Universal Design for Learning - A Teacher's Quest to Reach Every Learner
Universal Design for LearningA Teacher’s Quest to Reach Every Learner
Ms. Gilmore looked abysmally at her 4th grade students’ recent homeworkassignment. The assignment had involved answering questions from the Sciencetextbook. A majority of students had passed. However, some students had failed –again.
Why can’t they pass? she wondered. She ran through a list of reasons in herhead. None of them seemed right. She was blaming the students for everything.That didn’t seem right either.
Ms. Gilmore decided to do some research. She opened her laptop and begansearching. A particular key word caught her eye – Universal Design for Learning.
She had never heard of this term before, so she began researching it. It turned outthat it had all started with Universal Design – a movement by Ron Mace to makeaccess to buildings possible for as many people as possible1. This included widerdoors and ramps.
Educators had taken hold of this idea and created Universal Design for Learning.Its goal was to provide learning that allows all students to engage and succeed –not just the majority5. It taps into the ways students learn and how they learn best.The problem wasn’t the students, but the curriculum used. Flexibility was a must.
How Students Learn Principles of UDL Why What Students Students Learn LearnWith some more research, Ms. Gilmore saw that Universal Design for Learninghad three principles – the how, what, and why of learning in students5. As sheread, it occurred to her that these reasons seemed like common sense.
First, teachers have to consider how students learn. By doing so, they can thenvary the ways they share information with students. Ms. Gilmore realized a lessonshe had just taught on Jamestown could have included video footage. She couldhave also had her students help her act out the founding of the colony.
Next, teachers need to consider what students learn. Teachers need to vary theway that students can demonstrate new knowledge. Instead of answering textbookquestions, Ms. Gilmore could have had her students write a song, create a story,or draw a mural to demonstrate comprehension.
Finally, teachers need to consider why students learn. Teachers have to find waysto motivate and engage all learners. Ms. Gilmore realizes that she should havepaid attention to the interest inventory she had given at the beginning of the year.Then she would remember which students preferred drawing, roleplay, or videos.
Recognition Brain Networks Affective StrategicSomething in the back of her mind told her to look more closely at the principlesbehind Universal Design for Learning. A few more clicks and she discovered thatthe principles were based on brain research. There were three networks of thebrain tied to the principles.
The recognition network searches for patterns in what is being sensed6. It’s thepart of the brain that takes in information. Each person’s brain prefers differentways of getting information.
Then there was the strategic network. It sends messages to the organs, andmakes “plans of action”6. The strategic network is responsible for how studentsrespond to learning, and what methods suit each one best.
Finally the affective network evaluates the patterns the brain gathers and thenreacts6. It triggers emotions. Some consider it to be the most important networkbecause if students aren’t motivated or interested, they won’t learn4.
Ms. Gilmore discovered there was more than just the networks to consider. Sheconstantly saw the word flexibility appear again and again – flexibility in sharinginformation, flexibility in demonstrating information, and flexibility in engagingstudents2.
Her school wasn’t flexible in the curriculum. Her school, like most, focused heavilyon printed text. She was only reaching the children who learned best that way.Schools today emphasize verbal, linguistic, and language learning styles, whichdo not fit many students4. Those students were becoming lost, distracted, or
On the other hand, Universal Design for Learning focuses on adapting thecurriculum to the student. The teacher’s problem isn’t the student, but thecurriculum. It removes cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and academic barriers. If barriersexist due to existing curriculum, the expected academic gain will be below what is
Continuing her search, Ms. Gilmore found that technology and Universal Designfor Learning go together. Technology provides multiple ways to present informationthrough blogs, videos, chatting, podcasts, and more. Teachers can gather andsave resources that are more than just printed articles by using social
Technology can allow the manipulation of text, which printed material cannot do2.Students can have text read to them or click on a word and immediately see thedefinition. The text might also link to videos or images that aid comprehension.This gives the recognition brain network multiple ways of receiving information.
