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Part 3 of 3: Understanding and Meeting Learners Where They Are using the UDL Lens

Designing for EquityIn the former CompetencyWorks paper based on the 2017 National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, Designing for Equity, one of the four key issues in advancing competency-based education is “meeting students where they are.” It describes that a high quality competency-based system connects learning in relationships and requires educators to understand their learners as individuals and then select strategies based upon that knowledge. Before we look at how to meet learners where they are, let’s review what has presented in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

In Part 1, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was introduced as the pedagogical approach based on the learning sciences to create an inclusive learning culture with educational equity at the center. In Part 2, we described how using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Expresstm can help build the skills of agency and self-advocacy for every learner in addition to creating partnerships in learning, an essential element for a high quality competency-based system. In the this last part of this series, the focus is how do we know where learners are, what do we do once we know where learners are, and how do we move them forward?

In order to meet learner where they are, districts and schools need to create a learning culture that is built from a shared pedagogical philosophy based on the learning sciences that will enable strong partnerships in learning. This learning culture must recognize that every individual is a learner and is valued in the community, and that each learner will have a voice to share ideas and opinions and will be supported to take risks. The next question is…

How do we know where learners are?

In Part 2 of this series, the Learner Profile based on the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Expresstm was introduced where the learner shares their story of who they are, what they aspire to be, what they care about, and how they learn. Next, teachers have conversations with the learner about strengths, challenges, preferences, and needs and begin to build a better understanding of the learner. Most important in this process is that the learner is sharing what he or she understands about their own learning, for the first time often revealing the social and emotional side of their learning. This new insight of the learner alongside the numerical data that is collected from testing and the data on the competencies they have mastered offers a fuller picture of where the learner is, what skills they need to develop to support their challenges and enhance their strengths that will lead to agency, and what hopes and dreams they may have.

What do we do, once we know?

Once we know who our learners are, we need to consider how we design our lessons and projects, and how we design flexible learning spaces to support the learners and activities in our classrooms each day. Consider…

Lesson Design with all learners in mind

Now that we know who our learners and how they learn, the question is how do we take this information about our learners and develop instructional methods, materials, and assessments each day in our lessons and projects so that we are responsive to the way they learn? In an elementary classroom, understanding each learner using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Expresstm is an important tool in deciding on the instructional methods, the materials that you will use in a lesson, and the assessments that would be most effective. In a middle school and high school, a Class Learning Snapshot can be applied by taking the Learner Profiles of four learners from both ends of the learning spectrum in your classroom. The learning spectrum in a classroom may span from learners who have cognitive or learning challenges on one end to self-directed learners on the other end. Keeping these four learners in mind will help you better design instruction for the entire class. Todd Rose, author of The End of Average, notes in his 2013 TEDx, The Myth of Average, “Design to the edges and we will reach them.”

Next, take any lesson and use the Four-Step UDL Lesson Review Processtm to decide and intentionally design the instructional methods, materials and assessments you will use.

Four-Step UDL Lesson Review Processtm

UDL Lesson Review Process

Here is one example of what this Four-Step UDL Lesson Review Processtm may look like in a sixth grade literature lesson on Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

UDL lesson review process

 

The Four-Step UDL Lesson Review Processtm, when applied in daily practice, will meet learners where they are by providing every learner access to the curriculum, by including different opportunities to engage with the content, and by offering ways for each learner to express what they know and understand. Above all, by using this four-step process, you are designing your lessons and projects to reduce barriers to learning as well as to optimize the levels of challenge and support to meet the needs of all learners from the start.

If we are to meet learners where they are, then we need to co-design flexible learning environments with our learners to support the variability in their learning and the pace they need to learn. This is where learning spaces are designed for learners to have autonomy in where they need to learn alongside areas for collaboration, creativity, and individual and large group instruction. Having flexible learning spaces consistently offers each learner the opportunity to have the choices in daily activities with the options to work collaboratively, communicate with peers, and engage in critical thinking.

What do we do to move every learner forward?

Once we know where learners are, then next we need to help each of them to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions so they can progress in the way they learn and offer ways and opportunities for them to connect with their passions, interests, and aspirations. Using the Learner Profile is the starting point where learners share what their interests are or have been, what they aspire to be, how they want to contribute to make it a better world, or maybe what issues they are passionate about with beliefs that can change the status quo. We need to seek opportunities for each learner to follow their passions, interests, and aspirations so they can find their purpose. For the first time, we have the ability to meet learners where they are, to design and engage learners in the ways that they learn, to design learning spaces that support the learner, and to respond to learners as they learn.

So let’s turn to the essential question in this series:

How can we create an inclusive learning culture with equity at the center?

Several of the quality design principles highlighted in Designing for Equity are instrumental in creating the environment to meet every learner where they are, move them forward, and create an inclusive learning culture with equity at the center:

  • Recognize and nurture every child and adult as a “learner” to create an inclusive learning culture. Culture Design Principle – Equity, Learning and Inclusivity; Structure Design Principle – Educators as Learners.
  • Focus on having each learner develop agency and to take ownership of learning so that they can self-advocate, self-regulate, and ultimately self-direct their learning. Keep in mind that in order for ownership of learning to occur, it is required that each learner needs to understand how they learn using the UDL Lens. Teaching and Learning Design Principles – Based on Learning Sciences and Student Agency and Ownership.
  • Create a learning orientation classroom where meta-learning is practiced. Meta-learning means “learning about learning” that promotes the ability of a learner to plan, monitor, reflect, and think deeper in one’s learning. (Watkins, 2010). Teaching and Learning Design Principle – Rigorous High Level Skills
  • Develop daily practice to help learners make sense of their learning:
    • notice learning,
    • have conversations about learning,
    • reflect on learning, and
    • make learning an object of learning. (Watkins, 2011) Culture Design Principle – Growth Mindset
  • Establish a system to provide learning opportunities for learners to have experiences inside and outside the classroom that is responsive to their interests, passions, and/or aspirations. Culture Design Principle – Relevance
  • Intentionally design instructional methods, materials and assessments using the Four-Step UDL Lesson Review Processtm by understanding the strengths, challenges, preferences, and needs of your learners. Teaching and Learning Design Principle – Responsive; Structure Design Principle – Flexibility
  • Set a goal along with a set of actionable steps in your school or school district this coming year, in collaboration with all stakeholders, to commit in creating an inclusive learning culture with equity at the center. Structure Design Principle – Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning  

The work of educators at the district, school, and classroom level is to keep equity in the center of decision-making.

