Here is the situation:
You have taught for a few years in a self-contained classroom for students with a wide range of learning disabilities. As a cornerstone of your educational philosophy, you have encouraged your grade level team to support integrating your students into the general education as much as possible. However, at this point, the other teachers are struggling with adapting their teaching practice, and your students are not finding success. You have decided that you need to work with the general education teachers to plan using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework so that your students can be successful in the general education classroom.
You decide to write a proposal to your building principal to require UDL training for all general education teachers. In your proposal, please begin with an informative and persuasive introduction to Universal Design for Learning, potential reasons for curriculum design that would result in struggling students, and the role that UDL should play in the overall instructional process. Please augment your proposal with a rich example of the UDL Framework, using our UDL chapter (p. 199-202) as a model, and outlining the learning environment that you envision, and the resources, tools, and methods necessary for success. Please be sure to also give some careful discussion to the potential barriers to implementation, and how those would be addressed.
While the majority of your proposal will be written, you should strongly consider augmenting with a narrated presentation (5 min or less) that might be sent as a communication to parents about this potentially revolutionary school change.
Here is our response:
According to the UDL website, Universal Design for Learning “provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.” (http://www.udlcenter.org/) In other words, with UDL, teachers plan their lessons assuming that there will be a child who needs accommodations in their classroom, providing multiple ways of learning the same piece of material, and then teaches the lesson to the whole classroom. The video below provides a short overview of UDL.
UDL started as an architectural design of public buildings to make it more accessible for people with physical disabilities. Curb cuts, automatic doors, and ramps were originally designed for people in wheelchairs, and then others then found that it was also helpful for many others such as parents pushing strollers or people riding bikes. UDL is very similar to people without disabilities using these designs. Like the ramps that allow people with physical disabilities into a building, UDL allows teachers to design lesson plans that are created for students who need accommodations. These accommodations can then be used for students who may not necessarily need them, but they provide extra support and resources for these students and makes it easier for them to learn the lesson.
This picture describes the different parts of UDL. A teacher should focus on the ‘what,’ ‘how,’ and ‘why,’ of learning when planning out their lesson plans. It is important to think of the children with disabilities first because all students can benefit from more supports built into the lesson instead of allowing some students to fall behind. The extra supports will already be in place for the students who need them, and for the students who may not, they can be easily removed from the activity.
John Dewey said “If we teach today’s kids the way we thought yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” This means that if we continue to use the traditional instruction, we are not allowing students to be as successful in today’s world. If a teacher only teaches in one style, so many students can be lost in the curriculum being taught. If you are only teaching in a style that makes sense to auditory learners, what will all of the visual learners in the classroom do
If teachers in our school were to learn how to use UDL, so many more students would find success in our classrooms, especially those with disabilities. When planning a lesson, it is important to incorporate multiple means of representation, this allows all types of learners to begin to understand the material being taught. This can be done by providing both written and oral direction. When planning lessons it is also important to have multiple ways of action and expression. This means that there should be multiple ways to answer a question, and many ways to get to the correct answer. This allows students an opportunity to answer the question in the way that makes the most sense to them. By providing many means of engagement, you can ensure that all students are interested in the material and understand why the concept it important. By relating the question to the student’s lives, they are more willing to put in the work to get to the correct answer.
Students in self-contained classrooms in our school have the right to learn in the least restrictive environment. This means that they should be able to learn in the general education classroom with their peers. It is our hope that we can implement Universal Design for Learning in our school so that students are able to learn together in an inclusive environment. It is so important for all students, both with and without disabilities to learn in an environment that includes students of all backgrounds and abilities. UDL provides a framework for teachers to begin to teach to many different types of learners instead of a small percent of the population in the classroom, which will allow these different types of students to work together in one classroom. Training in the process of creating a lesson following the Universal Design for Learning process will allow teachers to teach to a wider range of students. This will ultimately allow for greater student success in our classroom!
With a UDL workshop for our teachers, we can achieve the dream of all students learning side by side!
NARRATED PRESENTATION ON UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING
-Morgan Havel, Allie Linzing, Melanie Smentana