Ms. Gilmore was surprised to discover that just putting a textbook on a computerwas not Universal Design for Learning3. Adding video, images, audio, as well astools such as highlighters and dictionaries, is what makes a textbook UniversalDesign for Learning compliant. Students now have multiple ways to recognize the
Because every child is different, they respond differently to the presentation ofinformation, as well as how they demonstrate knowledge. Technology is capable ofproviding many assistive technologies, such as (but not limited to) text-to-speech,online calculators, and screen magnifiers.
Technology also has the benefit of allowing the student to repeat something overand over as needed, whereas a teacher may not be so patient. Students couldrewatch lab videos or have text repeated to them.
At the end of her search, Ms. Gilmore finds that she understands why some of herstudents are always failing. She hasn’t been flexible with the curriculum, and she’splaced the blame on the student instead. Perhaps it’s time for me to change,rather than expect my students to change their learning style.
Universal Design for Learning is a big task she thinks to herself but if I start smallwith one subject area, it won’t seem as overwhelming. Ms. Gilmore looked downat the graded assignments beside her laptop. And I know just where to start!
Like Ms. Gilmore, you might be wondering how Universal Design for Learningcould work in your classroom. The impact would be huge. All students would beengaged and motivated. Students could be challenged in their zone of proximaldevelopment, and teachers could provide critical thinking strategies centered
Test scores are always a huge factor in our school today. Teachers can useUniversal Design for Learning in the classroom, and then show students how toconnect the differentiated assessments to the standardized assessments onWESTEST 2.
UDL Starter Kit Resources1. Book Builder – Use this kit to create interactive books that assist your students in comprehending the curriculum in their own learning style.2. Lesson Builder – Use this kit to help design lessons that meet the needs of every child in your classroom.3. UDL Curriculum Self-Check – Use this kit to help make your curriculum more flexible. Discover your curriculum weaknesses and then see how UDL can help.4. UDL Tech Toolkit – This wiki has a variety of tools such as graphic organizers, audio, research, writing, and more that will provide useful in a UDL curriculum.5. Cool Tools for School – This site has a link to a variety of technology tools for the classroom teacher. Find resources for presentation, mapping, writing, and more.Of course, no teacher can start Universal Design for Learning without someresources to get started. Here are some links to help you get started enhancingyour curriculum and changing the way your students learn.
References 1. Bremer, C.D., Clapper, A.T., Hitchcock, C., Hall, T., & Kachgal, M. (2002). Universal design: A strategy to support students’ access to the general education curriculum. Information Brief, 1(3), 1–5. Retrieved from Google Scholar. 2. Gordon, D. T. (2002). Curriculum access in the digital age. Harvard Education Letter, 18 (1), 1-5. Retrieved from Google Scholar 3. Harms, M.; Burling, K.; Hanna, E.; & Dolan, B. (2006). Constructing innovative computer-administered tasks and items according to universal design: establishing guidelines for test developers. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council on Measurement in Education, San Francisco, CA. Retrieved from Google ScholarNote: Please match the superscripted number in the book to the reference numbershown here. Photographs on slides 1, 21, & 25 are mine. Screencaps are onslides 19, 20, & 22. All other images come from Microsoft Office’s clipart gallery.
References, Continued 4. Johnston, D. C. (2008). Learning alternatives and strategies for students who are struggling. Exceptional Parent, 38(9), 8-11. Retrieved from the Walden University Library using the ERIC database. 5. Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program twelve. Universal design for learning [Webcast]. Reaching and engaging all learners through technology. Baltimore, MD: Author. 6. Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program thirteen. Brain research and universal design for learning [Webcast]. Baltimore, MD: Author.Note: Please match the superscripted number in the book to the reference numbershown here. Photographs on slides 1, 21, & 25 are mine. Screencaps are onslides 19, 20, & 22. All other images come from Microsoft Office’s clipart gallery.