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?
My First Formal Teaching Experience:
I remember back in one of my first teaching placements while doing my Bachelor of Education through Trent University when my practicum advisor told me that I was too creative. As if creativity in education was a bad thing. He liked practical activities straight out of the textbook. He was afraid of trying new things, and hated the fact that I was comfortable coming up with my own activities for the grade 5 class that we were co-teaching. I had a horrible experience with this practicum advisor as he always assessed my lesson plans negatively when I strayed from the textbook, even though I made it clear in my lessons plans that I was following the Ontario curriculum. In my next classroom placement my mentor or practicum advisor loved all of the creative poems, games, and math activities I came up with for her grade 1 class. She even brought the principal and other teachers in to see one my classroom activities as it involved reading while making sock puppets. Then this activity led to students creating stories with the sock puppets they had created. The students seemed to appreciate this creative style I used too, which was the most satisfying moment of that teaching placement. I always wondered why the first teacher I worked with was so resistant to creative teaching practices. He wasn't a bad teacher, and he cared about his students, but he was afraid. He didn't hate me, he feared the way I taught. If he had to come up with his own ideas, they might not work, and he might fail in the process. I know I have, but I keep trying new methods anyway.
Creativity and UDL:
In the cover for this blog page, I use a bowling lane to represent Universal Design for Learning. This is reference to Shelley Moore's (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYtUlU8MjlY) analogy that teaching is like professional bowling. To reach the outside pins, or marginalized students, we have to throw the ball at an angle, or get creative to try and reach the hardest to reach students, while reaching all of the other students as well. This doesn't happen by simply repeating things from a textbook or following a syllabus that was not made for your students. It involves knowing your students and coming up with creative solutions never thought of before. I'm not saying you have to have the most creative ideas to be a successful educator, but you need to overcome the illusion that practicality is better than creativity, it's not. Mueller, J.S., Melwani, S., & Goncalo, J.A. (2012), in their article "The bias against creativity: Why people desire but reject creative ideas" in the journal of Psychological Science, demonstrate that uncertainty creates a bias against creative practice and causes people to fear creativity. As educators we need to embrace uncertainty to encourage creative practices. We also need to inspire others to lean towards creativity in the face of uncertainty. Otherwise, we keep educating some of the same types of students while completely ignoring others. That sock puppet activity that I tried and was afraid might fail benefitted two underachieving readers in the class who were extra motivated to read for the first time. Had I stuck to the textbook, I may have missed their potential for reading.
Mueller, J.S., Melwai, S., & Goncalo, J.A. (2012). The bias against creativity: Why people desire but reject creative ideas. Psychological Science, 23(1), 13–17. doi: 10.1177/0956797611421018
SSHRC-CRSH, Shelley Moore: Transforming Inclusive Education:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYtUlU8MjlY Published on Apr 4, 2016