When the UDL Lens is used in daily practice by teachers, learners, and the learning community, equity and inclusivity becomes the learning culture.

 

*The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express and Four-Step UDL Lesson Review Process are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey.

References

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2017). How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Lopez, N., Patrick, S. and Sturgis, C., Designing for Equity: Leveraging Competency-Based Education to Ensure All Students Succeed, 2018.

Rose, T. (2013, June 19). The Myth of Average: Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4

Watkins, C. (2010). Learning, Performance and Improvement. INSI Research Matters, 34, International Network for School Improvement Web site: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/about/documents/Watkins_10_Lng_Perf_Imp_ev.pdf

Watkins, C. (2011). Learning: a sense-maker’s guide. Professional Development Series,   https://www.atl.org.uk/publications-and-resources/classroom-practice-publications/learning-sense-makers-guide.asp

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Part 2 of 3: Empower the Learner – Building the Skills of Agency and Self-Advocacy using the UDL Lens

A core objective of personalized, competency-based schools that is described in the Teaching and Design Principle “Activate Student Agency and Ownership”, is to cultivate agency, “the ability to direct one’s course in life”. (See Quality and Equity by Design for an overview of the design principles.) Agency is the one thing that we should promise our learners as they walk through the schoolhouse door each day. If we are to realize a personalized, competency-based system that nurtures and develops agency with each learner, then we do need to look at how a school could achieve that. You see,

once a learner develops agency, he or she can self-advocate for the way they learn for a lifetime and lead their own learning trajectory!

 

Changing Perceptions: Every Child a Learner

Every child on the planet is a learnerHow do we begin to help every learner develop agency? For educators to think about how agency can be realized by every learner, we need to explore how children may be perceived currently in the classroom and how children may perceive themselves.

Schools have spent the last four decades labeling children with specific identifications based upon school evaluations. As a long time educator, it is evident that with these labels perceptions of these children’s learning capabilities evolve. On a daily basis in almost every school, we are often responding to children based on our perceptions. At the same time, many children are comparing themselves to other children. This is common behavior for children to compare themselves to others, all the time developing a perception that they are different and do not learn like other children. It does not take long for some children to develop their own perceptions that they are not learners, a stigma that sometimes lasts for years, if not a lifetime.

Recently I was having a conversation with a group of teachers when most of them agreed that not all children see themselves as learners. They shared that somewhere along the way these children had experiences in school that no longer validated or perceived them as learners. If educational equity is at the center of an inclusive learning culture where every learner is valued, then we need to change perceptions. The questions are:

  • How do we change our perceptions of learners and how do they change the perceptions of themselves?
  • How do we help every child develop the skills to achieve agency and self-advocacy?

 

Personalized Learning Starts with the Learner

There is so much confusion over the the term “personalized learning”. Some believe that it means that technology (adaptive) programs personalize learning for a learner; some believe that educators need to personalize instruction for each learner; and some believe that you need to have a combination of online courses and independent learning projects to personalize learning. Whatever you believe, we need to stop clouding the definition and decide what personalized learning means for the learner. Let’s face it, “learning is personal”, so let’s first all agree that “Personalized learning starts with the learner”; not the curriculum, not the instructional methods or assessments; not the standardized tests or the many technologies that can support learning.

Personalized Learning...

 

A Three-Step Process Designed for Agency and Self-Advocacy

In Part 1 of this series, we introduced you to the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express that is based on the learning sciences in the what, why and how of our learning.

If each learner is to achieve agency, then they need to know and understand how they learn.

3 stepprocess to develop agencyHere I will introduce a three-step practical process that could provide equity, agency and self-advocacy for every learner. Starting with the Learner Profile, each learner can share their strengths, challenges, preferences and needs in how they access and process information, in how they engage with content and concepts and in how they express what they know and understand along with their interests, aspirations and passions. Here is an example of a Learner Profile of a middle school learner with qualities you may recognize.

 

Learner Profile

Strengths Challenges Preferences and Needs
Access · I can visualize what I hear

· I connect ideas quickly

· I have trouble decoding words

· I often do not understand what I read

· I need to use a text-to-speech tool for reading

· I prefer to use video for understanding

Engage · I like to lead and collaborate with peers

· I like to design and make things

·I put off planning and finishing tasks

· I have trouble organizing projects

· I need tasks to be broken down into smaller tasks

· I prefer to work with a partner

Express · I draw well

· I like telling stories

· I am a good presenter and speaker

· I have trouble putting thoughts on paper

· I find note-taking difficult

· I need to use visual note- taking tools

· I prefer digital graphic organizers for organizing my ideas.

· I prefer to present orally

Words that describe me: curious, imaginative, artistic, friendly, athletic

My interests are: soccer, baseball, illustrating, American History

My talents are: storytelling, drawing, crunching numbers

I am passionate about: fishing, trading baseball cards, having a business one day

I aspire to be: forest ranger, comic book illustrator, my own boss

This exercise in creating a Learner Profile provides a way for the learner to have a voice, to tell their story and to develop a new perception of who they are as a learner. For the teacher, a new understanding of this learner’s qualities can result in new perceptions and insights on the skills this learner could develop to be more independent and self-directed so that agency can be realized. This is where new conversations begin and relationships between teacher and learner are built. With this Learner Profile, a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) can be created that will include the tools, resources, learning goals and skills that can support this learner’s challenges or enhance his strengths. Let’s take a look at this learner’s Access strengths and challenges and consider what could be included in his PLB.

Learner Profile (LP)
Personal Learning Backpack (PLB)
Strengths Challenges Preferences and Needs Tools, Apps, Resources; Learning Goals and Skills
Access · I can visualize what I hear

· I connect ideas quickly

· I have trouble decoding words

· I often do not understand what I read

· I need to use a text-to-speech tool for reading

· I prefer to use video for understanding

I would like to explore and learn how to use audio/text-to-speech apps for reading and comprehension to access my learning materials, online resources and digital books that I can use on my laptop/tablet.

In creating the PLB, notice that the learner with the teacher/advisor describes what he would like to learn and what tools he would like to use. This PLB statement evolved from his conversations with his teacher and represents the first step in advocating for himself. The next step is for this learner to describe a goal, a set of action steps to achieve new skills and the evidence of reaching his goal in his Personal Learning Plan (PLP).

