An excellent starting point in implementing Universal Design for Learning is in adding choice. With that in mind, I wrote an evaluation goal last year to achieve 100% choice in my class in daily instruction, daily classwork, or homework.
With the help of my colleague, Irene Witt, I achieved almost 100% choice just on homework alone. In general, we made two choices available each day, one on paper and one electronically. This was a nice first step and we definitely saw improved student engagement and completion of homework.
There is so much more to do. As Irene pointed out, we weren’t actually offering choice in terms of content, more just in the format.
Defining Homework Categories
We wanted to add longer-term projects. We wanted to empower students to make different choices when they sat down to do homework, not to just practice things they already knew how to do. We were also inspired by Dr. Jo Boaler’s Math Homework Reflection Questions (Mathematical Mindsets, pp. 48-9). With all of these ideas on the table, we developed a new homework template. In order to keep our ideas organized, we began by defining and brainstorming a bit about what might be in each of the categories, as follows:
Creating Specific Homework Assignments
When we started creating specific daily homework assignments, we ended up with something like this:
Of course, I can’t really say much right now about the impact of these changes, as the school year has just begun. But we hope that these changes will result in increased empowerment, rather than compliance, on the part of our students.