UDL Week 3: How to (realistically) implement UDL

Okay, let’s be real for a second. So far this week, our posts about UDL have been pretty idealistic. We’ve been describing a beautiful, inclusive classroom that values diversity and allows all students equal opportunities to learn. A place where students have ownership over their learning tasks and are not presented with barriers to learning.

There is no way to do this without investing significant time into re-developing your course, right?

You’re right. Completely embracing UDL in every aspect of all of your courses could require some re-development of resources, activities, and assessments. (PLEASE don’t stop reading, there is a twist!)

But there are lots of things you can do to make your classroom more inclusive. Things that won’t take hundreds of hours to accomplish. We are in the process of developing some resources about implementing UDL, but let’s start with a list of some simple things you could do to make your courses more accessible to your wonderful group of diverse learners.

Provide multiple means of representation

This is all about presenting information in different ways. Podcasts are awesome, but if you only present information using podcasts, students with hearing impairments or auditory processing disabilities might struggle to catch all of the content. You might also have students who have preferences for visual learning or who have difficulty taking notes without visual prompts. You don’t have to stop using podcasts, but think about how else you might present information so that you are reaching all of your learners

  1. Post your class notes and handouts electronically and in advance.
  2. Highlight big ideas, themes, critical features, and relationships.
  3. Clarify vocabulary, syntax, and symbols to promote understanding.
  4. Illustrate content through multiple forms of media. (And give students choice.)
  5. Offer customizable displays (e.g. re-sizeable font, saving in multiple formats)
  6. Offer alternatives to text (e.g. accessibility of text-to-speech, videos, sound recordings)
  7. Offer alternatives to auditory information (e.g. closed captioning, transcripts)

Provide multiple means of action and expression

This principle is all about how learners navigate the learning environment and express what they know. For example, a student with a movement impairment (such as cerebral palsy) and a student with a language barrier would approach their learning differently, and you would (probably) take that into consideration when you are assessing them. This example doesn’t even consider their learning style, their preferences, and other things we know impacts learning. Every single student in your class represents diversity in how individuals learn best. Therefore, there is not one strategy of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners.

  1. Provide options for physically navigating course resources and activities (e.g. turning pages in a book, using a keyboard, writing in a workbook or lab manual: choose resources that can be integrated with common assistive technologies).
  2. Provide alternatives for physical reactions (e.g. using manipulatives, clicking a box, filling in a circle with a pencil).
  3. Optimize access to assistive technologies (e.g. accessible file formats, keyboard commands for mouse actions).
  4. Consider assessing students in multiple modalities (e.g. text, speech, design, film, movement, visual art).
  5. Use interactive tools (e.g. discussion forums, web design, storyboards, social media, annotation tools).
  6. Provide options for learning activities (e.g. group work, quick writes, reflection, mind maps, animations).
  7. Avoid using just one type of assessment (e.g. multiple choice only exams).
  8. Provide differentiated models (i.e. meeting the same outcomes using different strategies, approaches, skills).
  9. Provide differentiated feedback.
  10. Provide learning goals and objectives.
  11. Embed prompts to help learners become more strategic (e.g. stop and explain your work, embedded reflection prompts, checklists and project planning templates).
  12. Scaffold information and resource management strategies (e.g. graphic organizers, note-taking strategies, study strategies).
  13. Help students self-monitor (e.g. self-assessment activities, reflection prompts, sharing progress).

Provide multiple means of engagement

Learners are incredibly diverse when we consider their motivation and engagement. This diversity can come from culture, background, personal relevance of the topic, and background knowledge, as well as many personal and genetic traits. Some learners love group work, while others prefer to work alone. Some learners enjoy spontaneity, while others are completely uncomfortable without a strict routine. Building in some options for how students can engage with the content and learning environment can get you one step closer to having a classroom full of totally motivated, engaged learners!

  1. Provide the opportunity for students to participate in the design of classroom activities.
  2. Involve students in setting personal academic and behavioural goals.
  3. Provide choices for students in their learning activities (e.g. reward and recognition, tools used for performing learning tasks, layout and design of learning resources or assessments, sequence and timing of learning activities or events).
  4. Design tasks that allow for active participation or experimentation.
  5. Invite personal response (e.g. self-evaluation, reflection).
  6. Design activities and tasks that are relevant to learners (e.g. personalized, socially and culturally relevant, inclusive of diverse groups).
  7. Minimize threats and distractions (e.g. vary levels of risk, build a supportive and safe classroom climate, vary levels of sensory stimulation, make an effort to include all participants).
  8. Vary demands to optimize challenge (e.g. emphasize process, effort, and improvement, engage students in discussions about assessment and excellence, differentiate and scaffold).
  9. Foster collaboration and mutual learning (e.g. peer to peer learning, opportunities for feedback, learning communities).
  10. Provide mastery-oriented feedback (e.g. timely, specific, focuses on achieving development toward goals and outcomes rather than relative performance).

That’s it! Totally simple! (Just kidding!)

You don’t have to do it all at once. Our challenge to you is to choose one thing you can do today to make your classroom more inclusive. Bit by bit, you can move toward a classroom that is inclusive and promotes learning for all learners.

This UDL Graphic Organizer (link) is a nice resource to remind you of some of these suggestions for your classroom. The website also contains lots of resources and research on UDL.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at our UDL workshop! Don’t forget to check out the backchannel on Twitter at #UPEIUDL.