/expression, and engagement. A/Prof Cumming discussed the importance of UDL and ways that UDL can be implemented in a university setting.

Lecture recording available