Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is not a new concept, yet it is not often utilized in its full complexity. Overall, UDL is focused on giving ALL students the opportunity to learn. Providing multiple supports, opportunities, and methods is part of UDLs backwards design model. The focus is starting with established goals and key understanding. Following goal setting, educators incorporate assessments to determine student understand and follow student growth towards meeting their established goals. Once both of these are in place, then the lesson planning begins. By starting backwards, there is assurance that each activity will be align to meet the established goal and that the assessments are placed to measure growth and progress towards the goal. While UDL is not new or overly innovative in design, it opens the door for providing inquiry based learning to meet the needs of ALL students.
As I brought UDL to life, I found that the “simple” concept of backwards design quickly became complex when incorporating multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression. The UDL guidelines and checkpoints were a critical part of creating a unit, and often times it was challenging to implement some of the suggestions. It took me quite a while to realize that these were ONLY suggestions and that I didn’t need to incorporate every single suggestion into my unit. I also realized that many of the suggestions lent themselves to a variety of lessons. With the overall goal of UDL being a framework to guide learning that is accessible and challenging for all students (The UDL Guidlines, 2020), I am proud of my first attempt at designing a UDL unit. Here is my first draft:
Providing options for sustaining effort & persistence, comprehension, and expression &communication were applied the most meaningfully into my lessons. Setting goals and providing opportunities to grow and build community were already strong components in my lessons, trainings, and supports provided so these seemed to flow more naturally for me in my UDL unit. When it came to implementing strategies for comprehension, this seemed to be a more comfortable fit for me too. Finding ways to activate background knowledge is a common practice and even with adult learners, this is a critical component to all lesson plans. Finally, student voice and choice are practices that I commonly support in coaching cycles with teachers. By opening the door for a variety of means of communication students can actively engage in their learning.
As I continue to grow in creating my current UDL unit and future units, I will focus on representation. In my brain I keep thinking that the components of creating a lesson/unit that reaches all learners will come when I put the lessons into action (add them to Canvas), but I need to be mindful of this prior to adding the activities to Canvas. I need to be thinking ahead and adding in options to reach all learners. If I wait until everything is added than representation will become an afterthought and will not be as meaningful.
UDL in real life requires a lot of preplanning and purposeful decisions.
About udl. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2021, from http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/udl_about
The udl guidelines. (2020, October 06). Retrieved March 01, 2021, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/