UDL and the Common Core: Harnessing "collective efficiency"

When it comes to implementing the Common Core, "no one teacher can do it alone," writes  UDL Now! author Katie Novak on the Gates Foundation blog Impatient Optimists.

Katie Novak

Katie Novak

"Educators have to make connections and form professional learning communities (PLC) to continue their development and to stay strong despite opposition. To harness this collective efficacy, UDL Now! includes a built-in PLC guide, so educators can work together to become more effective teachers of the CCSS." [emphasis added]

Katie practices what she preaches.  A year ago (May 16, 2013) she moderated the first #UDLChat on Twitter, a virtual gathering of professional sharing and learning every 1st and 3rd Wednesday from 9-9:30pm ET. Along with her virtual colleagues in the UDL field, Katie has helped create a fun and helpful means for educators share hard-won wisdom and burning questions about implementing UDL.

 


UDL and the Common Core

David Rose, co-author of Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, weighs in on the Common Core State Standards in a new article published in The Special Edge, the newsletter for California’s special education practitioners.  He writes:

While the Common Core can shape our expectations for the curriculum, it cannot answer the complex question facing classroom educators each day: how to guide students to reach those standards. Indeed, as the CCSS Web site clearly states, “The standards establish what students need to learn but they do not dictate how teachers should teach.” They shouldn’t.

Critics of the Common Core risk throwing the baby out with the bath water. That is, the CCSS's aspirations get conflated with the means to implement them. Clumsy and under-resourced efforts to implement the CCSS at all levels make practitioners skeptical or even cynical about the Standards, in much the same way that shoddy implementation of No Child Left Behind undermined the aspirational goals of that law, Rose writes.

What we need, he concludes, is not to get rid of the Standards but to implement them in ways that really do raise achievement levels for all learners. Rose explains that UDL can help educators shape effective instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments in implementing the Common Core--or any set of well-conceived standards.  

To read the full article, visit the The Special Edge online.  Get the full-color print version of  Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice here and the e-book version here.

"Think about the Best Lesson You've Ever Taught ..."

  • "How did you know it was a success? Which UDL Guidelines were at work in that lesson?"
  • "Which Guidelines would you have a difficult time implementing? Ask yourself why ..."
  • "Think about a lesson you've taught recently that was a bust. Looking at the UDL Guidelines/checkpoints, were there any barriers in that lesson that could have been avoided ...?"

In UDL Now! Katie Novak helps educators generate practical insights and savvy strategies for improving instruction.  Every chapter concludes with questions for reflection, self-assessment, and conversation with colleagues. 

UDL Now! is a fun, effective playbook for teaching to the Common Core standards using the inclusive curriculum design principles of UDL.  Now available in print via Amazon.com (http://amzn.com/dp/0989867439).  An EPUB version will follow soon.  Check it out!

Announcing: UDL Now! by Katie Novak

               The cover of UDL Now!

               The cover of UDL Now!

CAST Professional Publishing is delighted to announce the publication of Katie Novak’s book UDL Now!, a teacher’s Monday-morning guide to implementing Common Core standards using universal design for learning (UDL).

Novak, who works for the Chelmsford, MA, public schools as K-12 reading coordinator and holds an education doctorate from Boston University, provides practical insights and savvy strategies for helping all learners meet high standards using UDL.

“Just for a second, imagine education reform as one giant dating pool.”  From that provocative first line, Novak delivers great advice for fun, energetic, and effective teaching.  The book is loaded with helpful tips and exemplars, giving educators a clear picture of how to plan standards-based lessons that are engaging, flexible, and inclusive.

Chapters include: 

                 Katie Novak

                 Katie Novak

  • UDL Guidelines: A Planning Tool You Can’t Live Without 
  • Recruiting and Engaging Students as UDL Partners 
  • Choice Assignments: Expressing Knowledge in Endless Ways 
  • Scaffolding: Setting the Bar High and Raising Students to It 
  • The Best Ways to Teach Vocabulary 
  • Using Student Feedback to Inform Instruction 
  • Assessments, the UDL Way 


The print version is now available via Amazon.com (http://amzn.com/dp/0989867439).  An EPUB version will follow in a few weeks.  Congratulations, Katie!

Human Variability and Education: A Conversation (6)

"For a theory of human differences to be useful, what we actually want to do (ironically enough) is not to celebrate each person’s uniqueness. We may accept that each person is unique but acting as though they are amounts to throwing in the towel. We’re saying 'I cannot benefit from my experience in teaching others. Each person is unique, so there’s no telling how this person before me will react to a given type of teaching, or lesson plan.'

                   Daniel Willingham

                   Daniel Willingham

"What we actually want is a theory of human differences that allows us to create categories. Consider that we categorize novel objects all the time. I may never have seen a particular dog, but by categorizing it as 'dog,' I benefit from my experience with other dogs. I know it has lungs, that it eats, that it is probably friendly but might bite, and so on.

"For a theory of human differences to be useful to educators, we need to be able to assess what type of learner someone is and for that to tell us some unseen properties of the learner. Then the labeling of the learner brings some benefit."

This provocative argument is made by University of Virginia Psychology Professor Daniel Willingham, one of several contributors to CAST's Multimedia Conversation on the Variability of Learners. The conversation is a series of reflections on "The Variability of Learners," a chapter from the new book Universal Design for Learning: Theory & Practice.

Other contributors include:

  • Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, George Lucas Educational Foundation
  • Kathy Denniston, elementary school teacher
  • Richard Ellenson, parent advocate and founder, Panther Technology
  • Lisa Thomas, Associate Director of Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers
  • Elizabeth Stein, middle-school teacher and mentor, Smithtown, NY
  • and 7th-grade students from Chelmsford, MA

The respondents address the huge continuum of human difference that educators must account for in designing and implementing learning experiences that serve many individuals.  (And they use multiple means of expression, including writing, video, and drawing, to comment.)

