View the movie below and then proceed to the Initial Thoughts section (time: 3:25).
Universal Design for Learning: Designing Learning Experiences That Engage and Challenge All Students
In this module, you will meet three educators. Mr. Hughes is an elementary school teacher, Ms. Tong is a middle school teacher, and Mrs. Rios is a high school teacher. Their classrooms are filled with students who have a wide range of life experiences, interests, background knowledge, and preferences. They also vary in many other ways, such as what motivates them to learn, how they make connections to previously learned information, and how they demonstrate what they have learned. Because of this variability in learning, the teachers feel that even their “best” lessons do not work for many students. Let’s take a closer look at some of the lessons that they thought would be effective and engaging for all their students.
Mr. Hughes’s elementary class is learning to represent and interpret data using graphs. Mr. Hughes models examples of bar graphs on an interactive whiteboard using simple concepts like favorite colors and favorite foods. Then, he divides students into small groups and provides each group with a fictional data set to graph on their own. He reserves time at the end of the lesson for independent practice, in which students individually complete a worksheet.
Ms. Tong’s middle school class is learning to identify themes in a fictional text. Ms. Tong teaches this standard using the book Fish in a Tree. She has her students read one chapter independently each night and record their ideas about emerging themes in a shared online document. Each day, Ms. Tong displays the document on a whiteboard and facilitates a whole-group discussion about the chapter. At the end of the unit, each student chooses the theme they think is most important and writes a five-paragraph essay about how the theme is evidenced throughout the text.
Mrs. Rios’s high school biology class is learning about the process of mitosis. Mrs. Rios uses presentation slides during a lecture to teach key vocabulary and concepts while her students take two-column notes. She then has students independently read the textbook chapter and draw and label a model of the cell cycle in their science notebooks. At the end of the week, Mrs. Rios assesses the students using a multiple-choice exam.
Despite their hard work in planning their lessons, these teachers notice that many of their students are hitting roadblocks or barriers that are preventing them from participating in and demonstrating their learning. More specifically, some students are not engaged during instruction, others seem to try hard but don’t grasp the content, yet others seem to understand the material in class but do poorly on the independent practice or assessment. The teachers realize that their lessons are not meeting the needs of every learner and they need to make changes to their instruction. However, they are unsure about what changes they can make to engage all students and help them become successful learners.
Here’s your challenge:
Do these learning experiences sound familiar? Do you think they are effective?
How can educators design instruction that engages and challenges all students?
How can educators identify and address potential barriers when designing instruction?