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Loui Lord Nelson, Ph.D.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Implementation
Home > Blog > UDL in 15 Minutes with Sara Soria

UDL in 15 Minutes with Sara Soria

Video Sharing, Principal Leadership, and UDL

During this episode of UDL in 15 Minutes, Principal Sara Soria shares how influential art has been in her life and how it has become a two-pronged tool for her work. First, she models using art to connect with others (be sure to click on the Crystal Blue Persuasion link in the top right corner to hear music while you look at the slides). Second, she shares how Coalinga-Huron incorporates arts into instruction. In each case, she continues to see how this art emphasis improves student outcomes. I visually represent this two-pronged approach below and then share the specific connections to the UDL framework below the figure.

Diagram of how art can be used with UDL to improve student outcomes

Model how art is used to connect with others

For her course assignment, Sara cultivated photos and other images of art to tell her story. When designing this montage, she connected to the guidelines Recruiting Interest (minimizing threats and distractions) and Sustaining Effort & Persistence (foster collaboration and community) to gain a connection with her audience.

Model how art can influence instruction

During the podcast, Sara shares how she encourages her staff to celebrate learner variability and connect to the guidelines by showing how art can be used to represent information to learners via Language & Symbols (illustrate through multiple media) as well as Comprehension (highlight patterns, critical, features, big ideas, and relationships) and how learners can use it to express their skills and knowledge via Expression & Communication (use multiple media for communication).

Sara ties all of this to the need to be transparent as educators. She believes there is a need to show our students who we are, from where we came, and how we’ve traversed barriers. Her interview initiates the question: What stories do you share with your learners? Do you use stories from your life to show how you’ve moved beyond obstacles? How do you feel about storytelling? What are your barriers to telling your own story? Where could you start? This post on teachthought.com offers 30 tips for teachers who want to use storytelling to connect with learners and is an excellent way for you to do some reflection. The ideas can ease you into a genre that might not be familiar to you.

As Sara points out, the arts are a powerful way for teachers to engage learners, to represent information, and to provide different mediums for students to express what they’ve learned. In fact, you can return to earlier podcasts with Rachel Barillari and Jessie Sherman who also focused on the use of the arts to enrich their lessons. But just as each of them said, the power emerges when our learners begin to adopt the skillsets associated with being expert learners. So, if you are already on a journey with using the arts in your learning environments, or you want to begin, remember to take time and examine the UDL guidelines. Investigate how you are providing access to the arts as well as proving opportunities for students to use the arts in their learning. Examine the opportunities you are providing them to become purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal-directed. The more you provide those opportunities, the richer the art becomes, both what is offered and what is produced.