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UDL and Personalized Learning

Thought Leaders about Personalized Learning Interview #1
Kathleen McClaskey

Universal Design in Learning (UDL) is about providing instruction and the appropriate tools to all learners so they are successful in meeting their learning goals. Personalized learning is all about the learner and starts with the learner. There seems to be some confusion about what UDL is from the perspective of personalized learning.

I am very lucky to have met Kathleen McClaskey who adopted UDL principles in her professional development programs. She envisions using the UDL principles to help learners understand how they learn and how to personalize their learning. We have been doing research together on personalized learning, and I realized how much I don’t know about UDL. Kathleen has opened my eyes to Universal Design for Learning so it just seemed obvious to me to interview Kathleen as the first Thought Leader in this series.

Q1.What is UDL?

UDL is a curriculum model that provides a framework for teaching
and learning. The design of the curriculum includes the three UDL principles: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression and multiple means of engagement.

Q2.What isn’t UDL? What are the misperceptions?

UDL is often misperceived as a curriculum model for special education students only. UDL is more about designing curriculum and lessons so that the maximum of students will learn and understand. First and foremost, it is intended to support the diversity of learners in the classroom, often with the use of a variety of technologies.

Q3. What are the UDL principles?

The three principles of Universal Design for Learning are
• Multiple Means of Representation
• Multiple Means of Action and Expression
• Multiple Means of Engagement

To learn more about these three principles, the UDL Guidelines and the tools that can support these principles, go to The National Center for Universal Design for Learning (www.udlcenter.org/).

Q4. How can a teacher apply UDL principles in the classroom and for all learners?

Universal design for learning is often used around curriculum, lesson design and instruction where teachers look who the learners are in their classroom and then decide how to design the lesson considering the three principles of UDL: multiple means of representation multiple means of expression and multiple means of engagement. When lessons are designed using the UDL model, the lesson includes goals, methods, materials and tools to reach and support the maximum amount of learners in the classroom.

So what if we took this model and we looked at each student through the UDL lens, we could help them personalize their own learning experience? Students can use this model to help them understand how they learn best and what learning path they can take to become an independent expert learner, leveraging their natural abilities in the process. This would create a personal learning profile that is understood by both teacher and student.

Q5. Can you give an example on how a teacher can personalize learning using the principles of UDL?

With the understanding how his or her students learn, a teacher can then intentionally select instructional strategies and materials that will not engage the maximum number of students in the class, but provide access to the curriculum to all students. By understanding each student’s strengths, weaknesses and aptitudes/talents, teachers can design lessons that are engaging to more learners but also understand the options that can extend students expressing their understanding of any content or topic.

Q6. How can a student understand how they learn best using these principles?

Let’s look at the three UDL principles and how students can use these principles for them to understand how they learn.

The first UDL principle is multiple means of representation. A student can ask himself/herself, “How do I like to access information including books, handouts” and “What can help me understand information that the teacher is introducing?” This self-assessment can help students examine their strengths and weaknesses in learning and understanding.

The second UDL principle is multiple means of expression and action. A student can ask himself/herself, “What ways could I let my teachers know what I understand?” This self-assessment can help students look closely on ways they can best express themselves.

The third UDL principle is multiple means of engagement. A student can ask himself/herself, “What am I good at?”, “What do I love to do?”, and “What interests me the most? This self-assessment can help students better understand their aptitudes, interests and overall talents.

Q7. Why is UDL necessary for all learners?

When any student understands how they learn, they are empowered to take ownership of their learning. This opens doors in having tools and resources that can help them become independent learners and motivated in learning, in and out of school. It also opens up windows of opportunities for learners to appreciate their aptitudes, talents and gifts and for teachers to guide and nurture them in the learning activities and projects.

UDL Principles

Kathleen and I were interviewed January 18, 2012 for Virtual Staff Room by Chris Betcher. Check out Episode 46 “This is Personal

Kathleen McClaskeyKathleen H. McClaskey, President of Ed Tech Associates, is a recognized UDL and Digital Learning Consultant with 28 years experience in using technology in the classroom. Kathleen is a frequent international, national and regional workshop presenter on topics that include Universal Design for Learning, Technology for Diverse Learners, Math and Technology: Bringing Research to Practice and Built in Moodle. In 2007, she was awarded a three-year NH Math and Science Partnership grant for the “Science4All” project, applying UDL principles in the science classroom. In 2009, Kathleen designed and directed the Tools for Learning Math Intervention Project where tools were applied to UDL researched-based instruction in math. In late 2009, she became the professional development director of three ARRA technology funded projects in NH to create 21st Century Classrooms. In all of these projects, Kathleen developed a UDL lesson design structure for project teachers to support the learning of all students.

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