Teachers in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. are coming up with creative ways to introduce curriculum to students through a framework that guides instruction.
Universal Design for Learning, according to George Van Horn, BCSC director of special education, is based on three core principles:
Helping educators find different ways to teach material to students,.
Engaging students to get them excited about learning.
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Allowing them to demonstrate what they have learned.
About 125 teachers participated in a voluntary week-long UDL Institute at Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech High School last week. It allowed teachers in the district to hear from UDL experts and learn more about the concept, which has been used locally since 2006.
“For teachers, it gives them the ability to reach more kids,” Van Horn said. “It gives teachers freedom to be more creative.”
The district has nine UDL facilitators across its school buildings who provide support to teachers, said Rhonda Laswell, one of the district’s two UDL coordinators.
“You’re designing accessible instruction for everyone,” Laswell said. “You’re really teaching students how to be an expert learner.”
Laswell and Tina Greene, the other UDL coordinator, work with the facilitators and provide professional development training as needed.
Universal Design for Learning is being used across the country and internationally, said Loui Lord Nelson, a UDL consultant who worked for BCSC as a UDL coordinator for four years beginning in 2008.
Nelson said UDL allows students to become more goal-orientated and helps them understand the overall meaning of what they will learn about a particular topic.
The framework of UDL is based on six important characteristics — being purposeful, meaningful, knowledgeable, resourceful, strategic and goal-minded, Nelson said.
“These are all things we need to learn how to be,” she said. “It guides (teachers) to design lessons to lead students down that pathway.”
Allison Hiatt, who will begin her first year teaching kindergarten at Clifty Creek Elementary School when classes begin Aug. 8, said the UDL Institute helped her think about how to develop lessons plans for students.
She developed a planned activity developed from the song “Flowers are Red” by singer Harry Chapin.
Hiatt was among participants who presented their concepts, and how they will be incorporated in the classroom, with fellow educators during a gallery walk Friday.
Her kindergarten students will have the option of cutting, gluing or coloring their own flowers using paper through the lesson, “Flowers are Not Just Red,” she said.
“It’s really about giving more choices (to students),” said Hiatt, a 2017 Purdue University graduate who taught in Lafayette last year.
She plans to have different areas within her Clifty Creek classroom that will allow students the flexibility of how they choose to design their flower, she said.
“By providing them options, it’s opening them up to different avenues,” Hiatt said.
Another educator is using technology to introduce curriculum material to students and to collect feedback.
Robert Newlin, a fifth-grade teacher at Schmitt Elementary School, said his approach to UDL is to help students gain new information in new ways.
His conceptual lesson, “A Road Map of the Revolutionary War,” uses Google Maps and incorporates online links for individuals to look at, he said.
Newlin, who is starting his second year with the Columbus-based district, said his approach was to make the lesson an interactive one for students with audio and visuals. He also created a survey to allow students to provide feedback about what they took away from the lesson, he said.
And for students who are shy about raising their hand in class and sharing their thoughts verbally, Newlin allows them to put their ideas on Post-It notes.
Newlin has used UDL concepts to reach students in a variety of ways while providing more tools to be an effective teacher.
“You have to use your strengths to teach students,” he said. “It’s helped me become a better educator.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”What is Universal Design for Learning?” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Universal Design for Learning is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.
It provides multiple means of engagement, representation and action and expression. The goal of UDL is to support students to become expert learners who are, each in their own way, purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal driven.
Source: CAST, Center for Applied Special Technology website, www.cast.org.