I am sure you are curious as to what UD stands for. To me, my title for this post sounds serious, maybe dangerous, and complex. Well, rest assured, everything is fine! UD is the acronym for Universal Design, and you have engaged in the implementation of UD within your community more than you may realize.
Universal Design is a concept that originated from an architectural movement, and it is a universal framework applied, well, universally. For example, let’s consider a ramp. What is the purpose of a ramp? It is primarily included in planning guides to assist handicapped individuals in entering a building. However, it benefits the rest of the community too! Almost everyone uses a ramp at some point in their lives. Universal Design is intended to design buildings, products, and environments that are beneficial and applicable to all. Below I list principles of Universal Design as well as some examples of representation of those principles within our communities:
- Equitable Use (crosswalks)
- The flexibility of Use (scissors made for left and right-hand dominant people)
- Simple and Intuitive (no smoking sign)
- Perceptible Information (crosswalk signal)
- Tolerance for Error (a reminder to put an item in the trash)
- Low Physical Effort (motion sensor to open door)
- Size and Space for Approach and Use (wide doorways)
Two more examples of Universal Design include elevators and low/high drinking fountains.
So, how is Universal Design applied in the classroom setting? Well, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is UD in an educational setting. How material is presented does not assist all students; rather, students often learn best from a particular learning style, and some need learning accommodations within the lesson to assist them in their learning. Learning is NOT a one size fits all. In lesson planning, incorporating UDL supports all types of learners to access the general education curriculum, and it keeps expectations high within the classroom. For my Teaching Children with Exceptionalities Course that I am enrolled in, my professor had us students create a lesson plan that incorporated UDL within it and addressed the three categories in which UDL should be provided for: representation, action and expression, and engagement. Representation answers the “what” of learning (alternatives to access information), action and expression answers the “how” of learning (provide options for responding/assignments), and engagement answers the “why of learning (provide options for collaboration and communication to make meaning of learning).
To conclude this post, I will share how I incorporated UDL in my lesson plan so that it addressed those three necessities to assure appropriate learning. My lesson plan was designed for third-grade students learning about adding and subtracting in bases beyond the base ten system, and the students were to engage in a school scavenger hunt taking measurements of various listed objects to find so that they could complete addition and subtraction with those measurements in the base twelve system considering inches and feet.
In my lesson plan, I had to adjust my instruction about adding and subtracting numbers in different bases beyond base ten so that it was appropriate for my students who had an orthopedic impairment, dyslexia, or autism spectrum disorder. In regards to representation, I needed to consider what some alternatives were for students to access the information about adding and subtracting in other bases. I arranged varying representation by providing handouts for students who needed a bullet point summary of what base ten is before moving onto other bases. This helped students with autism spectrum disorder or dyslexia who may become overwhelmed by larger paragraphs of text. Interactive instruction of the scavenger hunt activity was also given for students who may need a visual representation rather than written, and for our friends with orthopedic impairments, they received measurements already recorded due to moving around the school being a challenge. For action and expression, I provided options for students to present their learning about adding and subtracting in different bases beyond base ten. Also, students were able to share their foundational knowledge of base ten by writing on whiteboards instead of completing a worksheet. During the scavenger hunt, they were the ones in charge of accurately conducting measurements responsibly, and they worked in groups as well as independently throughout the activity to demonstrate their learning and complete the assignment in written equations and drawings. Lastly, for engagement, I offered multiple opportunities for collaboration and communication to make sense of the material.
Below I attached my lesson plan if you would like to view the entirety of it 🙂
Again, this material I learned from my Teaching Children with Exceptionalities Course, and I thank Dr. Matewos for her guidance when teaching this course!