After working with teachers and different schools for the past few years, I received feedback that kids and teachers need more information to figure out who they are as learners using Universal Design for Learning (UDL). As a co-author on our book, How to Personalize Learning, Kathleen McClaskey and I created a checklist for teachers to use with their students called “Who I am as a Learner” that was based on starting with the WHAT. Now that I have redesigned the materials around UDL to start with the WHY, it changed my thinking. I formed a focus group to come up with new and revised statements for Strengths, Competencies, Challenges, and Obstacles that start with Multiple Means of Engagement.
I need to give thanks to the many teachers who have piloted the “Me as a Learner” document to help learners understand how they learn best. Part One invites learners to write what they love to do and learn, what is fun for them, what they love in school, and more. Below are short samples from Part Two of the document.
Several of the teachers who used the “Me as a Learner” form adapted it for their learners of different ages and skill levels. After learners checked and circled the statements that applied to them, they created summaries of what they found out about themselves. I filled out the form and created a summary for me. Below is a sample from my summary:
I feel confident and motivated to want to learn but at times have this need to be perfect. I’m realizing I don’t know as much as I thought I did and don’t like being called an “expert.” I do like collaborating with others who want to become better learners and learn from others. I realized I was not focusing on what I’m passionate about and now wish to define my WHY so I can inspire others to define theirs.
From what I chose, I could see why it is important to start with the WHY of learning. We need a voice and choice so we own our learning and the development of agency. It is important to focus on our strengths to maximize our learning and to find strategies to reduce any barriers that keep us from learning. We may all process that information differently so this is why we need to know how we learn best. UDL helps us do that. I figured if I’m going to share UDL and the Learner Profile, I needed to see how it worked for me as a learner first. Below is a short sample of what I came up with about me.
I noticed that when I started writing about my strengths and interests for engagement, it was all about purpose. Yet, I wasn’t sure of my purpose. This was big for me. I’ve been focusing on making learning personal for years and now I wasn’t sure if that was my WHY.
When I added the information about me, I saw me. I shared this idea with some educators and asked them how they would use this. So they filled it out and then shared what they found out about themselves with peers. I’m going big by sharing mine with you. When I asked someone what they thought about what I wrote, they asked me questions that led to some very interesting conversations. One teacher said that when I wrote I wished to define my WHY, it helped her feel okay about not knowing her WHY and being vulnerable in front of others. She thought I knew everything. No one knows everything. I definitely do not feel like an expert. Every day I learn something new and am humbled by how much I don’t know.
“It’s amazing how much we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Read the post on Universal Design for Learning to start with the WHY for background information.