Check it out—and join the conversation!


Human Variability and Education: A Conversation (5)

                          Milton Chen

                          Milton Chen

“Chapter 3 [of the new book Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice] closes with the statement, ‘We place an undue burden on individuals to adapt themselves in all their wonderful diversity to inflexible learning environments. We should instead be expecting more of our learning environments.’

"The good news is that many innovative educators have been doing the important work of constructing these environments.”

That’s Milton Chen, Senior Fellow of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.  He goes on cite many inspiring examples of creative responses by classroom educators to the challenge of helping all learners meet high expectations.

Chen is one of several contributors to CAST's Multimedia Conversation on the Variability of Learners, a series of reflections on "The Variability of Learners," a chapter from the new book Universal Design for Learning: Theory & Practice.

Other contributors include:

  • Kathy Denniston, elementary school teacher
  • Richard Ellenson, parent advocate and founder, Panther Technology
  • Lisa Thomas, Associate Director of Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers
  • Elizabeth Stein, middle-school teacher and mentor, Smithtown, NY
  • Dan Willingham, Professor of Psychology, U. Va. 
  • and 7th-grade students from Chelmsford, MA

The respondents address the huge continuum of human difference that educators must account for in designing and implementing learning experiences that serve many individuals.  (And they use multiple means of expression, including writing, video, and drawing, to comment.)

Check it out—and join the conversation!

 

Human Variability and Education: A Conversation (4)

“What I now realize is that relationship-building flows over into the classroom much more than I’d realized. The brain is specialized for fear. I’ve seen students go to that ‘brain freeze’ mode; it’s a hard place to move past. Therefore, I try to keep them from that mode.” -- Kathy Denniston

                        Kathy Denniston

                        Kathy Denniston

Kathy Denniston, who teaches 5th graders in Columbus, IN, discusses what she’s learned about variability and universal design for learning (UDL) as part of CAST's Multimedia Conversation on the Variability of Learners.  The conversation is a series of reflections on "The Variability of Learners," a chapter from the new book Universal Design for Learning: Theory & Practice.

Other contributors include:

  • Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, George Lucas Educational Foundation
  • Richard Ellenson, parent advocate and founder, Panther Technology
  • Lisa Thomas, Associate Director of Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers
  • Elizabeth Stein, middle-school teacher and mentor, Smithtown, NY
  • Dan Willingham, Professor of Psychology, U. Va. 
  • and 7th-grade students from Chelmsford, MA

The respondents address the huge continuum of human difference that educators must account for in designing and implementing learning experiences that serve many individuals.  (And they use multiple means of expression, including writing, video, and drawing, to comment.)

Check it out—and join the conversation!

 

Katie Novak: 'I love lesson planning' with UDL

“I love lesson planning. There is something magical about taking rigorous curriculum and making it accessible to all students. It’s an art and a science to blend your knowledge of subject matter, child development, and your students, and create a lesson for them. Regardless of how you plan now, I want you to know that UDL can help you do it better.”

That’s Katie Novak writing on the Teaching Channel blog. Take a look. 

And watch for Katie's new book, UDL Now!,  coming soon from CAST Professional Publishing. In it, Katie walks practitioners through the process of implementing the Common Core for all learners.
 

            The cover of UDL Now!

            The cover of UDL Now!

Human Variability and Education: A Conversation (3)

   Elizabeth Stein

   Elizabeth Stein

“One common thread with all classrooms—anywhere—is that they are filled with groups of students. Lessons are planned that align with the curriculum, the standards, and quite often, students’ individualized education plan (IEP) goals. Another common thread in our ‘anywhere’ classroom is that it is filled with individual thinkers who have a variety of strengths and needs that are uniquely worth nurturing. Now take a minute to visualize a specific student. Perhaps it’s a student you know."

—Elizabeth Stein, veteran middle-school teacher and mentor from Smithtown, New York

Stein is one of several contributors to CAST's Multimedia Conversation on the Variability of Learners, a series of reflections on "The Variability of Learners," a chapter from the new book Universal Design for Learning: Theory & Practice.

Other contributors include:

  • Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, George Lucas Educational Foundation

  • Kathy Denniston, elementary school teacher

  • Richard Ellenson, parent advocate and founder, Panther Technology

  • Lisa Thomas, Associate Director of Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers

  • Dan Willingham, Professor of Psychology, U. Va. 

  • and 7th-grade students from Chelmsford, MA

The respondents address the huge continuum of human difference that educators must account for in designing and implementing learning experiences that serve many individuals.  (And they use multiple means of expression, including writing, video, and drawing, to comment.)

Check it out—and join the conversation!

The Growth Mindset: A UDL Theme

Business writer Megan McArdle writes compellingly about Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindsets:

'“Our educational system is almost designed to foster a fixed mind-set. Think about how a typical English class works: You read a ‘great work' by a famous author, discussing what the messages are, and how the author uses language, structure, and imagery to convey them. … Students are rarely encouraged to peek at early drafts of those works. All they see is the final product, lovingly polished by both writer and editor to a very high shine. …

Or consider a science survey class. It consists almost entirely of the theories that turned out to be right—not the folks who believed in the mythical ‘N-rays,’ declared that human beings had forty-eight chromosomes, or saw imaginary canals on Mars.”

“You never see the mistakes, or the struggle,” Dweck tells McArdle. That, in turn, makes kids think that rough drafts and failed experiments are proof that they lack smarts or talent rather than a normal part of developing knowledge and skills.

Designing learning environments that cultivate a growth mindset is a key theme of Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice.  (You can buy the book here.)  

Also, see Dweck’s Mindset and McArdle’s The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.

Carol Dweck on the growth mindset