By Carolina Matos, Editor
— A team of educators from the United States visited private and public schools on São Miguel island to set up a pilot project to apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to the development of pedagogy and materials to teach Portuguese as a second language anywhere in the world.
The visiting team met with administrators and teachers on the island who will be participating in the project. The program for the visit also included a conference presentation at the University of the Azores and workshops with participating teachers.
The project is an initiative of the Government of the Azores through the Office for the Azorean Communities (Direção Regional das Comunidades –DRC) and includes a proposed partnership with the Portuguese World Language Institute at Lesley University, CAST, the University of the Azores, and participating private and public schools in the Azores and the United States.
CAST is an education research and development organization based in Massachusetts who pioneered Universal Design for Learning. “UDL is an innovative educational framework that helps educators expand learning opportunities for all learners. This project is an exciting opportunity to apply UDL to second language teaching and learning. It is a way to reconnect many people of Portuguese descent to their heritage,” said Yvonne Domings UDL Instructor Designer and Researcher at CAST.
For Dr. Graça Castanho, the DRC Director, this project will be of utmost interest. “There is a huge lack of pedagogical materials that teachers can use to teach Portuguese as a second language in schools. There is also a need for books that parents can use at home to support the maintenance of Portuguese as their children’s heritage language. It makes sense to implement a project that will support innovative pedagogical methods to teach Portuguese abroad. UDL teaching methodology is innovative and cost effective. It uses digital based technology that enables teachers to create teaching materials that are easily accessible online by anyone anywhere in the world,” she said.
João Miranda, the Principal of Colégio do Castanheiro, one of the participating private schools in Ponta Delgada, said that his institution feels very privileged to be part of this project. He stressed “We are very interested in participating is this initiative. The Azores are geographical place in the intersection between Europe and the rest of the world which makes us the ideal location for such a program. We are very pleased that our teachers and students will be part of an international project which will be beneficial for all those involved.”
For Dr. Maria de Lourdes Serpa, co-director of the Portuguese World Language Institute, at Lesley University, this initiative is an asset for everyone involved. She said “The UDL teaching model, with its digital technological component, is one of the most current education innovations. UDL is having a great impact in education in the United States today. It provides innovative approaches to teaching that offer easy access to learning that is inclusive and effective for everyone. It is conceptual learning framework that is accessible, flexible and adaptable. It can be used from early infancy through the university to any teaching situation and educational environment.”
According to the protocol being drafted for the project, in the short term, teams of participating teachers in the Azores and the United States will receive training in the principles of UDL and UDL materials development. The long term objective is to reach as many teachers and students as possible in the Portuguese diaspora as well as in countries around the world where Portuguese is the official language.
Participating schools in the Azores were, Colégio do Castanheiro; Escola Básica Integrada da Maia; Escola Básica Integrada da Ribeira Grande, Colégio de São Francisco Xavier; Colégio da Passarada; Escola do Terceiro Ciclo e Secundária da Lagoa, e Escola Secundária das Laranjeiras.