Goal-Based Design and the BC Curriculum

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The redesigned BC curriculum is built around core competencies and big ideas, which makes it easier to implement a UDL goal-based approach.  Just as in UDL, the big ideas are separate from any particular method or activity.  For example, one of the big ideas for the Grade 4 Language Arts curriculum is “Texts are created for different purposes and audiences.”  In a pop-up link, text is defined very broadly as oral, written, visual or digital communication.  The BC curriculum encourages educators to expand their definition of text well beyond the printed textbook and essay.  When teachers focus on goals and offer choice in how students demonstrate their learning in a UDL-designed lesson, they are personalizing learning in exactly the way the BC curriculum intends.

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Separating Goals from Methods of Response

In the UDL framework, goal-based planning provides a focus for learning and assessment and opens the door for choice and inclusion.  When designing lessons, it’s especially important to separate learning goals from particular methods or activities.  For example, if a teacher asks everyone in the class to write an essay about polar bear habitat, the goal of demonstrating knowledge is restricted to essay writing.  But essay writing and knowledge of polar bear habitat are really two separate things.  Students who do not excel in essay writing will not be able to truly demonstrate their knowledge about polar bear habitat.  Instead, if the goal of the assignment becomes “demonstrate your learning about an animal and its habitat”, without tying the goal to anything as specific as essay writing or even polar bears, students can use a variety of ways to show their learning.  This doesn’t mean we never write essays again.  But when we write essays, then essay writing is clearly identified as the goal for learning and assessment.

Stating the goal as a big idea or essential understanding also creates more entry points for students who are functioning at different levels.  A student with cognitive challenges and a gifted student can both participate in learning and demonstrate their knowledge about an animal and its habitat.  When we tie our goals too rigidly to particular methods or activities, we automatically set the bar too high for some learners and too low for others.  A big idea for the Grade 4 Science curriculum is “All living things and their environment are interdependent”.  This big idea is certainly flexible enough to accommodate diverse learners.

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