UDL Overview


Using UDL strategies in the classroom ensures that the diverse needs in the classroom are met.

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Dr Jennifer Katz, University of Manitoba

I mean I’m passionate about kids and about inclusive schools in the sense that we, I want it to be a place where every kid who comes to school gets to feel good about themselves, gets to feel a part of the community, and is challenged to learn and grow. My passion for UDL comes as, it’s a methodology. Right? It’s the “how”, of achieving that vision, but it’s not the vision itself, it’s the method.

When you’re a teacher and you have 32 kids in front of you, and 11 of them are on IEPs, and only 5 of them speak English as a first language, and you know, we have very diverse classrooms in front of us today, and I care about all kids, and I had a background in Special Ed, but I realized quickly that we’d made a mistake in, when we went to inclusion, we tried to bring Special Ed into the regular Ed classroom. And what we’d done in Special Ed classes with a 1 to 4 ratio, right, we were trying to do in regular Ed classrooms with a 1 to 32 ratio. And it just, it wasn’t going to work. Even though I knew how to do those things, I couldn’t run a separate program for 11 different kids. It’s not possible. So for me it came from I want to meet the needs of all my learners, I care about all of the kids, but I needed strategies and frameworks for how to do that in a way that served all of the kids, not a separate program for every single one.

Judith King, Penticton School District

I think for me what this has done has helped teachers see the potential in kids. Helped all of us see the potential in kids. And it’s given kids a lot of hope that they can be learners and they can succeed. And it’s just really time that that happened. Instead of thinking that I as a classroom teacher can’t manage it without a lot of special ed., or a lot of help, I can manage it. And I can do really creative things and help kids see their potential. So seeing the hope in kids and seeing the confidence in teachers has been the best parts for me. 

Tannis Calder, Prince Rupert Middle

With Universal Design for Learning we’re trying to make sure that we’re thinking of everybody before we start the lesson. So it’s not about coming to the lesson and saying okay I have to make this adaptation for this other person, or I have to extend it for this other person, we’re coming in knowing that we have a range of students. Which of course, in any classroom, that’s the case. And so we’ve planned that from the get-go. So we’re not teaching to the middle, we’re teaching to the class, and knowing that there are parts for every person involved. So that everybody has an access point.

Trevor Stovel speaking to class

Medium! Matter through which a wave travels, excellent, yes.

Dr Leyton Schnellert, University of British Columbia

The idea is that you attend to the ecology of the entire class and think about how can we design learning for everyone. Which is quite different than support for targeted students, or pull outs. So by attending to our entire classroom ecology, think about what are the strengths of this particular class, what are the stretches, what are the needs of individual students, but its setting goals and making decisions where we’re all working together. You’d see more kids being more successful more of the time. We’d actually see kids having access to content, we’d see students doing more things more of the time as well as you’d actually see their skills increasing. And we’d see everyone’s skills increasing because the approaches that we’re using are good for everyone.

Greg Miyanaga speaking to class

Who would like to pick a card?

Greg Miyanaga, Birchland Elementary

I used to teach grade 4 and grade 5 and I would just give on lesson, deliver it one way, and the kids all had to show it back to me in the same way. It was very, very linear, very straight forward, but it also missed a whole lot of different kinds of learning styles. Both in the reception and in the demonstration of their learning so I’ve really learned from the other teachers here about how to try some different ways and get to a whole bunch of different learning styles.

Judith King

If you teach and assess differently, not lowering standards at all, but giving kids opportunities to show what they know in different ways, teach in different ways so more kids can learn, what will that do for kids at risk? And of course what the teachers are finding is it makes a huge difference for the kids at risk but it makes a huge difference for all their kids. So we have collected data on, last year it was on 600 kids and 35 case studies but all kids in the classrooms that the teachers choose, do a pre and post survey, and the kids who are really academically successful are just become more successful. So it’s not hurting anybody, but it’s helping everybody.

Dr Leyton Schnellert

Universal design for learning, for me, when I work with classroom teachers or mixed groups with classroom teachers and special educators, is about seeing that a lot of the approaches that we know are really resonate with us, fit within universal design for learning. Cooperative learning, inquiry learning, project based learning, gradual release of responsibility, service learning, reading writing workshop, multiple intelligences, those all fit under universal design for learning.

John Lussier speaking to class

When you’re ready, the iPads are here, laptops are back there, there’s some books at the side…

John Lussier, Kinnikinnick Elementary

One thing I do is I at the end of each term is I meet with all the students one on one and I interview them, how’s the term gone, as we get ready to write report cards. And so I had, you know, one student who, has been out of the classroom a lot in the past, come and just talk about how he feels that he is way more independent now, much more able to do things on his own, he doesn’t need the assistant beside him doing everything for him, which is huge. I mean he’s still reading at about a grade two level, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get him up much higher, but he’s in a grade seven classroom, and he’s one of everybody else, and people recognize him as just another class member. May need help with his reading, but he can participate and he can give answers and he can produce work like everybody else can. So it’s pretty powerful.

Craig Sung, Birchland Elementary

So many kids come and they seem so, what, they seem so removed from the classroom, so divorced from what goes on here. It’s not part of their lives a lot of times. But when you give them choices, and when you help nurture that engagement and show them that they are learners, that they are capable of success here, the power of it, is, it’s mind-blowing. You know the classroom is a difficult place to teach today in a lot of ways. One of the answers that we’ve found has been exactly that. Helping kids find their place in the classroom. Ownership. Engagement. And showing them that they are capable of learning. That they are learners. That they are part of a society of learners.

Dr Leyton Schnellert

Diversity is a strength, in our classroom communities, we should be celebrating and working with diversity more versus trying to create a homogenized student, because that’s not what society needs. And so by taking this community based, strength oriented, but yet diverse approach to our teaching and learning and planning, we’re going to see great outcomes. Because we’re actually responding to who our classes are.

Jeff Fitton, Skaha Lake Middle

I just, you know, if I can encourage anybody, try something, start, just start. Start small, start big if you want.

Jindalee Webb, Skaha Lake Middle

Give it a try, give it a go, take that little risk and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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