UDL planning always starts with the students and assumes that learner variability is the rule rather than the exception. If we plan for the “average” student, our lessons will not work as well as they could for all of our students. Planning pro-actively for diverse needs removes potential curriculum barriers, allowing more students to succeed. Architects no longer have to retrofit buildings with ramps and elevators because these supports were planned at the point of design. Similarly, the essence of UDL is to intentionally plan for diverse needs instead of providing accommodations remedially.
In order to plan for diverse needs, we must know our students well. Student profiles and class reviews are tools that help educators learn about the abilities and needs of their students. Students also need to develop an understanding of their own learning strengths, preferences and needs.
Creating the kind of emotional and physical classroom environment in which your students can flourish is vital to a UDL approach. Students need to feel that your classroom is a safe place to express their individuality, take risks and learn from mistakes. The physical design of your classroom can also affect students’ ability to learn.
At the completion of this learning module, you will:
Creating a safe learning environment where diversity is celebrated and students have a sense of belonging is key to meaningful inclusion and attainment of learning outcomes for all students.
UDL planning always starts with the students. In order to accommodate the diverse needs of your students, you’ll need to understand them as learners. Students also need to understand their own learning preferences and needs.
Collaborating with a team of educators to explore ways of teaching to the diverse students in your class will help ensure your planning process is effective and that you address individual student needs within the classroom community.
The class is where it all happens for students so establishing an environment that is inviting and welcoming is important to helping students learn. The classroom should be an emotionally and physically safe space for students. In this section we have a look at ways you can set up your classroom environment to create a learning community.
UBD: Understanding By Design (aka Backward Design) is a curriculum design process. Educators look at the ‘big idea’ they want to teach students and design their learning activities around meeting the learning outcome.
Canadian educator Jennifer Katz has developed a Three Block Model of UDL that emphasizes the importance of creating a positive social and emotional learning community. She has developed the Respecting Diversity Program for educators who want to build compassionate learning communities in the classroom. Jennifer uses Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to give students common language to understand their learning preferences. On her Three Block Model website, Jennifer presents a series of videos (see Block 1) to help educators lead and guide students through the Respecting Diversity Program.
In this online video at the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, David Rose discusses Learner Variability and UDL.
Many educators teach “to the middle” with lessons aimed at an average student. In his engaging Tedx talk, The Myth of Average, Todd Rose challenges the concept of teaching to the middle.
The Animal School video, produced by a parent advocacy group, helps highlight the differences in our students and shows how we can accept and appreciate their wonderful diversity.
The Third Teacher, written by a team of architects and designers, explores the connection between the school environment and how children learn.