A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

My Personal Learning Plan Progress
Access Goal 1 I want to learn how to use text-to-speech technology and/or apps to support my reading and comprehension of learning materials and texts. Evidence of reaching my goal:

ᐧ Completing comprehension questions or an assignment (video/ poster/ paper) using technologies or tools independently from the backpack.

 

ᐧ Demonstration of independent reading using the tools.

Action Steps to meet My Goal 1. Set a schedule to work with my technology coach or a peer tutor to learn the text to speech technology and/or apps.

2. Read textbook, handout, assigned novel, or online content using text-to-speech technology and/or apps.

3. Learn and apply comprehension strategies using highlighting and mind-mapping and supportive writing tools.

When building Personal Learning Plan (PLP) that focuses on skill development, the learner with the teacher/advisor collaborate on the plan to outline actions steps along with the evidence of reaching the goal. Notice that the goal statement exhibits a statement where the learner is advocating to learn a skill and the action steps require the learner to take action. When the learner demonstrates evidence of achieving the goal, he or she is acquiring a skill that leads to agency. As each goal is achieved, evidence should be maintained in digital learner portfolio along with a reflection.

Personalize Learning: Partnerships and Ownership to Learning

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship. – Dr. James Comer

A personalized competency-based system that is built on relationships, open collaboration and dialogue between teacher and learner often results in partnerships in learning. In the three-step process where the learner shares their strengths, challenges and aspirations in the Learner Profile, decides with the teacher on the tools, apps, resources and skills in the Personal Learning Backpack and then indicates in collaboration with the teacher/advisor what learning goals and action steps to include in the Personal Learning Plan, the learner begins to gain the knowledge and dispositions that will help him or her build the skills of agency and self-advocacy.

Remember that agency also provides a reason to commit, take risks, and persist in the face of challenges and setbacks.

As the learner applies this process over the years, challenges may even turn into strengths and the partnership with the teacher grows stronger. When this happens, the learner is on the path to becoming a self-directed learner with agency who can advocate for their own learning for a lifetime.

So let’s turn to the essential question in this series: “How can we create an inclusive learning culture with equity at the center?” Here are some thoughts on where to begin to build skills of agency and self-advocacy for all learners:

  • Have a discussion about agency and self-advocacy with your learners.
  • Using the UDL Lens, have each learner tell their story so they can share their strengths and challenges and begin to understand and identify the skills they want to learn to be more independent in their learning.
  • With the PL and PLB, have each learner co-design their PLP with at least one learning goal and a set of action steps.
  • Discuss and set a goal and action steps for an extended learning opportunity (ELO) with each learner that focuses on personal interests, passions or aspirations.
  • Provide direct instruction and model ways they can monitor their own progress.
  • Include opportunities for your learners to reflect on their achievement of their goals.

Now that we know your learners and how they learn, let’s turn to how we can use this information to meet learners where they are and design effective instructional methods, materials and assessments for all the learners in the classroom.

 

Next – Part 3 of this 3-part series: Understanding and Meeting Learners Where They Are using the UDL Lens

 

Review Part 1 of this series: Understanding the Pedagogy of a Learning Science to Nurture an Inclusive Learning Culture

 

Learner Profile, Personal Learning Backpack, Personal Learning Plan and UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey

 

References

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2017). How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Lopez, N., Patrick, S. and Sturgis, C., Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education, 2017.

Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved Feb. 5, 2017 from [https://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com].

 

 

 

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Part 1 of 3: Understanding the Pedagogy of a Learning Science to Nurture an Inclusive Learning Culture

The Essential Question for this 3-part series is:

“How do we create an inclusive learning culture with equity at the center?”

Creating a culture of learning and inclusivity, a non-negotiable for competency-based schools, is a tall order for most K-12 public school systems. As schools move from a traditional system to a personalized, competency-based system we need to evaluate the tools we have used around learners and learning, teachers and teaching and learn about how a learning science can be used to nurture and build a culture of learning and inclusivity. One approach that is based on research in the learning sciences and that has been around for over 25 years is Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

This three-part series explores how Universal Design for Learning can strengthen teaching and reinforce a culture where every learner feels that they are valued, belong, and is learning.

 

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can support the variability of learning in the classroom. Recognizing this variability in the way learners learn, the UDL framework was first defined by David H. Rose, Ed.D. of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the 1990s. It called for creating curriculum and instruction from the onset that provides:

  • Multiple means of representation to give learners different ways of accessing information and processing it into usable knowledge,
  • Multiple means of expression to provide learners ways to express what they know and understand, and
  • Multiple means of engagement to use a learners’ interests, talents, and passions to engage them in content and concepts and motivate them to learn.

These three principles noted above parallel the Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky’s three essential processes for learning. These processes include “recognition of the information to be learned; application of strategies to process that information; and engagement with the learning task” (Vygotsky, 1962).

From this early work at CAST on UDL, these three principles of UDL are used today along with a set of UDL Guidelines that can support schools and educators to universally design curriculum and instruction that addresses learner variability at the beginning of the design or planning effort. The UDL Guidelines are designed to assist educators to develop curriculum goals, methods, materials, and assessments that would guide the design of learning environments and experiences that would reduce the barriers to learning and maximize the levels of support and challenge to all learners.

In December 2016, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) defined and endorsed UDL as “a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice” and to personalizing learning—stating that it provides flexibility and supports for all learners and reduces barriers in instruction. ESSA calls on states and districts to incorporate principles of UDL in assessment design and technology adoption. As of September 2017, the majority of states have incorporated Universal Design for Learning into their ESSA State Plans. The question is:

Where do states and districts begin to use the UDL principles in practice to create an inclusive learning culture?

 

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express: Bringing Research to Practice

The UDL principles can serve as a framework for curriculum and instruction but how can we take UDL that is grounded in the learning science and use it in daily practice to create a culture of inclusivity? To develop an inclusive learning environment a common language needs to be used by everyone in the school. New terms were developed for the UDL principles in 2012 by this author who introduced the UDL Lens of Access, Engage, and Express*. Using these terms around the UDL principles would give everyone in the school culture a way to have daily conversations, a common language, about learners and learning, instructional methods, materials, and assessments. Above all, it would build an understanding and appreciation of the variability that each learner has in their learning.

What does it mean to use the UDL Lens?

