Learning for our students
Universal Design for learning is a framework, a mindset, a way of reaching, engaging, and empowering all students. It is defined as a “research-based set of principles to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and effective for all” (CAST). Before we explore some of the UDL Principles in a little more depth and to understand how we can use the principles to engage students. watch this short clip below from AHEAD. It explains UDL way better than text, so have a listen as it sets the stage for what comes next. (2mins).
To visualise the UDL guidelines and explore them in more detail, check out the image below. Click here and it will lead you to more information! In this blog, we are really looking at how we can engage students in being more motivated and engaged in learning how to learn.
Learning about our students
As mentioned in the video, the UDL Guidelines identify that one of the key principles of UDL is the provision of multiple means of engagement. Our goal as educators is for our students to be engaged and motivated to learn, right? Otherwise, what are we doing? We want our students to leave our classes, modules and courses feeling empowered and impassioned to continue to learn, either by continuing their education or when in employment. We want to ingrain that passion for lifelong and lifewide learning. But that doesn’t just happen by chance. Each student we meet is individual and varied. They come with their own life experiences, neurolgy, culture and background knowledge. They have been impacted by education in many ways. Some will be driven, engaged, highly motivated, and primed to learn. Others will be disengaged, disenfranchised, demotivated and in need of some additional support along the way. Some like to work alone; some learn better working with others (CAST). If we think of our students in this way, then it follows naturally that we are not going to be able to engage all our students in one way; we need to be able to engage students in multiple ways. It is this diversity and variability in our students that both challenges us and provides us with opportunities to innovate inside the box in how we approach our class groups, our modules, and our individual students. This is where UDL comes in.
Executive functioning skills involve an ability to set long term goals and to see beyond the here and now, as well as being able to put strategies in place to reach these goals. A student needs to be able to monitor their progress as they work toward their goals and then be able to make changes to the strategies, they are using to ultimately achieve those goals. Easy, eh? Even as I am writing this, I am trying to think of how many short-term reactions I make to my environment without setting long term goals. And even if I set long term goals, do I put strategies in place to enable me to get there and then monitor my progress? How can you support your students to do this?
Throughout this blog we have maintained a focus on the importance for us as educators or administrators involved in education in truly knowing our learners. It is through this understanding of their needs as individuals, and our acknowledgement that the average learner is a myth, that we can truly begin to reach all learners. Designing the learning environment and each and every learning experience with a UDL framework and mindset to the fore can help us to better reach, engage, include, empower and truly motivate our learners.