Pedagogical Objective

Professor Harper teaches courses in jazz history, improvisation, the live music experience, embodied practice and musicianship. He approaches music in his courses as a powerful cultural force that impacts everything from institutions to individuals’ bodies and lived experience. With his teaching, Professor Darryl Harper works to create opportunities for participatory learning and student empowerment.

Featured Faculty:

Darryl Harper portrait photo

Darryl Harper

muSIC, Center for Humanistic Inquiry


Professor Harper incorporates the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and inclusive practices with technology into his teaching and grounds these practices in dialogue with students. His thoughtful use of options includes consideration for students with disabilities, with digital and physical accessibility given careful consideration. Several practices are shared in this article to spark inspiration for ways to adapt and adopt them in other teaching contexts. 


The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework is an evidence and research-based approach to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people. The guidelines emphasize use of options so that everyone can benefit and participate meaningfully and without need of accommodations for people with disabilities. It is helpful to think of the UDL approach as asking the question “How many ways can I present this material so it is accessible to all learners?”. UDL guidelines focus on three primary areas of Representation, Action and Expression, and Engagement. Then, for each main area there are several discrete aspects of learning comprising various subcategories. 

In the context of his music courses, Professor Harper’s providing options for students to participate and to demonstrate learning in multimodal ways creates an environment for inclusive and equitable teaching and learning. He has a guiding principle of following the UDL framework and guidelines and this throughline informs his approach to the "What", “How”, and “Why” of learning. 

Mapping UDL Guidelines to Practices to Adapt and Adopt

  • Representation - The “What” of Learning - Recognition Networks

    • Perception
        • Practice: Utilize universal design principles to provide options and create digitally accessible course materials.

    After Professor Harper worked with a student with low vision and arising from their diaglogue, he permanently changed his approach to slide design. Now, he uses Microsoft PowerPoint, accessible slideshow software, to create slides with minimal words, large print, and high contrast between text and background color. In class, he provides detailed narration.

        • Example of a PowerPoint slide created with accessibility in mind:

    In this example of a PowerPoint slide with a quote, the slide includes only the first sentence or phrase. Harper then shares the rest verbally and through the class discussion.

    example of an accessible PowerPoint slide design with large text, high contrast between text color and background, good use of empty space, and the text "Gift exchange is a 'total social phenomenon'..."
    • Action and Expression - The “How” of Learning - Strategic Networks

      • Executive Function
        • Practice: Provide transparency for course requirements and utilize assignments that foster time management skills.

    Professor Harper uses Moodle, a digitally accessible platform, to share course information and materials in a central location that effectively supports executive function development. He provides transparency for the course requirements and fosters students’ engagement with balancing their workload and responsibilities.  

        • Example of an assignment from the Live Music course that supports executive function skills development:

    For example, the “Concert Attendance Plan” assignment for the Live Music course asks students to plan their concert attendance. The assignment has students work through time management considerations such as how concerts fit into their schedules, planning for transportation, arranging for funding and reservations, and all balanced with selecting concerts that are meaningful and appealing.

    excerpt from concert attendance plan assignment that asks students to make a plan for their concert attendance taking into account schedule, reservations, transportation, cost, and their own interests and engagement with concerts
      • Expression and Communication
          • Practice: Provide multimodal opportunities for students’ contributions.

      To provide options for expression and communication, Professor Harper provides a number of different outlets for students’ contributions including reflective writing, large and small group discussion, and small groups working collaboratively. One example is his use of Moodle forums for discussion assignments focusing on concerts and rehearsals.

          • Practice: Provide synchronous and asynchronous modalities for discussion.

      Professor Harper considers that when he makes statements about intellectual community, he hopes that there is some currency behind it that is meaningful to students. He works through his teaching presence to facilitate students’ discussions and craft an inclusive and participatory educational experience. Professor Harper actively manages the discussion and makes an effort to get to each student to create balance, so that more vocally expressive students do not dominate the discussion, and more reticent students are encouraged and given opportunity to participate. He also provides options for written and verbal discussion, and for synchronous and asynchronous participation. 

      One method he employs is the use of a class shared Google Doc to document small group in-class discussions. Each small group contributes to the document with information from their discussions, which can be a more comfortable way for some students to contribute. The class as a whole benefits from each small group’s discussion by reviewing the shared document. 

        • Physical Action
          • Practice: For inclusive courses, be prepared with options for people with disabilities, and where possible, use a collaborative process to design Equally Effective Alternate Access Plans (EEAAPs). 

      For a music course with physical and performance requirements, a student with limited hand and finger mobility needed an alternative to using a keyboard instrument interface. Professor Harper collaborated with the student to design an EEAAP consisting of using the Ableton Live DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) with a MIDI controller with an MPC pads instrument interface, programmed to sound different tones to allow for music creation and scale playing. Although the student ultimately found that she could perform her course activity without having to use the DAW tool, Harper is now ready with this EEAAP in case he needs to provide this learning accommodation for future iterations of the course. This preparedness with flexible options contributes to an inclusive and equitable learning environment for students with disabilities. 

          • Example of MIDI interface options to use to play and compose music:   

      MIDI controller with MPC pads
      MIDI keyboard

      MIDI controller with MPC pads and MIDI keyboard musical interface options

      • Engagement - The “Why” of Learning - Affective Networks

        • Self-Regulation  
          • Practice: Extend time for test taking for all students and offer alternate forms of assessment.

      Professor Harper takes a universal access approach to test taking benefitting all students. Knowing that students have different requirements, Harper purposefully schedules a longer time period for exams so that extended time accommodations are not needed. Allowing more time for test taking is a proactive approach that helps allay some aspects of students’ assessment anxiety. This approach fosters students’ self-regulation in that they may set their own pace that works well for their individual needs. For example, if the exam time-taking average estimate is 45 minutes, Harper schedules 2 hours for the exam. 

      Professor Harper also utilizes Moodle quizzes for both quizzes and exams, which can further allay test taking anxieties allowing students to complete their work in their preferred environments, and following their own needed pacing. Use of the ear training software Auralia also is helpful, again easing some pressure around test taking and allowing students to develop their skills by performing the tasks in their preferred environment and at their own pace.   

      Academic Technology Tools

      Professor Harper uses a combination of academic technology tools to promote student learning and strengthen engagement in his courses. 


      Published Spring 2023 by Academic Technology Services