UDL Lens of Access Engage and ExpressFrom the learner’s perspective, the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express in a Learner Profile would give him or her an opportunity tell their story of who they are, how they learn and what they aspire to be; in other words, their Identity. Each learner would…

  • share their strengths, challenges, preference and needs in how they Access and process information, Engage with content and concepts, and Express what they know and understand,
  • express their interests, talents, aspirations and passions,
  • set learning goals and actionable plans with teachers to support a challenge or enhance a strength,
  • have regular conversations about their learning with teachers, peers, and parents.

One important outcome of learners’ telling their story using the UDL Lens is that they feel valued. For teachers, understanding their learners can inform their daily practice so materials, methods and assessments are more effective. Finally, the UDL Lens becomes an essential tool to create an inclusive learning culture that supports a school’s values and beliefs where relationships are built on trust and respect.

 

Creating an Inclusive Learning Culture with Equity at the Center

educational equity defined


“Educational equity means that each child receives what he or she needs to develop to his or her full academic and social potential.
– The National Equity Project

As defined in the Culture Design Principles, found in the seminal report “Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course For the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education”,

A school’s culture is the daily manifestation of its core beliefs; adults’ beliefs about themselves and their students; students’ beliefs about themselves and the adults around them…”.

With the first design principle of equity, the question is: “How can we create an inclusive learning culture with equity at the center?” Here are some thoughts on where to begin:

  • If equity is to be realized so that it becomes the center of an inclusive learning culture in a competency-based system, then all the stakeholders in a school community need to lay a foundation of a shared vision and a set of beliefs around learner and learning, teachers and teaching and the learning community.
  • Empower each learner (including teachers and administrators) to discover who they are and how they learn (strengths, challenges, preferences and needs) using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express so they can become “self-aware, effective learners”.
  • Create opportunities to have conversations to develop meaningful relationships between teacher and learner and between learner and learner.
  • See everyone in your school as a learner.
  • Value every learner!

To achieve equity in an inclusive learning culture, values, beliefs, and practices need to be understood and applied daily by every learner. The first step is to begin.

 

Next – Part 2 of this 3-part series:

Empower the Learner – Building the Skills of Agency and Self-Advocacy using the UDL Lens

* The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.

 

References

Bray, B., & McClaskey, K. (2017). How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

How Has UDL Been Defined? (2013, April 17). Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udldefined.

Lopez, N., Patrick, S. and Sturgis, C., Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education, 2017.

Personalization and UDL: The Perfect Match. ASCD Educational Leadership, March 2017.

The Three Principles. (2014, September 18). Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl/3principles.

UDL in the ESSA. (2016, February 17). Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://www.cast.org/whats-new/news/2016/udl-in-the-essa.html#.WmeFPFVG3wc.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1962). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Original work published in 1934).

 

 

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From the Research: Focus on “Learning” over “Performance”

Last week the Nation’s Report Card came out with these headlines from EdWeek:

‘No Progress’ Seen in Reading or Math on Nation’s Report Card

This is rather dismal news and should be a wake up call. What we should do now is to look closely on why we are seeing these results. Consider “standardized tests” that are based on performance and may be driving this data in a direction we do not want to continue. Let’s begin a new conversation in education with a focus on “learning” instead of “performance”. That means for all learners! Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP, states this:

In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.”

How do we change the conversation and the outcomes for the learners in our classrooms? Look at the research and ask yourself…

Why Focus on “Learning” over “Performance”

Some 8 years ago in my research on learners, learning and learning-centered environments, I came across a researcher who had done significant research on learning. Chris Watkins from the Institute on Education (IoE) – University of London published his research in the Summer of 2010 titled INSI Research Matters – “Learning, Performance and Improvement“. 

He points out that the review of the evidence is based on a reading of more than 100 classroom-based research studies. Most importantly, he states that…

“the evidence leads to the conclusion that learning about learning is a practically viable and educationally important strategy which also has the effect of improving performance.”

I would suggest that you delve deep into this report, maybe create a study group to begin the conversation about learning and how it should be the focus in creating inclusive learner-centered environments in your school where every learner progresses. The major takeaway I had after reading this report is this single statement:

A focus on learning can enhance performance, whereas a focus on performance (alone) can depress performance.

 

The Key Issue: A Learner’s Orientation

One of the findings that is important to point out from Chris Watkins’ research is that “studies of motivation, development and achievement, by many research teams across a number of decades and many countries, a recurring distinction arises. Any learner can, in a given context, adopt an orientation which can be described on the dimension below:”

Learning vs. Performance: What Do you Want Happening in Your School and Classroom?

To give you a clearer picture of what the difference is between “Learning and Performance”, I have taken the findings of the research by Chris Watkins to create some points of conversation we should all have as we decide how we may want to change our school and classroom cultures so that we can actually improve the outcomes for all of our learners.

Infographic on Learning versus performance

 

After delving into the research and in having the important conversations on how we can improve the outcomes for every learner in our schools, consider this next important question:

How do we create school and classroom cultures in which learning is valued more than performance?

 

Reference:

EdWeek: ‘No Progress’ Seen in Reading or Math on Nation’s Report Card bssparks@epe.org)

Watkins, C. (2010). Learning, Performance and Improvement. INSI Research Matters, 34, Retrieved May 10, 2013, from International Network for School Improvement Web site: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/about/documents/Watkins_10_Lng_Perf_Imp_ev.pdf

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Learner Profiles Lead to Agency and Self-Advocacy in a WI High School

Guest Post by Andelee Espinosa, Special Education Teacher, Brookfield Central High School, Brookfield, WI

During the spring of 2017, about 20 teachers at my school did a book study on, “How to Personalize Learning,” by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. This was during a time when our district was just beginning to use the words personalized learning. Elements of personalized learning were creeping into classrooms and there was confusion about what our instruction was supposed to look like. As a high school Special Education teacher who co-teaches and case manages, I planned along side my co-teacher, Mike Mohammed (@Mo_physics), and we moved toward more Project Based Learning opportunities. I observed quickly where the pitfalls for learners with disabilities, or executive function deficits, were in a personalized learning environment and designed specifically for them in the classroom. The main area that I saw amplified as a pitfall was agency.


Learner Profiles: My Personal Entry into Personalized Learning

As we had planned for in the past, there were supports in place for organization, means to access the content and differentiated content as appropriate. However, now learners were being given choices and freedom in how they learned but they couldn’t clearly identify who they are as learners in order to make choices that set them up for success while still encouraging growth through challenges. If our learners are going to be having more choice in their education, they were going to need to be able to articulate, with confidence, what their strengths and challenges are and advocate for supports that help them. After reading the book, there was one chapter that really spoke to me. That was on Learner Profiles in Chapter 4 “Discover the Learner in Every Child” of How to Personalize Learning.

