One thing I always say about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is that it has given me permission to do things that I felt, on some level, were right, but wasn’t always encouraged or allowed to do them with different administrators. UDL also pushes me to do those things well. This second blog on “Failing at UDL” looks at my journey with student self-reflection.
When I look back on the 16 years I have been teaching middle school math, I can’t remember when it became important for me that my students were taking the lead in their education, especially in knowing what they did and didn’t know. I knew that I didn’t want to lead review days before a test where I went over problem after problem while students took notes. I knew I didn’t want to tell students what to study. But it wasn’t really working out when I just left them on their own.
I was telling students to determine what they needed to do, but I wasn’t helping them figure out how to do that. I wasn’t modeling it or providing any support, so it turned into a lot of frustrated students waiting to be told what to do and a frustrated teacher who felt like she had told them already!
One step towards more effective student self-reflection came with study guides. My colleague, Irene Witt, and I began creating study guides with a list of problems, both novel and selected problems from homework, to guide students in preparing for assessments without being too directive.
Last year, we added check boxes to the study guide to encourage students to interact with the study guide. This year, I redesigned the study guides using the HyperDoc template to add color and organization. (You can read more about this transformation here.)
Taking it Further: Making a public commitment
In addition to providing the physical (paper) copy of the study guide, I wanted to be explicit with students about being self-reflective as they prepared for their Module Assessments. I was introduced to padlet by Dr. Katie Novak at a district training in August 2017 and I decided to try it with my students as a way for students to publicly make a commitment to their review work without generating too much anxiety. I ask students to share, with or without their name, what they need to work on as they move into the final day of preparing for the Assessment.
My goal is two-fold: one, to have students reflect on their preparation thus far and on their final steps and, two, to have students get some inspiration from their peers, where they might be reminded of something they need to work on or might realize they are ready to move onto to extension or challenge work.