UDL stands for Universal Design for Learning and we are not talking about a methodology here, we are talking more about a model or even a philosophy. It seeks to achieve the inclusion of all students by flexibility and personalization.
WHAT IS UDL?
UDL is based on three main principles:
We can present content by diverse means, that is, not only talking or with a textbook. We can present our material by using audios, images, videos, and so on. That will make our material accessible to everyone.
Give control and autonomy to the students, taking into consideration their interests. Closely linked to this point is the usage of what are known as active methodologies, or what I prefer to called active learning.
3. Action and expression
How do your students show you what they have learnt?
One possibility is to give them the opportunity to present their knowledge in different ways. Therefore, they would be able to develop their creativity and, no doubt, they will surprise you.
That is, we have to give them a range of options at the beginning, while we teach (representation), during the construction of their own learning (engagement) and after, to evaluate their learning (expression).
HOW DO WE TRANSLATE THAT INTO THE CLASSROOM?
Of course, I know, theory is easy but it is not so in practice.
Two main tips:
1. Do it gradually
It is impossible to make all your material accessible out of the blue. You have to take it step by step. For instance, are you using a listening? Could you have the MP3 file prepared in case a student needs it? Could you have it as a video in case it is easier for any of them?
Remember, in this example the objective is to understand the listening, but each student might need a different number of steps or a different path to reach that objective.
Do they have to answer the same questions? Do they have to include the same number of words in a writing? Do they have to write about the same themes?
Don´t forget: there could be one aim, the same for all your students, but different ways and rhythms to achieve it. Give them as many options as possible.
2. Use ICT
I know. I know what I have just said seems impossible. But, as I told you, it has to be gradual. You have to see how it works, adding more and more material, coming up with diverse strategies for lighting their spark, as well as investigating the possibilities of active learning and different ways of representation and expression.
For all that, ICT is your ally. There is a lot of material in the internet, already prepared for being used or edited. Moreover, you can create your own material and your students can also prepare material that can be useful for other students.
And just one last tip: whenever is possible, don´t do it on your own, try to develop material in conjunction with other teachers, sharing your resources and using others’ resources will increase your UDL exponentially, without you hardly noticing.
To sum up, UDL implies autonomy, flexibility and the inclusion of all the students.
Don’t leave it until tomorrow. Start today. Something easy, something small, can make a big change for some of your students.
Ingrid Mosquera Gende, PhD.