Since beginning my career nearly 20 years ago, I have always made sure my high school learners had an active voice in their IEP meetings, often leading the discussion. This involvement looked different for each learner but I always felt it was critical to building ownership, agency and self-advocacy skills. After reading about Learner Profiles, I knew my personal entry point into personalized learning. I became a fast adopter of the “Who I Am As a Learner” Part 1 and 2 charts.

Learner Profile Leads to Agency and Self-Advocacy 

Today, each child on my caseload has a Learner Profile that we update yearly, sometimes twice a year. Depending on the individual, this process is done interview style or through a conversation. Some of my more independent learners who are familiar with the process are able to fill out the checklists independently and populate their chart using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express (aligned to the Universal Design for Learning Principles). Brad’s Learner Profile below is an excellent example of what a learner is able to share about who they are, how they learn (strengths, challenges, preferences and needs) and what they aspire to be.

brads learner profile

This document is updated before I even begin writing their annual IEP and it’s where real conversations about hopes and dreams, strengths and challenges, and what helps them learn take place. Aligning my IEP writing to the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express allowed the Learner Profile to seamlessly fit into my practice. I find the Learner Profile has allowed learners to have a greater voice during their meetings and therefore become better advocates for themselves in the classroom. This advocacy piece is so important as I prepare them for life after public school when they are completely on their own.

Rethinking IEP Meetings and Goals – Learners Lead

IEP meetings start with the learner introducing the team.

After receiving feedback from a parent that meetings are often overwhelming because of the number of people, I implemented name placards. The learner creates them, often just using laminated card stock and dry erase markers. They each create a Google slide deck that takes the team through all the parts of the IEP but we begin with hopes and dreams first: whatever that post-secondary goal is. Therefore, the learner and I take the team through the Post-Secondary Transition Plan (PTP) which defines the goal. As the highlight of the meeting, we move into the Learner Profile which is projected on a screen at the front of the conference room and team members are given hard copies. As the learners get older and have gone through this process multiple times, they have been known to find a variety of ways to personally communicate who they are as a learner using sketchnoting, videos or presentations. By the time the learner is done explaining their Learner Profile, much of the strengths, challenges, present level of performance and supplementary aids and services have been addressed in an engaging manner. The team discusses progress towards IEP goals but within the context of how those goals support the hopes and dreams of the learner.

Our Why with learner profiles

The Learner Profile is a powerful document which isn’t just used during the IEP development but as a communication tool between learners and their classroom teachers. This document is shared with general education teachers at the beginning of the term, in addition to the paperwork I also provide to make sure accommodations are being provided. I’ve used the creation of the Learner Profile as part of the specially designed instruction provided to address self-advocacy or executive functions.

The process of learners creating their own Learner Profiles is one that creates agency and promotes self-advocacy.

 

Andelee Espinosa

Andelee Espinosa (@AndeleeEspinosa) is a Special Education Teacher at Brookfield Central High School, Brookfield Wisconsin and a National Board Certified Teacher.  She is passionate about meaningful inclusive practices, Universal Design for Learning, Personalized Learning, strengthening co-teaching teams, utilizing Learner Profiles to help learners better advocate for themselves in the classroom and conducting learner-led IEP meetings. She enjoys integrating activities that promote collaboration, critical thinking and communication such as BreakoutEDU and Project Based Learning in her classes. In addition to case managing, she co-teaches Biology and Physics. Outside of school, Andelee has been involved in Destination Imagination and enjoys spending time getting dirty in her butterfly garden or cooking with local and seasonal ingredients.

Follow her on Twitter: @AndeleeEspinosa and on LinkedIn.

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey

Featured

A Learner with Agency is a Learner Who is Future Ready!

 

What should we promise our learners as they walk through the schoolhouse door each day? What can you promise them this year and every year? The answer is simply “Learner Agency”! If your vision and beliefs as an educator is to assure that every child becomes an independent, self-directed learner so that they have choices in college, career, and life, then how do you plan to fulfill the promise of learner agency? Let’s take a look at some ideas that could get you to that promise, but before we do, let’s dive deeper into what it is, what it looks like and why it should be our promise!

 

What is Learner Agency?

In the most simple terms, Learner Agency is “the power to act”. It is about empowering each learner to take ownership to their learning, to have a voice and choice in their learning with the understanding and ability to take action around their learning. Learner agency flourishes in learning-centered environments where the classroom culture is build on trust, respect, and mindfulness and where learners are co-designers of learning alongside their teacher. As you are creating a culture of agency, the most important thing to remember is there is a process to create a classroom culture where the learner is at the center, empowered to take action of their learning. It is most important for you to understand what this process looks like from the perspective of the learner. Discover this and more in the Crosswalk of Learner Agency Across the Stages (see below).

 

What Learner Agency Looks Like

In 2016, How to Personalize Learning was published where we decided to include an entire chapter on learner agency. In Chapter 3 we included the 7 Elements of Learner Agency along with a set of illustrated continuums and descriptions for each of the elements: Voice, Choice, Engagement, Motivation, Ownership, Purpose and Self-efficacy. The infographic below was created from the “Crosswalk of Learner Agency Across the Stages” chart in How to Personalize Learning. It is designed to provide insight of what the learner is doing in each of the 7 elements of learner agency across the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments (PLE), v. 5.

In whatever stage that you are in, consider using this chart as a way to self-assess what is happening with your learners and to appreciate that each learner is unique in the way that they learn and at the pace in which they are developing agency in their learning. But where do we begin to understand the uniqueness of each learner? The first step is for learners to create their Learner Profile using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ so that they can articulate who they are, how they learn and what they aspire to be. In the Learner Profile, each learner can now share their strengths and challenges in how they Access and process information, how they Engage with content and concepts and how they Express what they know and understand. With this information, learners can discuss with their teachers how they can build a Personal Learning Backpack™ of tools and skills to support their learning and then set learning goals in a Personal Learning Plan designed to enhance a strength or support a challenge so they can become more independent and develop agency.

Agency across the stages of personalized learning environments

Why Learner Agency Should be our Promise

When learners experience agency, they can realize their hopes and dreams and make informed choices for college, career, and life. With agency, a child has the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn in a world where jobs have yet to be imagined. Remember that learner agency also provides a reason to commit, take risks, and persist in the face of challenges and setbacks. The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express and personalized learning can be the centerpieces to fulfill the promise of agency for every learner. Always remember…”A Learner with Agency is a Learner who is Future Ready!”

