UDL Now!: A Teacher's Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning in Today's Classrooms

UDL Now!: A Teacher's Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning in Today's Classrooms

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In this revised and expanded edition of UDL Now! Katie Novak provides practical insights and savvy strategies for helping all learners meet high standards using the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a framework for inclusive education that aims to lower barriers to learning and optimize each individual's opportunity to learn. Novak shows how to use the UDL Guidelines to plan lessons, choose materials, assess learning, and improve instructional practice. Novak discusses key concepts such as scaffolding, vocabulary-building, and using student feedback to inform instruction. She also provides tips on recruiting students as partners in the teaching process, engaging their interest in how they learn. UDL Now! is a fun and effective Monday-morning playbook for great teaching.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781930583665
Publisher: CAST Professional Publishing
Publication date: 09/01/2016
Edition description: Second Edition, Second edition
Pages: 238
Sales rank: 35,389
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Katie Novak, EdD, is the Assistant Superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District in Massachusetts and a leading expert on Universal Design for Learning implementation. With 13 years of experience in teaching and administration and an earned doctorate in curriculum and teaching, Novak designs and presents workshops both nationally and internationally focusing on implementation of UDL and the Common Core. She is co-author of two other books, UDL in the Cloud and Universally Designed Leadership.

Read an Excerpt

UDL Now!

A Teacher's Guide to Applying Universal Design For Learning in Today's Classrooms

By Katie Novak

CAST, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 CAST, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-930583-67-2


UDL and Reality TV Collide

Objective: You will understand the importance of having the support of administrators and colleagues when you shift from traditional teaching strategies to UDL.

Rationale: Because UDL requires a change of practice, you'll have more success if you have the support of administrators and colleagues. One great way to do this is to create or join a professional learning community (PLC). This text has an embedded PLC guide to help you accomplish that task. This chapter will explain the importance of having support while transitioning to UDL and how to use the PLC resources, if you're interested.

Implementing UDL is a little like being a contestant on The Biggest Loser. Don't laugh. Individuals apply to be on The Biggest Loser because they feel stuck in a rut and want more out of life. These people often are hard-working, smart individuals who have lots of diet advice at their fingertips yet are still not able to lose weight. It's not for a lack of trying, but rather they seem to lack the tools and support necessary to be successful. Education is kind of like that. New initiatives come and go like fad diets. Like yo-yo dieting, it's easy to get off track and go back to our old habits when we don't have the necessary support.

This happens on The Biggest Loser. When participants have Jillian Michaels whipping them into shape and their peers cheering them on, it's easier to be successful. Unfortunately, when some of these people return home, they put the weight back on. It's not that they don't know how to exercise and eat, because they do; it's a lack of support pushing them to reach their goals. People who want to accomplish the same goal need each other.

As teachers and administrators, we need to lean on each other. We need to celebrate our successes and push each other to the next level of our practice. Can we be successful on our own? Of course we can. But it's much easier when we have colleagues to support us, teach us, and cheer us on — and who depend on us to do the same for them. Especially now.

American education is changing, so we have to change, as well. New evaluation tools, new curriculum standards, and new standardized assessments are big initiatives that require change. The persistent gap between our highest and lowest students requires change. We need our students to be college ready or prepared for their chosen career. They deserve to be successful. Their success is, in part, up to us. What an amazing privilege. Our teaching strategies can change students' lives, so we owe it to our kids to give them the very best. UDL is the very best.

The nation depends on us to mold the future of America. Granted, students have a part in it, too, but research suggests that we teachers provide three of the four key ingredients in the learning mix (Fenstermacher & Richardson, 2005). The four ingredients necessary for students to learn are:

• The learner's own effort

• The social surround (family, community, and peers)

• The opportunity to learn

• Good teaching

Although teaching appears to account for only one of the four variables, an effective teacher has the potential to influence student effort and the opportunity to learn. Student effort is considered, in part, a teacher's responsibility, because a teacher has an opportunity to set up a classroom that engages students and makes them more likely to persist, despite obstacles. Teachers can also influence a student's opportunity to learn by providing the kind of structure that allows students to spend an appropriate amount of time on-task.

As you probably noted, although effective teaching has the potential to influence three of the four learning variables, teachers cannot influence the social surround of family, community, and peer culture. The communities and homes where some students live often create significant obstacles to learning, but there is evidence that some classrooms can raise student achievement, despite these problems. How extraordinary is that? As teachers, we can literally overcome the negative influence of a community. How many other professionals can say that? That's practically a superpower.

We all have to believe at our core that we can engage and challenge all students to learn in our classrooms. We can't prevent all the challenges students will face, but we can help to alleviate them by designing a learning environment that leaves no room for failure. To do this, we need to be surrounded by people who have that same belief in the power of teaching. This increases our own efficacy, that is, our ability to teach all students.

Teachers with strong feelings of efficacy believe they will be successful, and they have better outcomes than those who believe that they will not succeed. These teachers are committed to student learning, but also to each other. They work toward common goals. They prod and help each other, and their students, to achieve those goals. This group mentality is called collective efficacy (Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000) and relates to Dweck's (2006) work on the importance of growth mindset.

