Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Up-cycling, UDL-style

upcycling-1731010_1920Thinking about generating a variety of options for students when implementing the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines can feel very overwhelming.  How much more time can you spend preparing lessons and work?!?!  I suggest that we engage in some UDL up-cycling to reframe our thinking about how to approach this important work.

Answer Keys

Guideline 6.4 says that teachers need to “enhance capacity for monitoring progress.”  One way to create opportunities for students to be able to monitor their own progress is by giving students access to answers to their assigned work.  If students can see an answer key or an exemplar, the burden of self-monitoring the accuracy of their work falls on the student, rather than remaining localized in the teacher as the source of all corrections.  Another way of thinking about this is to realize that, if students can only access those answers via the teacher, time becomes a problem–one teacher gets spread pretty thin over a full class of students clamoring for answers.  Most curriculum programs offer teacher answer keys, so you can up-cycle those into documents that students have access to by posting them in Google Classroom, on your website (if open source), and so on.

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image from screenshot/assistments.org

ASSISTments and other online programs

The most exciting part about learning about ASSISTments in early August was realizing that, even if I don’t use ASSISTments as a comprehensive assessment system, I can use it to provide options for choice in homework.  Because ASSISTments has already uploaded all of the EngageNY curriculum, which is the open source version of the Eureka Math curriculum we use in my district, I can make my homework assignments available to students in two versions–I can assign all students the same problem set with the option for students to use the paper copy they picked up in class or to work with the same problem set on ASSISTments.  In doing so, I have moved from one option (paper) to two (paper and/or ASSISTments) without any major investment of time on my part.

I can use other online supports in a similar way–is there a good Khan Academy

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image from screenshot khanacademy.org

video and practice series for a given topic?  Could I assign that same problem set but allow students to submit their answers to the problem set via FlipGrid, thereby further expanding the options for choice in homework?  With choice comes engagement, which is an important part of making homework a meaningful experience.

 Self-Monitoring Choices for Support During Testing

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Sample of teacher-created “self-check” given to students on assessments last year.

One of my favorite recent a-ha moments around UDL came from a casual conversation with my colleague, Irene Witt.  We were talking about how much we didn’t like the self-check materials we had provided to students the year before–while the intention was good (remind students to go back and check their work, etc.), the results was a disaster.  The students just wrote checkmarks in every box and handed in the paper, rarely using it as a tool to self-assess their work on the assessment they were handing in; most literally didn’t even have the assessment in front of them as they put the checkmarks!

Instead, for the coming year, we decided that we will develop a generic, half-page series of questions students can use for self-reflection during assessments with prompts such as the following:

  • Have I answered the question?
  • Have I shown my work?
  • Have I explained my answer?
  • Does my answer make sense?

Copies of this generic sheet will be available during assessments, but students will not be required to use them or fill them out and turn them in.  The shift here, especially from required to self-chosen, aligns directly with Guideline 9.3 where students “develop self-assessment and reflection.”

Options for Self-Monitoring around Anxiety

Another change in the works for assessments in this coming year is in the use of checklists provided to assist students in managing anxiety.  When the idea of the generic self-check started to take form (see above), the other piece of the puzzle was about helping students manage anxiety.  Last year, some students were given copies of a grounding exercise to use during assessments.  The question we ended up asking ourselves was why can’t all students have access to it?

Here are two versions of the grounding exercise:

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image from screenshot from http://www.socialwork.caree
Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 9.42.58 PM.jpg
image from http://www.lifeinslowmotionblog.com/a-simple-yet-surprisingly-effective-tool-to-manage-anxiety/












For this coming year, then, we will make copies of both our generic self-check and also of these grounding exercises available during assessments.  All students will be able to use them as needed, but no one will be required to use them, and we will be providing options to support students in “[facilitating] personal coping skills and strategies” (Guideline 9.2).  Up-cycling at its best!

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