Universal Desing for Learning

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by annajagodzinski
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Universal Desing for Learning

Universal Design for LearningStudents vary in so many ways; each student brings a diverse set of skills, talents, abilities, and interests to the classroom.They differ in the way they:1. Recognize information,2. Express information, and 3. Become motivated to gather information (NCUDL)Forgetting these important differences and only catering to the “average” student would leave many unable (and unwilling!) to learn. That’s where Universal Design for Learning comes in: Universal Design for Learning is defined by the National Center on UDL as, “a set of principles for curriculum development that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn.” Teachers who use UDL principles not only consider student differences, but they utilize them by differing instruction to make learning accessible to all students. In other words, goals, lessons, questions, assignments, projects, and assessments will look different from student-to-student to help everyone in the class succeed.

DifferentiationAgain, today's students are diverse, and teachers have the challenge of educating each of them, no matter their culture, ability level, interests, or skills. How can this happen when the ASCD states that nearly 40% of students are psychologically absent from the classroom? How can this happen when many teachers simply go through the motions as well, treating all of their students as if they were alike?The key is differentiation which is defined by the ASCD as “a teacher’s reacting responsively to a learner’s needs.” Teachers have two tasks; they must monitor their students, and then, they need to differentiate their instruction based on a student’s readiness, interests, and learning profile. In a classroom, this may look like the following: Charlie is performing below benchmark in math. The teacher reacts to the readiness of Charlie by considering Gardner’s multiple intelligences; she presents information to Charlie visually, with supplementary materials because she is aware that this is his learning preference. The teacher reacts to the interests of Charlie by utilizing tiered centers at which Charlie works with peers who have similar interests. Finally, the teacher reacts to Charlie’s learning profile by giving him varied questions and more prompting. Differentiation is the glue that holds all of the components of this map together. Without differentiation, instruction would not meet the needs of all students, especially the high and low fliers. Students will continue to move through the motions of school, unable and unwilling to learn, and as a result, they will become marginalized.

Multi-Tier System of SupportsOnce a teacher recognizes the abilities of every student in her class, a teacher can maximize student achievement through a multi-level system of support. What does this mean? The Wisconsin RTI Center defines a multi-tier system of support as, “the practice of systematically providing differing levels of intensity of supports based upon student responsiveness to instruction and intervention.” What does this look like? MTSS considers both academic and behavioral needs via three key components (as listed in The ABCs of Curriculum Based Evaluation):1. Students are universally screened. This means, a student’s performance is compared to a standard of performance. Teachers will monitor and identify students who are at risk or in need of increased challenges when compared to their “average” peer. Teachers may ask, “Are my students at risk of not achieving? Why? What are the areas of concern?”2. Tiered instruction is given to students. This means, teachers use the data from component one to adjust their teaching. The teacher utilizes specific interventions based on each student's needs.3. Students are monitored for progress. This means, teachers observe and assess their students to be sure that the tiered instruction is benefiting the students. For MTSS to work, teachers must integrate UDL principles.

RTI vs. PBISAccording to authors of The ABCs of Curriculum-Based Evaluation, Response to Intervention (RTI) and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) vary in that RTI has an academic focus, and PBIS has a behavioral focus. (Whereas, MTSS focuses on both academics and behavior). Both RTI and PBIS can be thought of as a three-tier system of instruction, as seen in the visual provided by the School District of Holmen. (To obtain a visual of this information, click the blue letter ‘C’ above this text box.)At each stage, like MTSS, students are being screened and monitored for progress. 1. First (tier one), all students receive universal interventions; these interventions are meant to prevent either negative behaviors or poor academic achievement. In a classroom, this would look like: all students receiving high quality instruction in a common setting.2. Second (tier two), some students receive targeted group interventions. These students were screened and monitored during tier one, and they are considered “at risk.” In a classroom, this would look like: some students receiving additional help for either behavior(s) or academics. According to the visual, these interventions are rapid and highly efficient.3. Third (tier three), individual students receive intense intervention. These students were screened and monitored during their two, and the interventions did not benefit them. In a classroom, this would look like: individual students receiving either highly intense academic help (RTI) or intense procedures to deter unwanted behaviors (PBIS).

Representation & MarginalizationDisproportionate representation of minority students in special education programs is real (and problematic). It has been made apparent through numerous studies, including the Elementary and Secondary Schools Civil Rights Compliance Report, that “African American students are found to be overrepresented in the categories of cognitive disability and emotional disturbance; American Indian students are overrepresented in the learning disability category; Asian/Pacific Islander students are underrepresented in almost every category; and African American, Latino, and American Indian students are underrepresented in the gifted and talented category.” Additionally, children from low income homes are also overrepresented in special education programs. With that being said, it is important to note that “ethnicity can serve as a proxy for socioeconomic status,” meaning that low income children are also typically a racial minority. Disproportionate representation is part of a larger problem. Through history, minority students have been placed in special education programs, suggesting that this a trend rather than the truth; the trend acts as somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, suggesting that because minority students have been overrepresented in the past, they should still be overrepresented now. For example, if a Latino student repeatedly sees his race represented in special education programs, he may believe, too, that he is not capable of succeeding in the regular education classroom. Of course, this is not fair or equal. Additionally, overrepresenting minorities in a special education classroom does not allow high quality instruction to happen; it completely ignores MTSS, RTI, and PBIS principles by bypassing the first tier in the pyramid: high quality instruction. If minority students are overrepresented (while students such as those from high income or Asian families are underrepresented), the achievement gap between regular ed and special ed students will grow, exacerbating the trend mentioned earlier. This is why RTI, PBIS, and MTSS are essential to quality classrooms! The pyramids allow all children access to high quality, differentiated instruction and resources, and therefore, potentially giving all children the opportunity to succeed.

Anna Jagodzinski's Glog: Assisting and Assessing Diverse Learners,Fall 2015, EDS 463Resources used are linked in the graphics*I also used our book and Powerpoints

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