We are all likely familiar with the classic children's tale, The Little Engine That Could. Her mantra, which has become a cliché in the world of perseverance, "I think I can, I think I can," is a valuable message that we, as educators, need to embrace.

Growth mindset is based on the simple premise that we are much more likely to succeed if we believe that effort, and not inherent skill, intelligence, and talent, will result in success. The opposite of growth mindset, fixed mindset, is the belief that some things in life are simply out of reach. In classrooms, we hear students say, "I can't do that." Teachers will sometimes admit to me, "I'm just not really effective with those kids." Those kids: the classification or grouping is irrelevant.

All teachers and students need to believe inherently that they are capable of improving their performance by applying necessary effort, seeking out information and resources, collaborating with others who are more knowledgeable, and repeating throughout the process, "I think I can."

In comes The Biggest Loser. The participants on the show are so successful because while they live on The Biggest Loser campus, professionals teach and model the basics of healthy living. The guidelines of the show are simple: eat less and exercise more, practice moderation in all things, and lean on the group for support. Participants are able to change their bodies and their lives because their lifestyles are aligned to scientifically based research, and they are given a solid support system. The Biggest Loser emphasizes the importance of collective efficacy, which is why contestants cook, eat, exercise, and live together. When they feel like they can't go on, they have a group of likeminded individuals to remind them that they can change if they have a growth mindset. In order for UDL to be a success and have staying power in your teaching practice, you need the same.

Now, on the reality show, participants are thrown together for a couple of months. As a teacher, you have your colleagues for your career. There is no reason to fall back on old habits when you have a built-in support system in your building. Administrators, that includes you, too!

First, you need to learn about the scientifically based research, which you can access in other UDL texts (see Appendix A) and on the National UDL Center's website, www.udlcenter.org.

Second, you need the tools to put the research into practice. This text provides you with concrete examples of UDL implementation, as do others in a growing body of literature supporting UDL practice (see Appendix A). Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom: Practical Applications (Hall, Meyer, & Rose, 2012) and Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014) are two examples.

Finally, you need a support system. Just as new teachers need to adjust to the profession, new UDL teachers need to adjust to the pedagogical shifts UDL requires. When you begin UDL implementation, you need to move away from "fixing kids" to "fixing curriculum," and this takes time and creativity. Having a support system will make this transition much easier.

Figure 1-1 outlines the phases new teachers go through in their first year (Moir, 1990). These may be the same phases you go through when you adopt UDL as a framework in your learning environment. In this model, teachers move through six phases. Let's examine how these phases may be similar for teachers implementing UDL and why support can minimize the feelings of disillusionment mid-year. In the anticipation phase, you learn about the UDL framework and you're excited to implement it in your classroom. Maybe you've attended a UDL workshop or read a book, or maybe your district has adopted UDL district-wide. Let's face it, you probably have images of engaged students applauding you at the end of a life-changing lesson (hey, we can dream, right?).

Long Description

Chart shows changes in first-year teacher's attitudes toward teaching, from August on far left to July on far right. Changing attitudes are show as: August: Anticipation; September: Survival; October through January: Disillusionment; February through March: Rejuvenation; April through May: Reflection; June through July: Anticipation.

The issue is that once you start to plan UDL lessons, you realize that it takes a lot of thought, creativity, and time. You realize that it was easier to just lecture or have students read silently. At this point, you may be getting frustrated because UDL lessons take so much time to plan. It's important at this stage to realize that you don't need to change everything at once. Although you have the option to hit UDL full throttle, you can also begin by making incremental changes in your learning environment, such as implementing aspects of UDL that you can draw on daily as you progress. You may plan only one UDL lesson a week at first. Then, as you become more comfortable, make additional changes to your practice. Just implementing some of the guidelines of UDL each day will make a difference in student engagement and achievement. At this point, it's most important to remember not to panic. It may seem like a lot of work, but it will get easier with time, and student learning will increase.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the shift to UDL, it's great to have a support group with colleagues. Once you start implementing UDL into your classroom, you begin to speak a whole different language, and if no one else speaks your language, you'll feel a bit isolated. I don't know if any of you have ever tried a Rosetta Stone language-learning program, but my mother-in-law did, and she's not speaking French. She was trying to learn the language by herself, and there was no one to talk to. When you're learning a new language, you need to speak to people who speak that language.

Realizing that changing your practice is a process will help you to avoid the disillusionment phase, where you may feel like you were better off before you tried to change everything. Your colleagues here are so important, because the more you can share your struggles, the more you'll realize it's just a phase and that students are benefiting from the changes you're making.

Think of this period like The Biggest Loser weigh-in (I know, I just won't let it go). The weigh-ins are all about collective efficacy. Participants don't want to let their teammates down. They're in it together. By the same token, as you share with your colleagues, you will want to share stories about the frustrations and celebrations of becoming a UDL pro, and this will make you accountable. Also, there will be people there to celebrate your small successes.

