“I sat there and I kind of crossed my arms and I said, “I already do this! I already do UDL!” And then I kept thinking, “Ah, these are just good teaching strategies. Everybody teaches this way!” Oh, and then I thought, “Oh, it has to do with elementary teachers just do this then. Maybe they don’t do it at the middle school, high school level, but we already do this.” And I just kept thinking it was really a new buzzword and that there wasn’t anything new. And then by the end, it was a week-long course, and by the end of the week I thought, “Oh, wait a minute. I guess I really don’t do this.” And I think I had been teaching for so long that I thought it really was what I was doing, but the more I dove, you know, I dove deeper into what UDL was and I realized it really was different. That there were a lot more levels to and layers as to what UDL was.”
– Laura Taylor, sharing her reflections about a UDL training during her UDL in 15 Minutes interview.
During our conversation together, Laura openly shared what I’ve heard other experienced teachers say when they first hear about UDL. When you listen to my podcast with Laura, you’ll hear what she took from that training. She shares what changed about her teaching after 25 years in the classroom.
From a training perspective, an incredibly interesting thing about UDL is that each person takes away their own thing. They might take away a better understanding of choice versus variety. They might take away a new understanding of accessibility. They might come to a deeper understanding of the power of goals. That’s because all learning is based on our background experiences and knowledge. That not only includes the experiences we had as learners when we were children, teenagers, and as adults, but it also includes experiences driven by the locations in which we have taught, the student populations we have supported, and the support we have been provided by the other professionals in our midst. Bring in the experiences we have outside of our professional lives, and you have all the ingredients for a variable learner of UDL! This also means that some people automatically connect with the UDL framework and others need some time, space, and additional information before they are ready to try it out.
Let’s say you’re the person in your building or department who is most enthused about UDL. You see its potential, but your colleagues still have their arms crossed. What can you do? How do you provide them with more information and support them so they can absorb UDL in a way that suits their needs?
Share stories told by other UDL implementers. I have guests spanning preschool to grad school from around the globe lined up for “UDL in 15 Minutes” in 2019. Sign up via iTunes, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and make sure you come back to the website for the follow-up blog posts.
Share your stories. What one or two things did you take away from the framework that made an impact? What changes did you see in your students?
Join a community of UDL implementers. Twitter has groups like #udlchat and #udlhe where educators talk about UDL. You don’t even have to post anything! You can just read what other people write and post. If you don’t know how to get started, just email me and I can help you join the Twitterverse!
Connect with CAST and the UDL-IRN. CAST has updated The National Center as a hub of up-to-date stories about people, ideas, and conversations in the UDL community. The UDL Implementation and Research Network (IRN) has a weekly newsletter with tips and tools for UDL implementation.
We all come to UDL in our own wonderful ways. We start from where we are. And as we learn more about ourselves as expert learners of UDL (and life), we can pass along our lessons to our students through the design of our learning environments. Now that’s a real gift.