Take a moment to think back to one of your favorite classroom assignments growing up. What stood out about that assignment? I’ll take a shot in the dark and guess it wasn’t a 5 paragraph essay, multiple choice test, or a scripted lab report. So often, as teachers, it is easy to fall back to the traditional ways of teaching. With Universal Design for Learning, we can do better and empower our students to become expert learners.
Implementing UDL takes relinquishing some control as a teacher and letting our students take the driver’s seat. With UDL, our job as teachers becomes more of facilitator of learning, as opposed to a director of learning. But the results are tremendous. Students become purposeful and motivated about learning, and strategic and goal-directed in how they demonstrate what they have learned. So how can we achieve this? We need to provide children with options for expression, one of the three core principles of the UDL framework. When we provide students with options and choices to express their learning, they need to self-assess, problem solve, and use their creativity which will activate the strategic network of the brain and get them ready for their future (where they will be competing with robots!).
One of my favorite assignments growing up did just that. During a human biology unit on blood, we were asked to think of a creative way to express how blood supported essential life functions. We were given free reign. A friend and I created a rap video called, “What is Blood?” which highlighted, using brilliant slant rhyme, the interacting organ systems that regulated and delivered blood within the circulatory system as well as the components of blood. We dove into this project with the kind of dedication we typically only reserved for Pep Rallies. We wrote lyrics, dressed in costumes, and donned props. I still remember that song! Had this assignment been another multiple choice test, I doubt I would have retained any real information about the characteristics of blood.
Think about this next time you are creating a lesson plan for your classroom. How can you incorporate more choice and flexibility into how you motivate students, present information to them, and let them express what they have learned, in alignment with standards? In the end, you may just find that your students are engaged, purposeful, and self-directed.
To learn more about how where your expertise with UDL currently lies, take a look at the UDL Progression Rubric.