To meet the needs of the widest range of students, what should teachers consider when planning their instruction?

Page 4: Goals

Teachers in a meetingThe teachers at Sycamore Middle School are accustomed to identifying learning goals that are clearly stated, observable, measurable, and that align with grade-level standards. As a practice exercise, the team attempts to apply what they have learned about UDL to a social studies goal developed by one sixth-grade teacher: “The students will read the textbook chapter about ancient Egypt and write in cursive a 500-word report about burial customs.” Though the goal is clearly stated, observable, and measurable, the team members agree that it does not adhere to the three UDL principles. They discuss several barriers that may prevent all students in the class from achieving this goal.

Traditional Goal: The students will read the textbook chapter about ancient Egypt and write in cursive a 500-word report about burial customs.

Representation barriers:

  • Printed text
    • Some students with certain visual impairments and certain physical disabilities may have difficulty accessing information.
    • Some students may struggle with decoding text.
Action and Expression barriers:

  • Writing a 500-word report
    • Some students may have difficulty with cursive handwriting.
    • Some students may not be able to effectively organize their thoughts and put them on paper to create a report of this length.
Engagement issues are often not addressed in traditional goals such as the one suggested above.

In the example, the intent of the learning goal could be for the students to a) learn about ancient Egypt, b) to create and write by hand a 500-word report, or c) both. In this particular instance, the teacher wants the students to learn about ancient Egypt. However, he has inadvertently limited the means by which the students can learn the content (i.e., read a textbook chapter) and demonstrate their knowledge (i.e., write in cursive a 500-word report). This is a common occurrence: Teachers unintentionally create learning goals that limit the means by which their students can achieve the goal.

UDL Goal

Egyptian Wall Mural

The Sycamore team learns that the principles of UDL can be applied so that all students can meet the learning goal. As was outlined above, a teacher must first know the intent of the learning goal he or she wishes to create. Once this is accomplished, he or she can allow students multiple ways to access and demonstrate their learning.

The team now realizes that their goal needs to specify that the students will learn about ancient Egypt, and should not involve learning about writing a report. They thus set about applying UDL principles to rewrite the goal in a way that does not confound the means that students use to access information or to demonstrate their knowledge.

UDL Goal: The students will learn about and present information about the burial customs of ancient Egypt.

Representation:

Students are still required to learn about the burial customs of ancient Egypt, but they are now permitted to use alternate methods for accessing that information (e.g., audio books, digital text, internet, video).

Action and Expression:

The students still need to demonstrate that they learned about the burial customs of ancient Egypt, but they now have options for doing so (e.g., handwriting a report, making a film, recording a presentation, creating a diorama).

Issues with engagement are addressed in how students choose to access the content and how they demonstrate their knowledge. Students will complete the assignment in accordance with their learning need or preference (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic).
Additionally, now that the teachers have identified the intent of the learning goal, they can more easily provide scaffolded instruction and support their students. For example, David is overwhelmed by the number of resources he found on ancient Egypt. The teacher helps David to narrow his list of Websites or books to a few that he will initially consult.

meo
Grace Meo
Former CAST Director of Professional
Development & Outreach Services

Grace Meo further describes how teachers can identify a goal that is not restricted to one particular means of achieving it (time: 1:07).

View Transcript

Activity

Girl studyingGiven the traditionally stated goal below, help the teachers at Sycamore Middle School to a) identify potential barriers that might make it difficult for some students to achieve the goal and b) rewrite the goal so that it incorporates UDL principles. In this case, the intent of the project is for students to learn about a child’s experience during the Holocaust and to present this information to the class.

The students will read the book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and give a five-minute oral presentation about the author’s experiences.

Traditional Goal: The students will read the book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and give a five-minute oral presentation about the author’s experiences.

Some of the barriers that might make it difficult for some students to achieve this goal are listed below.

Representation barriers:

  • Printed text
    • Students with certain visual impairments and certain physical disabilities may have difficulty accessing the text (e.g., not being able to see it, not being able to turn the pages of the book).
    • Students with learning disabilities in reading may struggle with decoding and comprehending text.
Action and Expression barriers:

  • Oral presentation
    • Some students may not be able to organize their thoughts effectively enough to make an oral presentation.
    • Some students may experience high levels of anxiety or may stutter when required to speak in front of others.
Engagement issues:

  • The requirement to read a specified book or to give an oral presentation may present barriers for some students.
    • Some students might choose a different book about the Holocaust.
    • Some students may want to demonstrate their learning through a means that corresponds to their preferred learning modality.
One Possible UDL Goal: The students will access a biography or autobiography of a child’s experiences during the Holocaust through their preferred medium and will complete a project to summarize the child’s experiences .
Representation:

This goal allows students to access the content of the book through multiple formats (e.g., printed text, digitized text, audio book).

Action and Expression:

This goal allows the students to demonstrate their knowledge of the book using alternate methods (e.g., written report, diorama, oral presentation).

Engagement:

This goal allows the students to select a book that appeals to them. The teacher may provide a list of biographies and autobiographies from which to choose (e.g., Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, The Upstairs Room, Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944). Additionally, the students can choose how to access the content and demonstrate what they have learned using methods that may reflect their preferred learning modalities.

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