“Without a systematic way to interrupt current practice in the classroom the impact of these barriers is repeatedly faced by each generation without significant forward motion to break the cycle once & for all.”
Bae, S., Ofiesh, N. S., Blackorby, J. (2018)
Enables equity in education
“Providing high quality education is a matter of social justice” (Ministry of Education, 2019). As teachers and leaders our bottom line is that no-one will be left out or discriminated against. As everyone learns differently, finding ways to create flexible, barrier-free learning environments is of critical importance if all students are to thrive (ibid.)
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can help us in this work. It gives us a framework to design learning environments that are “flexible, and where barriers to learning can be identified and removed at the outset (Ministry of Education, 2019). It can help us towards equitable access and participation in education.
A culturally inclusive framework
Although UDL was conceived in US, it has value for us here in Aotearoa because it takes “a people-first approach to planning learning” (Ministry of Education, 2019). UDL invites us to think about “WHO we will teach and what those learners bring with them BEFORE we think about WHAT we will teach” (ibid.)
“UDL is focused on ensuring all learners get a chance to learn in ways that work for them. It is about removing barriers and opening doors to learning. It is driven not only by the findings from neuroscience and educational research but by a vision for equity” (Ministry of Education, 2019).
When UDL is implemented intentionally across a community it can bring coherence to teaching practices that are inclusive of all learners. This approach benefits everyone.
Students can be confident they will have:
- equitable access to learning opportunities
- the tools and supports they need to demonstrate their learning in ways that work for them across all classes
- responsive teachers who welcome their self-advocacy and seek feedback on their teaching
- knowledgeable teachers who value and have an understanding of learner variability.
Whānau can trust that:
- their ideas and questions will be welcomed
- the uniqueness of their child will be valued and seen as a source of strength for the community
- their child will be taught in a way that works for them and their learning needs will be met
- their child will not be singled out or separated from their peers.
Teachers have a framework to guide decision-making. It supports them to:
- identify and minimise barriers to learning and wellbeing hidden in their teaching
- consider how to offer useful options and supports that can be built into the learning environment at the outset
- problem solve with colleagues, students and whānau using the shared language of UDL.
Leaders have a framework that will:
- help them support the presence and participation of every learner (child to adult) and ensure their rights as a learners are upheld and protected
- support consistent, coherent inclusive teaching and learning practices across their school
- set expectations around “what inclusive can look like”
- guide the design of more inclusive systems and processes, staff hui, community events and building projects
- provide a shared language that can be used with all stakeholders, across all contexts.
Find out more:
- Explore the new UDL guide
- Talk to your local RTLB about strengthening UDL practices in your school
- Talk to your Expert Partners and PLD facilitators – you can use UDL to increase the inclusivity of all aspects of your Kahui Āko or cluster mahi.
- Listen to a school leadership team talk about the impact UDL implementation
- Chat to the UDL team at CORE about next steps in your own learning.