 

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express, Personal Learning Backpack and Personal Learning Plan are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey.

 

Featured

For the Learner, the UDL Lens begins with “ACCESS”

Doscover the learner using the UDL LensIn working with educators from around the country and in Europe the last 3 years, I have had the pleasure in showing them how to use the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express to help empower learners to understand the what, why and how of their learning. The 3-step “Discover the Learner”™ process is intentionally designed for each learner to develop the skills to support their own learning so they can become independent, self-directed learners, learners with agency.


A question came up about why the UDL Lens begins with Access, the “what” of learning. They pointed to the definition of UDL in How to Personalize Learning (Bray and McClaskey, 2016), Chapter 2 that…

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that provides equity for all individuals so they have opportunities to learn. UDL provides a framework for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.”

You see the UDL Guidelines where changed in 2014 to begin with the “why of learning” for curriculum development and that is the point; it is a framework for creating universally designed lessons. The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express was designed to empower the learner to understand the what, why and how of their learning.

These educators also shared a blog post where the author emphasized that learners needed to be engaged before they are given access to the content. The author used herself as a learner to describe “engagement” and why it should come first. This added to the confusion among educators so the intention of this post will hopefully “clear the air” in why Access comes first for the learner and how using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express can lead to learner agency. But before we do that, let’s take a look at a brief history of UDL.

A Bit of History Behind UDL – A Framework for Curriculum and Instruction

The originators of UDL (Dr. David Rose and Anne Meyer) from CAST reintroduced the UDL principles and guidelines (2014) in its publication Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014) and changed the sequence of the UDL principles to begin with “why of learning”. The original UDL principles began with the “what of learning” (multiple means of representation) for almost 20 years. In it’s revision in 2014, CAST wanted to point out the importance of engagement in curriculum development and instruction in how teachers should first provide options for engagement, the “why of learning”. This made sense in that the focus in how to engage learners in the lesson should be considered first when universally designing instruction.

 

For the Learner, the UDL Lens begins with “Access”

Giving access to the content for all learners is by far the most important step when designing instruction or introducing new content or concepts. Understanding what your learners’ strengths and challenges in accessing information is key in designing lesson materials that will accessible to all the learners in your classroom from the start. Access as described in this chart below comes directly from the UDL principle of multiple means of representation, the “what of learning”. Access takes different forms of representation so that the learner can transform and process information into useable knowledge and become an active participant in their learning.

UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express

Consider the variability of the learners you may have so that each has Access to the content, anytime and anywhere.

  • For all learners, accessing and understanding the vocabulary as it relates to the content in a lesson is critical before engaging the learner.
  • For the learner who has difficulty reading, lesson materials would need to be in a digital format so they can use a text-to-speech tool to access the information or in an audio format or combination thereof.
  • For the learner who has visual impairments or blindness, audio and/or Braille files of the lesson materials would be needed at a minimum to provide access.
  • Learn more about the ways that educators provide access to the curriculum at the National Center for Accessible Educational Materials (AEM).

 

The Progression in Developing Expert Learners (Learners with Agency)

The purpose in using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express is to empower each learner to understand the strengths and challenges they have in accessing information, engaging with content and expressing what they know and understand. This chart below shows the progression from left to right where you begin thinking about how you can provide accessibility for the variability that your learners have in their learning. In the next progression, you want learners to develop specific skills and learning strategies to support their learning through guided practice. With daily independent and self-directed practice over time, the learner becomes resourceful and knowledgeable, purposeful and motivated, strategic and goal-directed—an expert learner, a learner with agency.

arrow

UDL lens of Access Engage and express progressions chart[From How to Personalize Learning, Chapter 2. Table content adapted from CAST, Universal Design for Learning Guidelines, Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, 2014]

 

It is an important distinction for educators to know that they are not creating experts. They are creating learners who are capable of being self-directed and self-reflective.” Steve Nordmark @snordmark

 

Learn more about the 3-Step “Discover the Learner”™ process in these posts on the Learner Profile™, Personal Learning Backpack™ and Personal Learning Plan™.

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express, Learner Profile™, Personal Learning Backpack™ and Personal Learning Plan™. Discover the Learner™ are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey.

 

 

Featured

Ownership to Learning: What Does that Really Mean?

Ownership to learning. what does that really mean

During the past six years there has been a volume of articles written about ownership to learning, personalized learning and personalization with some saying that it should be called “personal learning”. Let’s stop muddying the waters with educators and embrace this one idea:

Personalized learning starts with the learner—not the curriculum, not the standards, not the test and not the adaptive learning systems that claim they are personalizing learning.

Let’s also clarify what personalized learning means for the learner!

Personalized Learning...

After researching and co-authoring two books* on personalized learning, consulting with numerous school districts to launch, build and sustain personalized learning environments, it is evident that the stakeholders in a school community need to come together and agree on a vision and set of beliefs about teaching and learning first. Then they need to create an actionable plan where daily instructional and learning practices empowers every child to take “ownership to learning.” But before we can turn over the remote to the learner so that they can have ownership, we need to ask ourselves:

What does “ownership to learning” really mean?

Ownership to learning means that a learner is motivated, engaged and self-directed. It means they can monitor their own progress and are able to reflect on their learning based on mastery of content. In addition, the learner has the skills, knowledge and dispositions to independently direct and design their own learning experiences and is skilled in selecting and using tools, resources, strategies and a Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to support their learning. But first…

For every learner to begin to understand how they learn, we need to turn to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a research-based set of principles based in the neurosciences to guide the design of learning environments and instruction that is accessible and effective for all. In 2012, The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express was created to empower learners to tell their story of who they are and how they learn and to inform us of the variability in the way they learn: their strengths, challenges, interests, talents, aspirations and yes, their hopes and dreams! Above all, UDL is a lens that applies to ALL learners as a means for creating personalized, learner-centered environments where each learner can develop agency.  The next question is:

How can teachers support learners in understanding how they learn and help them take “ownership of their learning”?

Let’s dive a little deeper into the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express!

Simply, it is designed so that we see the learner in every child.

It offers key information about the learner’s strengths and challenges in how they access and process information, how they engage with content and concepts and how they express what they know and understand.

