Three Steps to Implementing UDL
During this episode of UDL in 15 Minutes with Mary Waldron and Michaela Clancy, Michaela shares how they began moving forward with Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
“As we started this, year two of this, we moved into the COVID response, but we didn’t want our educators to feel like we were adding one more thing to what we were already doing because it wasn’t… The very first year of this project, we were moving forward with a new district equity policy. We did quite a bit of stakeholder review with our community, and it was really important for us to address equity specifically… So, when I look back at the year one graphics that we were using in some of our presentations, you’ll see the multiple means of engagement, the multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression. You won’t see UDL, and it just sort of makes me laugh, but we needed them to know that this is not something else.” – Michaela
“How do we get started with UDL?” is always one of the main questions at the district level. Leaders like Michaela are concerned that UDL will feel like another layer and they want to achieve high levels of buy-in. Here are three guiding prompts I offer to help leaders wade through that very big question.
Know where you are: Every district is governed by mindsets, skills and practices. When it comes to UDL, I created The UDL Gears to communicate the mindsets, skills and practices associated with the framework. Because I was creating it for a global audience, you will not see certain words like variability and equity because they do not translate well. Instead, those concepts are woven into the descriptions used to clarify the mindsets, skills and practices. You can use The UDL Gears to doing introspective work at the district level. When you know what you’re heading toward, it’s easier to reflect on where you are. The UDL Gears can help you do that.
Know what you’re already implementing: The initiatives within the district also paint a picture of a district’s mindsets, skills, and practices. How does this relate to UDL? The mere act of investigating all of your initiatives and seeing whether the mindsets, skills, and practices of those initiatives align with UDL will show you where growth and shift is needed. As Michaela noted during the episode, their district had already adopted a new district equity policy. They used that avenue to introduce the broad concepts of engagement, representation and action & expression but did not link back to UDL yet. They used another initiative to introduce aligned concepts which helped create that bridge when they began to name UDL.
Know who you want to impact: As with any initiative, you need to know who you want to impact. Because UDL should be adopted to impact all learners it can, again, feel overwhelming to everyone. An interesting twist on this is to look at teachers as an impact group. Many of my podcast guests have talked about using UDL to design their professional development and to focus on their staff as the learners. By helping staff build the associated skills and closely looking at their own practices, the mindset shifts associated with UDL implementation can occur with more ease. Everything we do is to improve learner outcomes, but teachers are the rich conduit to learners. We must support those who are the conduit.
I openly admit that I’m typically not one for numbered lists. I think they minimize and can misrepresent something that is really big. On the other hand, lists can act as a scaffold to help someone move toward something big. Mary and Michaela’s story acknowledge possibility. This list can help you grapple with the big question so “How do we get started with UDL” and propel you forward to support every learner’s journey as an expert learner.