Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I had the honor recently of attending a Summit on UDL (Universal Design for Learning), hosted by CAST and The Tremaine Foundation. The main tenets of this approach to reaching all students reflect a significant shift in the way we think about instruction. Traditionally, we have considered the curriculum and the means to deliver it (textbooks, filmstrips, worksheets, and the like) as fixed. The students we teach though are not. Some are better readers than others; some don't come to school speaking English; some have hearing or vision problems; some come well-prepared by their parents; some are drilled in the multiplication table by their parents; and so on. All those fixed curriculum materials may not provide accessible pathways (physically or pedagogically) for this incredible range of student backgrounds and abilities So, historically, students who suffered from either learning disabilities or learning difficulties have had to learn to cope, catch-up, and accommodate the materials.

UDL, in the words of David Rose, co-founder of CAST, hopes to co-locate the disability between both the student and the curriculum. What can we do in the design of the instructional materials and lessons to carry some of the load? How can we create materials that adjust to the student as well? UDL proposes three main design principles to guide this effort:

* Multiple representations of the content and instruction.
* Multiple means for the student to express his or her learning.
* Multiple pathways to engage students.

Technology, of course, makes it much easier to incorporate these principles into instruction, and we've worked to infuse them into our software products. The concept of UDL is incredibly appealing and a straightforward way to think about differentiating instruction. To learn more about it, visit the CAST website at: http://www.cast.org/.

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