Universal Design for Learning and Innovation Blog
My burning question: How can educators design
their classes to be more inclusive to benefit a
greater number of students?
Teaching is a humbling profession. What works well with one group of students may not work so well for another. Also, it is hard to tell when to instruct, scaffold, or allow students to self-inquire and discover the contents of the subject for themselves. Teaching is not always an exact science. On the bright side, this allows educators to be creative to find new solutions.
Recently, while teaching in my Microsoft Excel class, I found myself over-teaching/instructing when I should have been facilitating instead. I instructed my students how to complete a task, they were given exact instructions on how to complete the task, and I even went around to help those students who needed it-and there was a lot of them! The instruction I had provided at the class did not help. One might assume that the students needed more instruction or clarification but I found out in my next class that the opposite was true. I gave out a similar task at the beginning of class and gave no instructions, and no talk on how to complete the task. The only thing I offered was a picture of an order form I had created in Excel and told my students they needed to use the same information and either duplicate a similar design, or be creative with the formatting to create something new. Below was the example I provided.
I was a little worried at first that this would be too challenging for my students and we had just begun exploring formatting options in Excel. However, they seemed completely engaged in the activity and were able to complete the task in one class. The best thing was, they did not need my help either. Like a puzzle, they were able to put the pieces together without my help. Below is an example:
Some produced a copy of the order form that was very similar to mine, which was acceptable and encouraged. Some students even chose to create a different design such as the one below:
This was a creative example and demonstrated to me that perhaps I was over teaching/instructing in my previous class. Letting students create their own order form allowed them to come up with a product, while being engaged in the process. By offering students a choice to try and duplicate the source file or come up with something new, the students had the multiple options to complete the task which falls under the "Provide Multiple Means of Engagement" section of the UDL guidelines.
Educators should try and be creative and design their class like a puzzle to be solved. Just like a puzzle, varying strategies may exist to get to the same end goal. You wouldn't over instruct someone on how to complete a puzzle because where is the fun in that?