The excitement in starting a new school year is happening across the country. Educators have spent the summer preparing for the beginning of the school year, attending workshops on new curriculum, understanding how to use data with their new learners or getting acquainted with competency-based report cards. But stop there! What about the information that tells you how to engage and motivate your learners? How do you discover the learner in each child from the beginning of the school year so this is the best year yet? What about how each learner learns best and how to develop agency with each of them?
The Process to Develop Learner Agency
This post is part one of a three-part process that uses the UDL Lens to Make Learning Personal for all learners. If we want to create learner-centered environments where the learner takes ownership to their learning, then we need to empower each learner to understand how they learn.
Part One: The Learner Profile (LP) helps learners discover how they learn best.
Part Two: The Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) identifies tools, apps, resources, skills, and strategies for learners to support their own learning.
Part Three: The Personal Learning Plan (PLP) guides learners to achieve the goals and skills they need to be self-directed and independent along with pursuing their passions and aspirations as they plan for college or career.
The UDL Lens: Access, Engage and Express™
Universal Design for Learning® (UDL) is a researched-based set of principles developed by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) in the 1990’s to help guide the design of instruction and learning environments. The idea behind UDL is to reduce barriers to learning and optimize the level of support and challenges to meet the needs and interests of all learners in the classroom. In December 2015, UDL was included in ESSA where it was it indicated that it was the scientifically-based approach to personalize learning.
UDL is the lens to understand how learners learn as it is based on the research in the neurosciences in how we actually learn. The three principles of UDL are:
- Multiple Means of Representation
- Multiple Means of Engagement
- Multiple Means of Expression and Action
Educators wanted to understand these terms so that they could apply these three principles in daily teaching and learning practices.
In 2013 the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ was created to do just that; to empower the learner with the UDL Lens so they could understand how they learn. All learners are unique and have variability in how they access and process information, engage with content, and express what they know and understand. Access, Engage, and Express™ is the UDL Lens to help learners how they learn and to guide teachers in universally designing their instruction.
Discover the Learner Using The Learner Profile
Each learner comes to school with strengths and challenges along with a set of interests, talents and aspirations. We often discover some of these qualities through the course of the year by having conversations, by how each learner responds in class or through a set of data that has been collected from standardized testing. But what if you could discover the learner in every child at the beginning of the school year using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™?
Every learner can benefit from creating a Learner Profile. It tells us about a learner that learning styles or an Individual Education Plan (IEP) does not tell us. Here is an example of a learner that may have similar challenges as some of your learners, but we want you to look closely at this learner’s strengths along with his interests, talents, passions and aspirations.
Now think about the learners in your class and in your life. What are their strengths and challenges in how they Access, Engage and Express™? How do they need or prefer or need to access information, engage with content and express what they know and understand? What are their talents, interests, passions, and aspirations? Who are you as a learner?
Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to understand learners can not only help a teacher to better design instruction and learner materials, but first we need to empower the learner to tell their story and how they learn best.
Your Learner’s Story Leads to a Partnership in Learning
This learner has reading, writing and organizational challenges. Children with this profile often do not see themselves as learners. In this case, when this learner uses the Learner Profile, he can now tell his story and have a conversation with his teacher about who he is and what he may prefer or need to support his challenges and enhance his strengths. He can also share what his interest and talents are, what he is passionate about and what he aspires to be. It is really clear from his LP, that art and drawing means a lot to him.
Let’s take a closer look at his strengths where he visualizes what he hears, likes to teach his peers and present in class. Now we understand this learner’s strengths and challenges, preferences and needs including what engages him about being an artist. With this first conversation, the relationship between teacher and learner begins.
When learners use the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to share how they learns, it helps them tell their story of who they are as learners. Above all, it validates them as learners and listening to them says how much you care. Telling their story helps them develop self advocates of their learning and ultimately it builds a strong partnership in learning between the teacher and learners.
What a great way to start of the school year! It is going to be the best year yet!
This post was adapted from a previous post published at http://www.personalizelearning.com/2016/08/the-learner-profile-get-up-close-and.html
This is Part One of a three part on using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ to develop a learner with agency. We have introduced you to the Learner Profile (LP) and how it can be used by both teacher and learner to discover the learner.
In Part Two, we will take the Learner Profile and develop a Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) that includes tools, apps, resources and the skills the learner needs to become an independent, self-directed learner; a learner with agency
In Part Three, we will take the PL and PLB and demonstrate how to help learners develop agency with an effective Personal Learning Plan (PLP). In the PLP, learning goals with action steps to develop independent learning skills will be illustrated along with college, career, personal and citizenship goals.
All of this along with templates can be located in Chapter 4 of How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper.
Universal Design for Learning is a registered trademark of CAST, Inc. Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.