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UDL in 15 Minutes with Kelly Zombo


During this episode of UDL in 15 Minutes with Kelly Zombo, she mentions a significant word from the Universal Design for Learning world – intentionality. She says, “Our focus is always on an intentional plan using the UDL framework and that’s how we really are supporting our strategic plan”. Intentionality. It is the lynchpin of UDL.

Whether you’re new to UDL or you’re seasoned, you probably look at the framework and see so many things that are familiar. You see evidence of backward design, Bloom’s taxonomy, multiple intelligences, the Zone of Proximal Development, and self-determination. When you begin to see or hear about examples, you might be reminded of multisensory teaching or scaffolding. And when people are exploring UDL, it is around this time that I hear, “I’m already doing this,” or “How is this different?” Yeah, let’s talk about those.

I’m already doing this

While the areas I listed above plus others undergird the framework, there is so much more depth in each checkpoint. That is where you find the depth and breadth of the framework. Below is the checkpoint, Increase mastery-oriented feedback:

Assessment is most productive for sustaining engagement when the feedback is relevant, constructive, accessible, consequential, and timely. But the type of feedback is also critical in helping learners to sustain the motivation and effort essential to learning. Mastery-oriented feedback is the type of feedback that guides learners toward mastery rather than a fixed notion of performance or compliance. It also emphasizes the role of effort and practice rather than “intelligence” or inherent “ability” as an important factor in guiding learners toward successful long-term habits and learning practices. These distinctions may be particularly important for learners whose disabilities have been interpreted, by either themselves or their caregivers, as permanently constraining and fixed.

  • Provide feedback that encourages perseverance, focuses on development of efficacy and self-awareness, and encourages the use of specific supports and strategies in the face of challenge
  • Provide feedback that emphasizes effort, improvement, and achieving a standard rather than on relative performance
  • Provide feedback that is frequent, timely, and specific
  • Provide feedback that is substantive and informative rather than comparative or competitive
  • Provide feedback that models how to incorporate evaluation, including identifying patterns of errors and wrong answers, into positive strategies for future success

Intentionally applying this checkpoint means you put into action that beginning paragraph, but then you dig into those five bullets. They describe the dimensions and opportunities you have to honestly and thoroughly learn how to provide mastery-oriented feedback. And, teaching your students how to give this kind of feedback? Talk about a culture shift in the classroom! That’s what it means to intentionally use the framework.

How is this different?

This is another question that comes up a lot and is not always easy to answer in the moment, especially if the person is relatively new to the framework. My response aligns with what I just wrote above – it has to do with how deeply you dig into the checkpoints and purposefully bring them alive in your environment. Providing mastery-oriented feedback to the degree listed in this checkpoint is not an automatic response for most of us because we probably didn’t learn in an environment that consistently provided that kind of feedback. That means that we’re not working from a model (one of the first steps of scaffolding). Instead, we’re consciously practicing the act of mastery-oriented feedback. With that consciousness comes intentionality.

Intentionality burns glucose – the “juice” our brain uses when it’s focused. Intentionality moves us from a state of inactive to active. Intentionality breaks monotony and offers new avenues and opportunity. It is only with intentionality that we’re able to design lesson and learning environments that help our learners become expert learners.