Universal Design For Learning, UDL, is a common phrase used today in both schools and other organizations. However, it can be difficult to implement in the classroom for a variety of reasons. To counter some of the challenges with implementation, I have included a list of 5 ways teachers can support UDL in their learning spaces.
Katie Novak of Novak Education provides a great analogy of UDL- think of it as a dinner buffet. You provide your guests with variety, choice, and let them decide what is best for them (some guests might need a little more guidance on your dishes than others). As the host or as a teacher, choices and options are provided that you believe will 'satisfy' all guests and members of the learning community. However, you allow them to pick for themselves what will satisfy their appetite or their learning needs. Choices are not specific to one particular child, rather you provide a variety of choices (with all in mind) and allow the kiddos to pick what works best for them.
I have included this post in my Food For Thought Friday which typically focuses on parents, collaborating, and other forms of team building. Whereas this post is titled 5 Ways to Implement UDL In Your Class it does not seem to really fit in my Food For Thought Friday. BUT- it does! The 5 ways of implementing UDL is a support for teachers who are thinking about implementing a more 'all student' centred approach, but also it is an FYI for parents who are wondering how their child might be supported in the classroom. It is crucial that parents feel comfortable with their child's education- one way to do this is to understand how ALL students are being supported in inclusive learning communities.
1. Knowing students' interests, strengths, challenges- know them as both learners and individuals.
All students are unique individuals. Their learning journey is unique.
Determining who they are as learners can help you to better understand and support their individuality. Why is this important? It allows you to support them effectively and appropriately and to target their learning in a meaningful way. Making connections not only lets each student know they are part of the learning community, but it also supports you in planning lessons to support all your kiddos.
2. Providing choices and options.
I have written this so many times, but inclusive classrooms require choices and options. One guiding principle of a UDL classroom is accessibility for all learners- since there is no one-size-fits-all, lessons need to have options for your students. It would be awesome if each kiddo had a number of options available to them as learners, but this is not reasonable. So, providing a few options that target all your learners (think about point 1: know your students as learners) is crucial in creating lessons that can be accessed by all. Also, remember that your learning outcomes need to be thought of as fluid and part of a spectrum. One way to do this is to ensure you offer different options of access points to meeting that outcome (or the concept).
3. Sharing content in a variety of ways.
Like offering choice, make sure you share your content in different ways. Do not only lecture or only use powerpoint, present your material to your students differently. Not only do students learn differently, but our students process and receive information differently.
Offering multiple means of representation (UDL’s first principle) helps to ensure that students who struggle in one area do not automatically fall behind their peers.
4. Learning from others.
Implementing the principles of Universal Design for Learning doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to understand, it takes time to change your practice, and it takes time for UDL to become a part of your practice. The good thing is it is not new! There is a wealth of information and a huge amount of examples on how to implement UDL into your classroom- use it!!!
Check out UDL Center’s websiteudlguidelines.cast.org to learn more Universal Design for Learning. Though they are closely connected, UDL and differentiation are different- this video highlights some of those differences, just as an FYI.
Work with your colleagues, bring in parents & guardians, and ask specialists for support. We all have our speciality, together we can really be a powerhouse to support our students. Introducing UDL into your practice will take time and you will need support. Ask for support, better yet, get a group of you to start making small changes together!
Teachers- I applaud you greatly in taking the time to read this pos, think about the information, and continue your AWESOME quest in developing a more fair and equitable learning community. YOU ROCK!
Parents/Guardians- I hope I have opened your eyes to one way teachers are trying to ensure all kiddos receive an appropriate education within the learning commuity. You have so much knowledge about your child, as an individual, and your teachers need your help!!! Let them know about what works at home when supporting your child in different tasks (and what does not work)- this information is helpful in providing resources, options, choices, and all kids of support. Teachers need you more than ever!!!