Universal Design For Learning Mini-Grant 

Role: project lead

With the goal to increase interest and engagement around student research, two faculty at Portland State set out to redesign their curriculum. This project increases engagement and builds on student agency in research methods with accessible and dynamic media, content, and assignments. Each project’s aim was to target the three principles of Universal Design For Learning: the why of learning (engagement), the what of learning (representation), and the how of learning (action & expression).



Data Visualization Drug Map Assignment
Collaboration with Dr. Shawn Smallman, PhD, Professor & Department Chair, International & Global Studies, Portland State, 400 level course
Currently: Iterating on the second term of this assignment and adapting it to expand to an additional 2 courses. We are also in initial stages of co-authoring a paper on this project.

This project replaces a five page research paper which supports research methods and skills for 400 level students to use in their final term 10-15 page research paper. The 5 page midterm research paper is replaced by a data visualization assignment where students work to create a dynamic media map or chart for use in their final research paper. The assignment allows for deeper student engagement with research methods asking for students to research open data and generate it into a research asset for their final research paper.


Ethnographic Storytelling in Urban Communities
Sonja Taylor, M.S., Instructor, University Studies, Portland State University, 100 level course
Currently: This is a year long project and Sonja Taylor and I are outlining a conference proposal to discuss this project.

This project focuses on the use of photovoice and storytelling through the integration of media tools to enhance engagement, digital literacy, and research skills in Senior Inquiry at Portland State. Universal Design For Learning (UDL) concepts have been integrated into the design process asking students to use dynamic media to challenge and present content in new ways that are flexible and usable (video, photos, timeline, links, web content). Curriculum targets engagement and motivation towards the learning process, representation allowing students to present information that best reflects their learning style, and action & expression which allows students to be creative and differentiate what they know, reflecting the three principles of UDL.

Student Reflections

...reflections and images are from the Data Visualization Map project


"I was really surprised by the data...I had assumed that the United States would have some of the highest numbers, but it ended up being France and Russia. Overall it was a really cool assignment and I hope I will get to use this type of chart in some of my other classes or even at work."

"I am not a tech person but I am a visual person so I appreciate the assignment in this regard as I both learn a technical skill but also how to present information in a visual way. I've always wondered who made these graphs and how for articles online as they seem popular and powerful tool."

"Creating this visualization chart was really fun and helpful. Going through it slowly, by following the instructions of the video was really instructive because it’s my first time doing it. I am very glad that I have learned a new skill. The advice that I would give to anyone who plans to do this project is to plan ahead and be willing to do a lot of research."

"I may choose a different way to represent the data in the final draft of my paper, but this was a valuable assignment for helping me think through my arguments in a logical progression and fill in the gaps I found."

"Although I feel I learned a lot from this assignment, my primary regret is not starting much sooner to give myself time to learn the new skills that I would need to figure out through the process. I would have had more time to ask the other students to see how they were handling issues or questions that I ran into as a novice. In general, I tend to be frustrated with numbers and charts, so this was a good way to get me out of my comfort zone."


On a scale of 1-5, 90% of students rated the Data Visualization Assignment at a four or five in aiding their research for the course.