The terms Access, Engage and Express also serves as the common language between teacher and learner where daily conversations can take place about learning with a process to identify the tools and skills that could support a challenge or enhance a strength. A Personal Learning Backpack of tools, apps, resources is discussed with the learner so that learning goals to acquire the skills to support their own learning can be included in A Personal Learning Plan (PLP) where each learner articulates an action plan and how they will demonstrate they achieved the goal. In the end, they acquire the necessary skills to support their learning and become an independent and self-directed learner, a learner with agency that has “ownership to learning”.  Here is just one example of a Learner Profile and Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) that will lead to a few learning goals for a Personal Learning Plan (PLP).

Leaarner Profile and PersonalLearning Backpack table

Let’s take a look at one way the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express and the Learner Profile is being used in practice and how this one school district has turned over the remote to empower their learners to take “ownership to learning”.

Millis Public Schools

 

 

 

Stories that Empower Learners to take “Ownership to Learning”

Jason Phelps is the principal at Clyde F. Brown Elementary School where he shared how Fourth Grade Genius Hour passion projects were created from the information the learners shared about themselves when responding to Part 1 of the Learner Profile, “Who I am as a Learner”.  The fourth grade teachers initiated deeper and emotionally connected learning through goal setting around passion projects. Based upon the famous Google concept of “20% time”, each fourth grade learner selects a personal passion topic and then uses a weekly hour and a half “personal learning time” to work on a project that would improve the school community or society in some way. In the end, learners create passion projects that result in lessons being taught by the learners on anti-bullying, learner-led advocacy and support for local homeless shelters, “adopt-an-endangered-animal” drives, and creation of “care packages” for a local children’s hospital. The “personal learning time” has empowered learners to identify a purpose for learning as they take ownership through voice and choice.

Maureen Knowlton is the principal of the Millis Middle School where they use Learner Profiles to understand a learner’s strengths as well as their interests, passions and aspirations. On entering a classroom in Millis Middle School, a visitor may have to search for the teacher because the learners are front and center, leading the learning! Here is just a glimpse of what you would observe:  Fifth graders writing skits and creating videos following research on the Roanoke Colony and sixth graders collaborating during a Civil Rights unit to write a thirty-three page choose-your-own-adventure book entitled, Living in Segregation, which classmates now read during independent reading time. In seventh grade, learners helping one another deepen understanding of literature themes by designing interactive lessons about topics like substance abuse, social justice and mental health challenges. Similarly, eighth graders enrich curriculum with their own presentations on topics of interest such as Social Media and Conformity. Can learners own their learning? Millis teachers think so.  Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express with a strengths-based focus to create their own Learner Profile, teachers are able to offer choices that fosters ownership to learning. You see, when learners call the plays, they can exceed teacher expectations and they might even earn a standing ovation!

Millis Public Schools in Millis, MA is an wonderful  example of what can happen when you empower learners with the what, why and how of learning including their passions and interests. The focus on creating learner-centered environments where “ownership to learning” can be realized by every learner was led by an innovative leader, Superintendent Nancy Gustafson, along with her administrative team. Nancy has been a long-time believer in creating learner-centered environments using the UDL Lens and the results are found in these stories. The teachers turned the remote over to the learners where they used their strengths and passions to take “ownership to learning”.

 

Related Blog posts:

* Learner Profile, Personal Learning Backpack and Personal Learning Plan located in Chapter 4 of How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey; also co-authors of bestseller Make Learning Personal: The What, Who, Wow, Where and Why.

 

Personal Learning Backpack, Personal Learning Plan, The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey.

Featured

PDI Chart, v3 Translated in 9 European Languages plus AU/UK version

I am excited to share the Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization Chart, v3 in 9 European Languages in addition to the AU/UK version developed a few years ago. This chart was translated by European Schoolnet, a network of 34 Ministries of Education from across Europe. These charts will be used by teachers in their TEACHup project course on personalizing learning that will be conducted by the European Schoolnet Pedagogical and Scientific Assistant Knowledge Team in Brussels.

 


  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • German
  • Lithuanian
  • Estonian
  • Greek
  • Hungarian
  • Slovak
  • Turkish

I have also included the Australian/UK version that was developed a few years ago.

Now thousands of educators from Europe, South and Central America and Australia will have access to the PDI chart in their native language that can be shared in schools and communities with colleagues and parents around the world!

Sign-up for the MLP Newsletter to receive future updates!

 

PDI Chart,v3 in Spanish

 

 


 

PDI Chart, v3 in Portuguese

 


PDI Chart, v3 in German

 


 

PDI Chart, v3 in Lithuanian

 


 

PDI Chart, v3 in Estonian

 


 

PDI Chart, v3 in Greek

 


PDI Chart, v3 in Hungarian

 


 

PDI Chart, v3 in Slovak

 


 

PDI Chart, v3 in Turkish

 


 

PDI Chart, v3 – Australian/United Kingdom

 

 


Featured

Learner vs. Student: Who Do you Want in Your Classroom?

It is the start of the school year and you have been preparing to have your assigned children enter your classroom. You have so many questions about them but one you may have not thought about is: Are they students or learners? Think about that… do you want students or learners in your classroom this year? What is the difference anyway? Well let’s take a look at the difference and have you decide for yourself.

Learner vs. Student

We are at a crossroads in education where we understand that traditional school systems are not preparing our children for a world where they will need to learn, unlearn and relearn in an ever-changing economy. As we try to create more personalized, learner-centered environments, it is important to understand that we need to change the language so we can change the culture in the classroom and school. Using the term “Learner” is a critical first step so that we see every child and every person as a learner. So what is the difference between a learner and a student? Let’s look at the definitions:

From Wikipedia, “A student is primarily a person enrolled in a school or other educational institution who attends classes in a course to attain the appropriate level of mastery of a subject under the guidance of an instructor and who devotes time outside class to do whatever activities the instructor assigns that are necessary either for class preparation or to submit evidence of progress towards that mastery.”

From Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, a learner is “a person who is finding out about a subject or how to do something.”

From The Glossary of Education Reform, when comparing learner and student, they point out that “While this preference may seem arbitrary on the surface, it does appear to serve a semantic purpose: learning can occur in the absence of teaching, but teaching doesn’t occur without some form of learning taking place. i.e.,

learners can learn without teachers, but students are only students when they have teachers.”

