As discussed in the initial post in the series, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides a framework to help educators consider ways to engage diverse learners with course content and experiences. The UDL Center offers three principles to accomplish this challenging approach: provide multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement. In the second post in the series, I explored principle 1. In this post, we tackle principle 2 – multiple means of action and expression.
Flexibility in engagement and production
The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) outlines three strategies for educators to use to provide multiple means of action and expression:
- provide options for physical action, including multiple ways to interact with course materials (adding annotations, hyperlinked navigation, etc.
- provide options for expression and communication, including different mediums for students to present their ideas (writing, blogging, video, concept maps, artwork, etc.)
- provide options for executive functions, including strategies for students to monitor their own work and metacognition
5 strategies to provide multiple means of action and expression
- Provide students with divergent opportunities to explore concepts
In my own teaching, I have a tendency to think of myself as the sole curator of course content. My selection of texts and readings guides student work. In reality, though, students often find very interesting and rich resources on their own. Why not build in the expectation that students will be more active in exploring course concepts on their own? Perhaps by requiring students to not only read the required materials in the syllabus in preparation for class, they can also identify a complementary reading, video, or other resource that they could either contribute to the class or at least summarize. This active exploration both encourages students’ ownership of their learning, but also helps them to develop those critical lateral thinking skills.
Young adults are creating, sharing, remixing and commenting on video in their personal and social lives at an amazing rate (reference). Why not leverage this natural interest in the service of learning? Perhaps rather than writing a persuasive essay or report, students could have the option to convey their understanding through a video that they create? The work could be assessed using the same standards for written work (e.g., quality of evidence, clarity of thinking, etc.) but would serve to open up an option that students might find more engaging or compelling. The ability to share their work online can provide significant additional motivation for producing high quality work.
- Challenge students to create non-linguistic representations
Images, charts, and diagrams can all provide rich and divergent ways for students to express their understanding. This can be done in pen and ink, but also in a digital format.
Concept maps provide opportunities for students to illuminate how concepts are organized or connected. As I noted in the last post, one of my favorite Web-based tools to create concept maps is Mindmeister which enables the collaborative development of concept maps. These concept maps can be printed or submitted electronically through a learning management system.
- Guided research support
Research is a critical skill in any discipline. And while students are often engaged in research projects beginning in elementary school, they are often so structured and supported before they arrive in college that they may not have confidence in planning, organizing, and seeing their work through to completion. One strategy that can be very effective to help students develop these critical self-regulation skills is in what I would call guided research support. I’ll go more in depth with this in a future post, but the core idea is to give students broad guidelines, but have them wrestle with fleshing out the detailed process. Along the way I provide them with guidance to help them clarify their thinking. Rather than providing them a clear blueprint, though, I give them nudges as they struggle to make sense of the process for themselves. Shared OneNote notebooks can be a really efficient and effective process for this two-way dialogue on process.
- Learning logs
Learning logs are a less structured way for students to monitor their thinking, capture questions as they attend lectures or complete course readings. It’s important that the students choose the format, tools and approach to this kind of learning diary. They have to enjoy the process to get the most out of it. It might be in a nice Moleskine notebook, through a Web log or even an audio recorder on their phone. The important thing is that they learn to process their thinking in the learning process.
There is nearly no limit to ways that students can express their understanding and learning to monitor their own thinking and work. The ideas expressed here merely scratch the surface. I hope, though, that they get you thinking about what might work to support the students in your courses.
What strategies do you use to provide students with multiple ways to express their understanding or take control of their learning?
Please post your comments below.