I would love to hear your thoughts on how to incorporate UDL principles when working with the following cohort. Feel free to share your thinking in the comments!
- Educational level:
- Middle School students (Grade 7)
- Age and other demographic info
- Typically affluent, mostly White, 12 year olds of mixed gender
- Range of abilities
- Although most students are at or above grade level academically, there are a number of identified exceptionalities ranging from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), to Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), to generalize anxiety disorders. Several students in this cohort also have been designated gifted.
- Subject area
- Social Studies – Ancient History
- Classroom (with web-based components), blended or online
- The majority of instruction takes place within the classroom, but students have access to computers and are expecting to be able to access content, learning opportunities and assessments online.
- Class size
- 20 students (approx)
- Description of any learning challenges present
- Several students in the class have extensive background knowledge about many of the topics covered in the course, while others have gaps in their understanding due to missed learning opportunities over the last few years. Some students are able to move through written and aurally presented material and assimilate new content quickly, while others need a significant amount of additional processing time and review opportunities to reach the same level of comfort with new material. A few students struggle to access written textual materials, and one or two students struggle to collaborate with their peers in a face to face environment.
Thanks everyone for you thoughts!
One thought I have about how to integrate UDL principles when working with this class will be to provide multiple opportunities for comprehension. For instance when this class is looking to build their understanding of the importance of irrigation to the Ancient Mesopotamian cultures, it might make sense to provide a text based summary explaining. the importance, alongside a video, graphics, and even perhaps a short podcast or audio file explaining the same thing. Allowing students to choose the different materials they will use to build their understanding, and providing multiple opportunities for them to solidify their thinking will help reach all students in the classroom.
I like your idea of adding a variety of ways for your students to access the knowledge of this unit. One way that this variety could also help is by inspiring the students to display their knowledge in a different way as well. If you do a project at the end of the unit some students may want to make a podcast because of the one you made while others might want to make a poster because they want to display their knowledge visually.
I think providing multiple opportunities for comprehension is an excellent idea and one that you should pursue without expectations for perfection. Sourcing high-quality videos, graphics or podcasts is absolutely possible, as you know from your own teaching and our earlier activities in this course, however, it does take time, as does narrating text in your own voice. Maybe you could look at each of your units and choose one key big idea or curricular competency/skill that you will really dig into for this (as you identified above!), and then do that for each of your units. Over time, you will have a full repository ready to go, but expecting that of yourself immediately may lead you to feel overwhelmed and then not do it all, as has happened to me in the past.
One other idea I had (which is admittedly not fully fleshed out) is in using UDL Checkpoint 3.3 – guide information processing and visualization but flipping that around to harness the meta-cognitive powers of some of your students with these skills rather than you doing all of the “guiding”. For example (again, just an initial idea), after a pre-assessment for the unit or topic, you could identify some students who have background knowledge and some of the cognitive skills required for the unit (Group B).
While you are pre-teaching vocabulary, or modeling comprehension skills for reading, etc. with a group of students who need it (Group A), you could have the other group(s) (Group B) working on creating other media for comprehension of the topic for themselves but also for future use in the course. As in, Group B could summarize the main ideas and then create a podcast, video, graphic, etc. as you mention above. If you provide them with a small checklist of criteria (maybe a couple tenets of quality media use to avoid extraneous processing, etc.), I suspect the students could create some excellent resources for themselves and their peers.
You could explain that it is an iterative process, too, so that after you have modeled and practiced the strategies with Group A and brought the class together to highlight and summarize the main ideas and skills, you could have Group B go back and edit/refine their works to make sure they are complete and accurate, while Group A assists or creates their own, smaller-scale version of the task. Group B could also have extension tasks that are required of them to add into their resource.
Additionally, you could even start with the final summary of the main ideas and skills for the unit right after the pre-assessment, and then have students work backwards to identify why those are the most important parts.
As you can see, not fully fleshed out but a beginning idea as I think more deeply about how to more honestly utilize UDL in my own teaching. I can tell that you already do a lot of this in your teaching as you describe student background knowledge, etc. in your class description, so kudos to you.
I love the idea of providing students with the freedom to show their learning. I wonder if CHECKPOINT 6.2 Support planning and strategy development would also be an option. The idea that I have floating around in my head is that students determine how they want to show their learning and then they have to create a plan to show how they are going to accomplish each step of the project. This, followed by a self-reflection, at the end of the project provides students with the opportunity to understand how they work and how they learn best.