Marc Pirner, a Social Studies teacher at Patuxent High School, discusses his staff's method of sharing UDL-based classroom ideas.
Striving for Perfection
Just as in any field, educators are continuously working to perfect their craft. However, with teaching, the stakes are higher than gaining profits, improving customer service, or prestige; what is at stake in education is the hearts and minds of our youth, the very future of our communities, nation, and world. So, the question of how to perfect the science and art of teaching and learning is a profoundly important question. Indeed American education has come a long way from its beginnings in the 17th century when one teacher might facilitate lessons for students of every age, or superior education was served to certain religious, race, or gender groups, or basic stand and deliver teaching was the standard. However, while these overt inequalities have been, (and in some cases still are being) resolved, the question still remains: Are we reaching every student with the best possible education?
What is UDL again?
The general consensus among educators today, and certainly the consensus of those in Calvert County Public Schools is that best teaching practices follow the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The UDL approach is simply: teachers should employ multiple means of delivering information, multiple means of engaging students, and multiple means of assessing students (basically the opposite of stand and deliver and then multiple choice test.) UDL is founded in 2 fundamental facts: 1. not every student learns the same way, 2. yet we want all students to reach the same learning standards. If not all students learn the same way, then we need to employ a multifaceted approach to teaching/learning. A simple way to understand UDL is the analogy of a group of people, traveling to a common destination, using multiple means of transportation. While each person may use a different mode of traveling based on different abilities, and while each mode/vehicle may have a slightly different speed, ultimately we want each person to reach the final destination. Also, there is no 1 vehicle that is optimal for all students, some students might not even have the physical, intellectual, or emotional abilities to operate some vehicles. Finally, it is the job of the schools, especially the teacher, to make sure that each student has access to as many modes/vehicles as possible, so each student can choose how best to reach the learning objectives.
Google docs to Share UDL Strategies
So when Calvert created a local level UDL committee, and wanted more information on UDL- the natural place to look is, our already highly qualified, effective teachers who are implementing UDL strategies every day. But how can I more easily borrow from the great things that other teachers are already doing? This question is why our team at PHS is working on an idea for CCPS teachers to more easily share UDL ideas. The idea is nothing new and it is incredibly simple: google docs. Basically we created 3 separate google docs, one for each of the facets of UDL (multiple means of engagement, representation, and assessment), where teachers can upload their UDL strategies and/or borrow strategies from someone who already uploaded. We wanted to upload lessons, or elements of lessons, that teachers have actually used, rather than a concept that they read about elsewhere. This way other teachers have access to actual examples of UDL that their coworkers have already used, with success. We have created the google docs, now we need you to start populating and borrowing from them!
What this google doc will look like for you:
Links to the 3 google docs
Multiple means of engagement:
Multiple means of Instruction:
Multiple means of assessment: