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

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.

 

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.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Continuum of Voice: What it Means for the Learner

Continnum of Voice

Personalize Learning, LLC designed Continuum of Voice adapted from “Motivation, Engagement, & Student Voice” by Toshalis & Nakkula from Students at the Center @StudentCntrHub – Visual designed by Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth. © 2016 by Bray & McClaskey, How to Personalize Learning.

Voice gives learners a chance to share their opinions about something they believe in. We adapted the Continuum of Voice chart we used from research from Toshalis and Nakkula at the Students at the Center in our post Learner Voice Demonstrates Commitment to Building Agency. We added examples that illustrate each level to support implementation using a design by Sylvia Duckworth.

The learning environment changes as you encourage voice and can see learners taking more control of their learning. This occurs across the Stages of Personalized Learning Environments (PLE) v5.

Read more…

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Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth (http://sylviaduckworth.com) from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Voice 1/10/2016.

Cross-posted from http://www.personalizelearning.com/search?q=continuum+of+voice

 


References

Bray, B. and McClaskey, K. “Learner Voice and Choice Leads to Engagement.” Center for Digital Education. December 16, 2015.
McCarthy, J. Activating Student Voice Empowers Learning. Openingpaths. org
Personalize Learning, LLC and Institute for Personalized Learning. “Learner Voice Demonstrates Commitment to Building Agency.” Post from Collaborative Blog Series. October 28, 2015.

Toshalis, E. and Nakkula, M.”Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice” Students at the Center.

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This page including the chart was created by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey of Personalized Learning, LLC (c) January 10, 2106 adapted from Students at the Center. For permission to adapt, distribute copies, or to use in a publication, contact Kathleen McClaskey at khmcclaskey@gmail.com.

 

The Story Behind My Passion to Personalize Learning

 This is my story behind my passion, beliefs and commitment to personalize learning.
– Kathleen McClaskey, Co-Founder of Personalize Learning, LLC, Founder of Make Learning Personal.

 

This story needs to be told. I am passionate about learners and learning! I believe that every child on the planet is a learner! I am committed to help schools create learning environments where every child can become life long learners and realize their hopes and dreams!  You could say that I am on a mission. But why has personalized learning become my passion and mission in my life? There is a very personal story that begins over 38 years ago when a little boy came into my life, my first-born son. He was an active toddler who spoke early and could engage you in long conversations about his imaginary world. He had a sense of adventure when he explored the outdoors and could create new worlds in his drawings. Early on he had a love for animals, fishing and books about history.

He entered school with all these wonderful qualities with a love for learning and discovery.  His experience as a first grader was a difficult one with his teacher using the whole language method for reading. Before the end of 1st Grade, he would be identified with learning disabilities. Although he was identified exceptional in math, he would never be recognized with this gift or any of his aspirations, talents and interests. 

You see, they now saw him as learning disabled in all aspects of his learning from this time forward.



In 2nd Grade, he came home crying every day asking me why he was different. I called a friend who was the guidance counselor in the school where my son attended. She observed him for 30 minutes one day in his class and took minute to minute notes of his activity in the classroom. She shared with me that my son could only keep pencil to paper for only 30 seconds at any one time. It was no wonder he saw himself as different but I thought that this must have a name to it. It did. In 1987, my son’s pediatrician who had extensive professional experience with children with attentional issues verified through evaluations that my first-born was ADHD. This would be another label that he would be identified with every day as he entered school. It was in 2nd Grade that he stopped being a learner. He would now have instructional aides who would read to him, write for him and organize him in his daily tasks.

The reason I am telling this story is that although my son had an IEP and annual goals, he was never taught how to read or to develop independent learning skills. His exceptional memory skills for words helped him mask his inability to decode words. In 7th Grade, that strategy fell apart. We needed to find an answer so we hired an independent evaluator who conducted a battery of tests and finally applied the appropriate identification of his reading challenges, dyslexia. With this new identification came extensive recommendations on how to rehabilitate my son in reading. In was not until he was in 9th grade that the school district decided they could not provide the services to help him read so they agreed to an out-of-district placement. We sent him to a private school for dyslexics, 200 miles away from our home in New York, so that he could finally learn to read. In less than six months, he was reading at grade level as they used the Orton-Gillingham reading methodology to teach him to read. In fact, a proven method that can teach every child to read. In 1998 he graduated from The Kildonan School with a high school diploma.

Years later when my son was 22 years old, we had a discussion about what he experienced in school and how he felt. This is something he never spoke about during his years in school as he was often depressed and angry. His response was brief and to the point: “You know Mom, I felt stupid every day of my life in school!” After this moment, I knew that I would be on a mission for the rest of my life to help schools and teachers understand how to create learning environments where every learner can become self-directed in learning.

My passion is built into my heart,
my belief that every learner matters is resolute and
my commitment to transform education so that every learner
realizes their hopes and dreams is unwavering.

Discover the Learner in Every Child

I look back now on this experience with my son and know that he is one of virtually millions of children who stop seeing themselves as learners and who often feel stupid in school. So how do we begin to discover the learner in every child? Most importantly, how do we have every learner understand how they learn best? You decide. With labels or through the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express TM?

http://www.personalizelearning.com/2014/12/access-engage-and-express-lens-for.html


Remove the veil of disability and you will see the learner! – Kathleen McClaskey (2008)
Access, Engage and Express is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.
Cross posted and revised from http://www.personalizelearning.com/2015/05/the-story-behind-my-passion-to.html

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!