We are lucky enough to live in a world that is becoming increasingly more inclusive. By inviting all learners in our classrooms, we are teaching students valuable lessons in diversity, acceptance, and the value of inclusion. Most importantly, we are providing a rigorous, engaging education to all our students, which is imperative for their future success.
Opening classroom doors and welcoming students in, an important step in the process, does not guarantee a quality inclusive education. This requires professional development, so teachers can learn the strategies and skills to integrate learners of all variability into the folds of teaching and learning. I work with teachers every day and they are creative, passionate, committed, and willing to do this work. It’s up to district leadership to provide this training to support our teachers.
The Common Core, in the section “Application to Students with Disabilities” notes, “Students with disabilities ―students eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)―must be challenged to excel within the general curriculum and be prepared for success in their post-school lives, including college and/or careers…. Therefore, how high standards are taught and assessed is of the utmost importance in
reaching this diverse group of students.”
The key word is “how.” How will teachers design curriculum and instruction so that all students have equal opportunity to learn the same rigorous material? The same section offers a simple answer: Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is defined as “a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that (a) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and (b) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient,” by Higher Education Opportunity Act (PL 110-135).
Because UDL is best practice and will increase teaching and learning outcomes for all teachers and students, now is the time for all districts to explore the UDL framework. If you’ve never explored UDL, it’s a powerful way to design standards-based curriculum that can be accessed by all learners, regardless of variability. For some background on UDL, read about the framework from CAST, a non-profit that began research on UDL as best practice over three decades ago. Next, read the UDL Guidelines for a list of strategies you can begin to use right away. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
There are also some great books about UDL from practitioners. Check out one or more of the following for a more in-depth examination of the framework:
- UDL Now!: A Teacher’s Monday-Morning Guide to Implementing Common Core Standards Using Universal Design for Learning, by: Yours Truly!
- Design and Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using Universal Design for Learning, by: Lord Nelson
- Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom: Practical Applications (What Works for Special-Needs Learners), by: Hall, Meyer, and Rose
- Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, by: Meyer, Rose, and Gordon
Enjoy the journey learning about UDL. It is well worth it!