You will begin to see results, and this, in turn, will rejuvenate your practice. When The Biggest Loser participants see the weight start to melt off, they work out harder and eat healthier. In the first couple of episodes, everyone is miserable, but in the end, they are all healthier and happier because they learned that the practice works. You will feel the same. You may set out to implement UDL lessons once a week, but once you see how engaged your students are, you'll want to do more and more. And believe me, if you keep at it, you will see gains in student achievement. The scale never lies.

At the end of each school year, remember to reflect on your practice and think about the wonderful changes you've made. You can then begin to anticipate next school year and how you can use more UDL strategies more often.

Because UDL support is imperative for effective practice, it is beneficial when teams of teachers adopt UDL as a framework and work together to implement strategies. If UDL is being encouraged at the district level, you will probably have more supports in place. If it's something that you are implementing on your own, start recruiting ("Come on, everybody is doing it").

UDL implementation will not happen overnight. Think of it as a lifestyle change as opposed to a diet. The UDL Implementation Process (Figure 1-2) is a five-step, multiyear process that begins with a need for change.

As a nation, we are not meeting the needs of all students by providing them with access to a rigorous, engaging curriculum. By reading this book, you are exploring and preparing to implement UDL. Although it looks like a climb to expert learning, know many teachers have gone before you and enjoyed the view from the top. And hiking with a group is a heck of a lot easier than tackling the mountain alone.

To support you even more on your climb, know that your accountability group is about to increase exponentially. In December 2015, a new federal education law, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), endorsed UDL as best practice, so all of the nation's 3.5 million teachers will need support as they design and deliver comprehensive instruction that "incorporates the principles of universal design for learning."

One great way to get fellow teachers interested in UDL is to form a professional learning community (PLC), which is like a study group. Often, teachers join book clubs to read New York Times bestsellers, but they are hesitant to join a PLC because it feels like work. It shouldn't be work. It should be something that will ignite passion about your profession. If it does feel like work, at least it's work you would be doing anyway. It's like a double dip of your time. These are lessons you would've planned, but you'll get priceless suggestions from colleagues, and professional development credit. Most importantly, you will understand how to create dynamic, challenging lessons that will engage all students. Better yet, when you try out the lessons on students, you'll have a group of people to brag to about how awesome you are and how well your students performed!

In order to help you make the most out of your PLC, this text includes an embedded discussion guide and action steps so you can begin to implement UDL in your practice in a meaningful way. In a recent article, "The Futility of PLC Lite," the authors note that PLCs often fail to change teacher practice or increase student achievement because they do not focus on curriculum design or evidence-based decision making (DuFour & Reeves, 2016).

DuFour and Reeves (2016) note that in meaningful PLCs, teachers grapple with four core questions:

• What do we want students to learn?

• How will we know if they have learned it?

• What will we do if they have not learned it?

• How will we provide extended learning opportunities for students who have mastered the content?

Learning about and implementing UDL allows teachers to focus on these core questions as a tenet of their practice. UDL is a standards-based framework that guides teachers to heighten the salience of goals and objectives in order to design engaging, challenging learning experiences that allow all students to become knowledgeable, strategic, and motivated. Also, in an effective PLC, teachers collectively set appropriate goals for learning and design and administer assessments without barriers so they will know when students have mastered the content or skills. Lastly, effective PLCs consider the importance of varying demands and resources to optimize challenges for those students who have not learned the content or skills, or who need additional challenges. If your PLC doesn't consider these questions, it will "fail to embrace the central tenets of the PLC process and won't lead to higher levels of learning for students or adults" (DuFour & Reeves, 2016).

To help you facilitate a PLC in your school or on Twitter, this text has an embedded discussion guide to use with your colleagues that will lead you to reflect on the important questions that are necessary to improve outcomes for your students. If you are an administrator, encourage groups of teachers to form PLCs, or you can do the activities with your entire staff. The discussion questions and practice prompts are great activities if you're working alone, but you can get even more out of them if you have others to bounce ideas off of. If there is no one in your school who wants to join your PLC, you can hook up with other like-minded teachers on Twitter by searching for #udlchat.


Excerpted from UDL Now! by Katie Novak. Copyright © 2016 CAST, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of CAST, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword David H. Rose v

Preface to the Revised Edition vii

Introduction ix

1 UDL and Reality TV Collide 1

2 The UDL Guidelines for Educators 13

A Planning Tool You Can't Live Without

3 Shining a Light on Engagement 31

4 Recruiting and Engaging Students as UDL Partners 41

5 Next-Generation Skills in Today's Classrooms 83

6 Two Types of Learning Standards and UDL Implementation 97

7 Choice Assignments 113

Expressing Knowledge in Endless Ways

8 Scaffolding 141

Setting the Bar High and Raising Students to it

9 The Best Ways to Teach Vocabulary 171

10 Using Student Feedback to Inform Instruction 183

11 Assessments the UDL Way 193

(Yes, Standardized Assessments, Too!)

12 Technology Helps! 203

A UDL Resources 211

B Professional Learning Community Resources 213

C PLC Assignment Rubrics 215

References 217

About the Author 221

Acknowledgments 223

Index 225

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