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

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).

 

 

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.

To keep on top of her inclusive learning practices, check out Andelee’s Blog.

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

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.

Learner Profile™: Stop Using Learning Styles, Start Using the Learning Sciences

We are embarking on an era of transformational change in education where we have a vision of creating learner-centered environments where learners pursue their passions and interests and develop agency with the knowledge, skills and dispositions so they are future ready for careers yet to be imagined. The question is:

Why are we still using the traditional approach of learning styles to develop learner profiles?

Let’s take at the research and what it says about learning styles.

 

Why Stop Using Learning Styles?

As we are transforming education from the traditional teacher-centered environments to a personalized, learner-centered environment we need to reconsider the learning styles approach that has no basis in research. Classroom teachers and academics have been using learning styles for over four decades to understand learners. During this time the notion that teaching methods should match a learner’s particular learning style has had a powerful influence in education, however, a study published in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest challenged the concept of learning styles and their affect on performance.

Despite the preponderance of the learning styles concept “from kindergarten to graduate school,” and a “thriving industry” devoted to such guidebooks for teachers, Pashler found there wasn’t rigorous evidence for the concept. He wrote:

Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis. We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice.

The four prominent cognitive psychologists in this study found no evidence for validating educational applications of learning styles into general education practice. This was their conclusion:

Research conducted over 40 years has failed to show that individual attributes can be used to guide effective teaching practice. Rather than being a harmless fad, learning styles often perpetuates stereotyping and harmful teaching practices it is suppose to fight.” (Pashler et al, 2009).

So as schools move from a traditional system to a personalized, competency-based system, we need to evaluate the traditional tools we have used around learners and learning and teachers and teaching, and understand how a learning science can be used to nurture and build a culture of learning.

 

Start Using the Learning Sciences and the UDL Lens


Empower learners with the UDL lens

We need to stop using learning styles and start using Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a research-based set of principles based on the learning sciences to guide the design of learning environments and innovative sustainable systems that are accessible and effective for all learners. UDL tells us that there is variability in the way each learner learns: their strengths, challenges, aptitudes, talents, and aspirations.

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ 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 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 in their Personal Learning Backpack™. This leads to a Personal Learning Plan™ (PLP) where each learner can set goals to acquire the necessary skills to become an independent and self-directed learner, a learner with agency that has ownership to their learning.

 

Ownership to learning requires the learner to understand how they learn.

Empower Learners with the UDL Lens

Start the next school year with having every learner create a Learner Profile. From 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 and how they learn by:

  • sharing 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; and
  • have regular conversations about their learning with teachers, peers, and parents.

Let’s take a closer look at the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express™ and how a learner can share how they learn by using a Learner Profile (LP) that also includes their interests, talents, passions, aspirations and the words that would describe them.

The information in the Learner Profile™ (LP) helps each learner tell their story and how they learn with their teacher. This is the foundation from which conversations, relationships and partnerships in learning are built. What are the possible messages and outcomes from a learner using the Learner Profile?

  • It helps validate the learner and how they learn.
  • It tells the learner that you care about who they are.
  • It creates a community of learners based on trust and respect.

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

 

3 stepprocess to develop agencyTo learn more about how to personalize learning and the three-step process of the Learner Profile, Personal Learning Backpack™ and Personal Learning Plan™, refer to How to Personalize Learning: A Practical Guide for Getting Started and Going Deeper by Bray and McClaskey (2016) or the blog posts on the Learner Profile™, Personal Learning Backpack™ and Personal Learning Plan™.

 

 

 

The UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express, Access, Engage and Express, Learner Profile (LP), Personal Learning Backpack (PLB) and Personal Learning Plan (PLP) are trademarks of Kathleen McClaskey.

Reference: Paschler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., and Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9, 105-119.  https://www.psychologicalscience.org/journals/pspi/PSPI_9_3.pdf

 

Empowering Learners™ with The Learner Profile

Part 1 of the 3 Part Series on Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage, and Express to empower learners.

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.

Learner Profile Personal Learning Backpack Personal Learning Plan

 

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:UDL lens of access engage and expres

  • 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

The Learner Profile using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express

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!

 

The Learner Profile (LP) helps each learner tell their story and how they learn with their teacher. This is the foundation from which conversations, relationships and partnerships in learning are built.
Locate the “The Learner Profile Using the UDL Lens of Access, Engage and Express” Infographic under the Toolkit menu.

This infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License

This post was adapted from a previous post published at http://www.personalizelearning.com/2016/08/the-learner-profile-get-up-close-and.html

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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. Empowering Learners is a trademark of Kathleen McClaskey.


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!