Now take a look at the comparisons in the chart and decide on the qualities you would like for the children in your classroom to have. This is not a comprehensive comparison of Learners vs Students but it does offer an initial comparison on what the distinct differences are and what qualities would be found in a traditional vs personalized learning system. If you have decided you want learners in your classroom, then the question you need to consider exploring is….

How can I create a classroom culture in which being a learner is more valuable than being a student?

Empower Learners with the UDL LensThe simple answer is to empower your learners to share their story of who they are and how they learn! Have your learners use the UDL Lens to develop a Learner Profile, based on the learning sciences, to discover their strengths and challenges, preferences and needs in the what, how and why of their learning. Value every learner by building a strong relationship with each of them. Help them develop learning goals in a Personal Learning Plan so that they can gain the skills to be agents of their own learning. Reflect with each learner so they can realize the progress they are making with their goals. When you do this, your classroom culture will be filled with learners who are future ready!

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Make Learning Personal

To

Make Learning Personal, we need…

to empower each learner with the skills to be Future Ready,

to transform teaching and learning practice, and

to embrace and value each learner!

Make Learning Personal logo

This puzzle logo with it’s multi-shades of blue represents that each learner is unique and multi-faceted in that they learn in different ways.  We see the importance for each learner to understand how they learn so that they can develop agency with the skills, knowledge and dispositions to have choices in college, career and life.

 

MLP Vision

Each learner…

  • is valued, supported and embraced.
  • understands how they learn.
  • is unique and develops the skills to support their learning.
  • advocates for their learning.
  • works at their own pace in a competency-based system.
  • follows their passions to discover their purpose.
  • takes ownership to their learning.
  • achieves agency.

MLP Mission

  • Empower each learner to be future ready with agency.
  • Support the transformation of schools to build and sustain personalized learning environments.
  • Create conversations and a community that supports personalized, learner-centered teaching.
  • Share research, resources and best practices of personalized learning across the globe.

MLP Core Beliefs

  • Every person on the planet is a learner!
  • Personalized Learning starts with the learner!
  • Personalized Learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are the cornerstones to developing learner agency for every learner.
  • Learners need to be promised agency as they enter the schoolhouse door.
  • Every learner needs to use the UDL Lens for their Learner Profile to help them share their strengths and challenges in how they access information, engage with content and express what they know and understand along with their passions, interests and talents.
  • Each educator needs to discover the learner in every child by using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express(TM).
  • When learners understand how they learn, they can begin to self-advocate and have voice and choice in their learning.
  • Each learner needs to develop a Personal Learning Backpack of skills, tools and resources to support their own learning.
  • Every learner needs to have a Personal Learning Plan to set goals and action steps, to measure their own progress and to reflect on their goals.
  • Learners need to work at their own pace in a learner-centered,  competency-based environment.
  • Learning spaces need to be designed to support the diversity of learners in the classroom.
  • Teachers are learners too so their professional learning needs to be personalized.
  • Technology can level the playing field by removing the barriers to learning and by creating opportunities for learning.
  • Personalized learning is based on relationships and a culture of trust and respect.
  • Use the term “learners” to describe anyone instead of referring to them as “students” that comes from the traditional system.
  • Schools need to create a culture and community of learners.
  • Learning is personal so Make Learning Personal!

Changing Perceptions: Every Child is a Learner

In 2018, I posted a blog, “Learner vs. Student: Who do You Want in Your Classroom”, that encouraged intensive discussions about why we should use the term ‘learners’ instead of ‘students’. Many agreed that ‘learner’ is the appropriate term we need to use since we want every child to be recognized as a learner. An important question was raised in the infographic in that post where a question was proposed:

How do we create a school culture in which being a learner is more valuable than being a student?

Our current school culture rewards children when they are “good students.” Children are considered good students when they follow directions, complete their homework, study for tests and earn good grades. The current culture often does not necessarily recognize or value when children are “good learners.” Let’s dive a little deeper into how we can begin to create a culture where all learners are valued.

 

If you remove the veil of disability, you will see the learner.” —Kathleen McClaskey (2008)

Schools have spent the last four decades labeling children who are considered not to be good students while developing their own perceptions of their capabilities. At the same time, many of these children compare themselves to other children and internalize what they cannot do or learn. It is a natural behavior for children to compare themselves to others, all the time developing a perception of themselves that they are different, cannot learn or do not learn like other children. In fact, we often treat them differently by our words and actions. A common practice for poor readeers is that we assign a different book, a book at a lower grade level or sometimes have someone read to them. It does not take long for these children to develop their own perceptions that they are not learners, a stigma that sometimes lasts for years, if not a lifetime.

How do we change our perceptions of learners?

How do learners change perceptions of themselves? 

How do we help every child see themselves as learners every day? 

First, we need to discover the learner in every child and how they learn best. One of the best ways to do that is to use the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ where the learner creates a Learner Profile to share their strengths and challenges in how they Access and process information, Engage with content and Express what they know and understand.

Empower Learners with the UDL Lens

The UDL Lens can be used to understand ALL learners! — Kathleen McClaskey (2014)

Validate the Learner

The learner uses the UDL Lens to share their strengths and challenges in learning, their preferences or needs to Access, Engage and Express™ as well as their aspirations, talents and interests. At that moment when a learner is able to tell their story about how they learn with their teacher, the “partnership in learning” begins between the teacher and the learner. This opens the door for the teacher to have a conversation with the learner about learning goals, skills and strategies that the learner needs to work on to reduce any barriers and maximize learning. The undeniable outcome in using the UDL Lens is that the learner has been validated as a learner. This is something that rarely occurs today in anyone’s education and will have a positive and profound impact for any learner.

For learners to grow and flourish, we need to create learning environments where every child is recognized as a learner. A school culture that values every learner will empower them to discover the joy of learning. We need to create learning environments that…

  • guide learners to think deeply about their learning,
  • teach them how to make sense of their learning.
  • help every learner set learning goals and action steps to develop the skills to support their learning,
  • understand the tools, resources and strategies each learner needs,
  • assist learners in developing the skills to be independent and self-directed, learners with agency, and
  • nurture their talents, interests and aspirations so they can realize their hopes and dreams. 

Consider this…

Tomorrow when you arrive in your classroom, envision every child as learner and then use the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to discover the learner in every child. Once you are aware of what each learner needs and how they prefer to learn, you are taking the first step in establishing a school culture where learners are valued and created.


To learn more about using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ and the “Discover the Learner” 3-step process, read Chapter 4, Discover the Learner in Every Child, in How to Personalize Learning,

The UDL of Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.