What’s UDL Got To Do With Learning?

25 Aug

Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Rose and Grace Meo discuss the three UDL principles, connect with PSD colleagues and reflect on where UDL fits into the PSD priorities.

What is UDL?

It is an approach whereby ALL students have access to curriculum, resources and leverages technology. There are three main principles which guide favorable learning environment, resources used and differentiated learning activities through

Multiple means of: representation, expression and engagement.

Representation gives learners many ways in obtaining info and knowledge. Expression provides students with different ways of demonstrating their knowledge. and engagement targets students interests, challenges them just enough and embeds motivation into the learning.

This is your Brain and Three Principles

WOW, some great behind the scenes work about how the brain works. Dr. Rose led us through some complicated ‘what’s going on inside the learning brain’ stuff, but with current research and applications in the classroom this was starting to make sense. (Guess my dendrites where expanding.) For instance, there are many ways that Affect influences student learning. Some of these include: neurology, culture, relevant material, background knowledge, personal experiences, what is being read in class, how their teacher speaks to the student, what his/her desk/locke looks like, etc. Knowing what engages a student is important and building a learner profile and class profile will assist a teacher in offering effective activities. A great resource for collecting data for a Learner Profile is found in the Making a Difference book.

Truly to engage students, we need to match the learning demands with the resources to reach the learning goal. Get students to speak about their learning fears, and then give them the resources to handle it. Teachers need to provide options for recruiting interest (give choice and autonomy, optimize relevant, make it a safe environment), for sustaining effort and persistence (set goals, vary demands and resources, collaborate, mastery-orientated feedback) and provide options for self-regulation (promote expectations, personal coping skills and strategies, develpp self-assessment and reflection).

Learning how info is taken in by the brain especially that different parts of the brain are each used for saying verbs, recalling spelling words….

Case Study – here a university professor does a great job of explaining how he integrated UDL principles in his teaching. There are short video clips with specific examples provided. These videos would be a great next step for any teacher or school to view, after UDL has been introduced.

The Day 1 powerpoints, Alberta perspectives and other shared materials for the brain and engagement are found HERE from the Summer 2011 UDL Conference in Edmonton.

Representation refers to the many ways learners perceive and comprehend information in order for them to make connections within, about, in between of the concepts being shared in class. It is essential for teachers to provide a variety of options for learners to represent their learning.

With the advent of multimedia and multimodal ways of representation such as providing options for perception (display of info, auditory and/or visual alternatives), language and symbols (vocabulary, clarification of syntax and structure, decoding, cross-linguistic understanding, non-linguistic illustrat6ions) and comprehension (activation of background knowledge, big idea highlights, memory support and info processing), students are now able to access curriculum in a variety of ways.

Visual and auditory representation of JS Bach’s  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor really had me focus on realizing that there are many ways to share learning. As a facilitator I strive to share learning in multiple ways, this example is such a powerful reminder that once a teacher has a solid learner profile built on their students, then the teacher is able to pull out specific resources that will connect with ALL learners in the classroom. Not easy to do alone, but if teachers connect with grade-level compadres and possible online PLN’s, having access to these resources becomes more apparent or easier to come by.

Case Study 2– another professor speaks about multiple means of representation.

The Day 2 powerpoint and share materials are found HERE.

Using multiple means of expressions means that we need to provide options for physical action (response, navigation and tools), for expressive skills and fluency (communication, composition tools, scaffolds for practice and performance) and for executive functions (effective goal setting, planning and strategy development, managing info and resources and monitoring progress).

I liked Dr. Roses’ slide where he states, “Teaching, like exercise, comes from the right balance of challenge and support. No challenge, no development.” Isn’t that what we want for our students? Isn’t that what we want for ourselves? We need to increase the ‘desirable difficulties while decreasing the undesirable difficulties’ in learning.

Day 3 powerpoints and shared material are found HERE.

Where do I see UDL fitting in to my school division’s initiatives? First, there needs to be discussion among the PSD participants of the UDL conference as to what their perceptions are surrounding UDL and where the discussion fits with our Lead Team and teachers. Second, once a common understanding of UDL is reached, how do we share this with administrators, teachers?

Some Resources

Expertspace intro by groliere/scholastic

MITS Michigan’s Integration Tech Support site is focusing on assistive technology, UDL principles and assessable instructional materials.

ERLC inclusive education PD  and resources website

UDL-IRN – network


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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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