Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Universal Design for Learning - What is it? Does it follow other pedagogy?

This week I researched the concept Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It is a framework of principles and guidelines that help create curricula that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL breaks down the brain's framework into three primary networks: Recognition, Strategic and Affective thus creating the three main principles: Representation, Action & Expression, and Engagement. Throughout my research, I was able to discover that UDL is fairly similar to Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies and Learning Theories.

As I created the following matrix, it is easy to see how many concepts, classroom practices are similar for all three pedagogy strands:

Pedagogy Strands

In the matrix, I was able to visualize how Marzano's Nine, Learning Theories and UDL all use the same type of classroom practices to meet the needs of each individual student. However, UDL does seem to have more assistive technologies for students with special needs. By creating things such as AIM explorer, mouse camera, or digital dictation devices like those shown in the UDL resources and examples, it is evident that UDL does make sure to include more assistance to students with special needs. However, all three pedagogy strands take into account ALL students' individual needs.

When comparing and contrasting the Learning Theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, & Constructivism to UDL, all three learning theories seem to be interrelated with UDL principles and guidelines. Behaviorism seems to be linked to Representation; Cognitivism is interconnected to Actions & Expression, and Constructivism is interrelated to Engagement. As proof of this connection, Behaviorism and Representation both take into account ideas of direct instruction and classroom practices that assist with direct instruction such as Venn Diagrams and Color Contrast. Cognitivism and Action & Expression show similar connections by examining the strategic network by bringing in problem-based learning. Finally, Constructivism and Engagement are definitely interconnected with motivation and cooperative learning. (Please see the matrix above for further visualization).

Along with the three learning theories, UDL is also interconnected with Marzano's Nine Essential Strategies. Some examples of this include:
Representation - Identifying Similarities/Differences (Venn Diagrams)
Action & Expression - Summarizing & Notetaking (IVF statements)
Engagement -Setting Objectives & Providing Feedback (Rubrics/Reflection sheets)
There are many more examples listed in the matrix in the Pedagogy Strands link that is listed above.

When looking at this matrix at a whole, I personally think that Marzano's Nine is the easiest pedagogy to implement into my designed curricula because of the break down of the nine essential strategies. It is easy for me to take an entire unit and design different activities to meet each essential strategy. However, after researching the Universal Design for Learning this week, I now know that it can be just as easy to use when creating curriculum. As I investigated the UDL, it was fairly easy for me to come up with ideas for units and lesson plans by using some of the examples and resources listed in the UDL principles and guidelines. I encourage other educators to do the same.

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