Eric Moore began losing his hearing at age 10. A few years later, as a high school sophomore, he served as a teacher’s aide for children with visual impairments and intellectual disabilities.
Through those experiences, he decided that teaching—and specifically working with diverse populations—was his calling. Moore graduates from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences this week with a doctorate in special education.
“How we teach is as important, if not more important, than what we teach,” he said.
More than 4,000 students, including 3,038 undergraduates, 805 graduate students, 96 in law, and 82 in veterinary medicine, will participate in UT commencement ceremonies this week. For full details concerning security, parking, ceremonies, and speakers, see the Spring Commencement 2017 website.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, Moore began teaching in a high school in nearby Kokomo.
He noticed that students in general education classes—as opposed to special education classes—were not typically encouraged to practice skills to mastery, and they were not always recognized as individuals with different strengths and challenges.
Because of his hearing impairment, Moore used technology that provided an online classroom chat room to enhance communication with his students. That tool turned out to be as helpful for his students as it was for him; it allowed them to interact with content during lessons and prompted less outgoing students to speak up.
“Disabilities are often not only with an individual but in the interaction between an individual and the individual’s environment,” Moore said. “Small changes in the environment often reduce the negative effect of disabilities and simultaneously improve outcomes for everyone.”
Several years later, while pursuing a graduate degree online and working at an international school in South Korea, Moore learned about Universal Design for Learning. UDL provides guidelines for curriculum development and flexible learning environments that can be adjusted for individual needs—ideas similar to those Moore had gleaned from his own experiences.
“In UDL are scholars, teachers, researchers, administrators and policy makers who are concerned with finding pragmatic solutions to improve learning for everyone, even if that means rebelling against the status quo,” said Moore.
Moore has served as a UDL specialist at UT. He provides ongoing training and support for faculty and staff interested in improving accessibility to learning for diverse students, including those with disabilities. He will continue that work after graduation.
“Here at UT, we have really made the effort to reach out and welcome diverse populations to our campus,” Moore explained. “I think the next step is to make certain that we are extending that inclusion to the classroom.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)