As part of our new strategic plan, we’re considering how to best meet the needs of diverse learners. Some teachers are starting to receive professional development in Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all students based on scientific insights into how humans learn.
Zach Nordling is changing the way that he teaches and he’s already seeing a difference in how his second and third grade students learn and experience his math lessons. Mr. Nordling’s applying principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework for teaching that he’s been studying. Much like modern buildings are designed for universal access, lessons can be designed in a way to be accessible to all learners.
Implementing UDL starts with having a clear goal for each lesson and providing multiple ways for students to meet the goal. In a recent lesson, Mr. Nordling’s goal was for students to find the missing addend up to 100. He provided different materials for students to explore and solve math problems. One student used a meter stick as a number line so she could visualize the missing addend. A student who likes to build used connecting cubes to make stacks of ones and tens to find the solution. Another student used coins that added up to a dollar. Still another solved the problem in his head and then wrote down the steps to show his thinking.
Mr. Nordling finds that when he provides different kinds of materials and various ways to meet a clear goal, students in his class have a higher level of engagement and confidence. They become more self-directed and connect more deeply with math concepts. And the result is that Mr. Nordling spends less time re-teaching material. The design of his lessons enables him to meet students exactly where they are and provide appropriate challenges.