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UDL in 15 Minutes with Lizzie Fortin

Falling in (Radical) Love with the Checkpoints

During my interview with Lizzie, she shared how she dug into two of the checkpoints within the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. She shared her deeply felt reasons for why she dug into those checkpoints, but that digging-in really needs to happen with all of the checkpoints. So, how can you get started with this journey? Below, you will find a list of questions that you can use to guide yourself in your own investigation.

My suggestion is that you investigate these checkpoints with another colleague or a group. Your interpretation and experience will always be different than anyone else’s, and it is crucial that you hear the viewpoints of others and that they hear your viewpoints. UDL is meant to be used by a collective of educators who are seeking ways to improve the outcomes of all children. The framework is at its most rich when it is implemented by several who are working together. If you find yourself being the Lone (UDL) Ranger, you can always reach out to those of us in the UDL community who are very committed to the framework and speak publicly about it. You’ll find these like-minded people on Twitter at #UDLchat, #UDLChatIE, and #UDLhe. Just put those hash tagged group names (e.g., #UDLchat) into the search, and you can scroll through the names of people who participate with those discussions.

One of the checkpoints Lizzie focused on was minimize threats and distractions. When you read this, or any checkpoint, ask questions like:

  1. What does the opening sentence tell me? And, how does it differ from the opening sentences of other checkpoints? (this will help you recognize the difference between some of the checkpoints that might feel similar).

  2. How are the checkpoint words defined (e.g., what is a threat and what is a distraction in the context of the guidelines)? Is there another name you would give to that checkpoint? (this will help you “own” that checkpoint).

  3. How do the suggestions under each checkpoint align with or differ from what you thought the checkpoint meant? (this gets you to do some more introspective work on your own interpretations).

  4. What are instances when you have implemented some of the ideas under each checkpoint? What additional idea could you add in to your lesson tomorrow? (this gets you into your own planning and use of the framework).

The UDL Guidelines are dense with information, but this is a good thing. If CAST were to have narrowed the checkpoints, teachers would have less guidance and support in how to design their lessons and environments. Having this breadth of information allows for multiple avenues and opportunities for learners to gain skills associated with becoming expert learners. After all, aren’t those multiple pathways the reason why we implement UDL? It should be.