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How to Personalize Learning Part 4: Design Lessons for all Learners

Universal Design for Learners (UDL) has been the lens through which Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey have helped us view each learner’s strengths and challenges in the class.  These insights have been the basis for choosing appropriate tools and strategies for learners. In my final post on their book How to Personalize Learning, I will focus on how they expand on the UDL lesson review process to allow teachers to design instruction that considers every learner.

The four step model the authors present is as follows
  1. List methods,materials, and assessments to be used in lesson.
  2. Describe what learners will be doing with these materials.
  3. Identify possible barriers learners may encounter
  4. Indicate which classroom tools/strategies can be incorporated to reduce these barriers

Instructional, methods, materials, and assessments
Requires Learners to
Possible Barriers
UDL Solutions and Strategies
Teacher presents information on mechanical waves during lecture.
Listen and understand information presented in audio format

Students will need to understand vocabulary terms and manipulate formulas
Student 1: needs visual representations

Student 2: has hard time focusing for long durations

Student 3: Difficulties manipulating algebraic formulas
Use Pear Deck to provide check points and interaction with content during lecture for all students

Provide visual representations for terms

Include demonstrations

Provide formula circles to show easy formula manipulation
If you are looking for a source of UDL strategies to help reduce barriers for learners, investigate the following site from

UDL Strategies | Goalbook Common Core & UDL Toolkit

Goalbook develops resources for teachers to differentiate instruction aligned to Common Core using UDL. Our toolkit contains Common Core IEP goals in Reading, Writing, and Math, as well as non-academic goals in Behavior and Autism.

When designing the lesson, the authors break it into two distinct parts: framing the lesson and designing opportunities for learners.

Framing the Lesson
When framing the lesson, you address the “why” of learning. So what is the goal, the objectives, standards/learning targets.  In addition, the teacher need to consider the assessment plan and key vocabulary.

This is adapted from Table 6.4 on page 104 of How to Personalize Learning.
Questions to Consider
Lesson Example
What is the end point or driving question for students?
The goal of the lesson is for students to understand the properties and behavior of a mechanical wave.

How can energy be transmitted through matter in the form of waves?
What will learners be able to demonstrate or how will they be able to apply the knowledge gained?
I can relate frequency and wavelength to velocity of a wave and solve problems involving velocity, frequency, and wavelength.
I can interpret a graph to measure or calculate the frequency, wavelength, and amplitude of a wave
Standards & Learning Targets
What are the standards and targets of the lesson?
How will you give each learner voice & choice with these targets?
NGSS HS-PS4-1 Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media.

Students will be given voice in this lesson by proposing a potential wave application they would like to apply their understanding to. Students will ultimately have a choice in the format of mastery demonstration.
Assessment Plan
What will the formative assessments be for this lesson?
How will students be able to demonstrate mastery of targets?
Formative assessment in this lesson will occur via practice problem and practice quizzing.

Key Vocabulary (both new and review)
How will vocabulary be introduced or reviewed in a way which will incorporate multiple representations?
Terms will be addressed during large group instruction with visuals and demonstrations of concepts. Interactive computer simulations will also be used to allow students to understand relationships between terms.

Lesson Design
In part 2 of lesson design, Bray and McClaskey have teachers explore more specifically what the lesson will entail and how they will reduce barriers for all learners. Teachers are encouraged to think of the lesson in the following phases:
  1. Lesson Kickoff and Engagement: Engage and activate prior knowledge
  2. Lesson Exploration and Guided Practice: Access the content of the lesson
  3. Check for Understanding - Formative Assessment: Check for understanding (Assessment FOR Learning) and Opportunities to reflect and monitor progress (Assessment AS Learning)
  4. Response to Learning: Use formative assessment to guide students towards opportunities of remediation or deeper learning
  5. Lesson Expansion and Independent Practice: Students engage in remediation or deeper learning
  6. Indicate Mastery with Voice and Choice (Assessment): Demonstration of mastery by learners
  7. Reflection: Reflect on performance of all learners, what strategies were fruitful, which strategies did not work
The following table is adapted from pages 109-110 of How to Personalize Learning and can be a powerful planning document.  The example that I created uses it more of a unit plan rather than a lesson plan.  I imagine it could be a plan to address a specific learning outcome I am measuring.  Once the teacher has identified the methods and materials, again we need to looks at elements to help all learners access, engage, and express understanding.

Lesson Elements
Instructional Methods and Materials
UDL Strategies and Solutions
Lesson Kickoff and Engagement
Introduce students to the properties of a wave with demonstration.
Activate prior knowledge by having students create hypothesis as demonstration continues.
Access: Content embedded in Pear Deck Presentation to provide text and graphic representation; Visual representation with demonstration

Engage: Pose questions via Pear Deck to elicit student interaction; encourage student volunteers to get hands on in demonstration
Lesson Exploration and Guided Practice
Presentation of content through lecture format.

Practice of concepts via conceptual and calculation problems.
Access:Content embedded in Pear Deck Presentation to provide text and graphic representation; Visual representation with demonstration

Engage: Pose questions via Pear Deck to elicit student interaction; choice when question is posed to have peer discussion or answer independently; Paper template of notes provided for students if preferred

Express: Pear Deck problems will take a variety of formats multiple choice with text/visuals, drawing, draggables, and calculations
Check for Understanding & Create Understanding
Assessment FOR Learning:
Pose individual check questions at the end of lecture which review all concepts covered

Assessment AS Learning: students reflect on where they fall in the proficiency scale tied to the learning outcome. State strengths and challenges with content.
Access: Questions include text and visual representations, students can access via paper copy or digitally via Pear Deck. Teacher provides auditory instructions in addition to visuals present.

Engage: Students complete questions digitally or on paper, reflection can be completed on own or through discussion with peers

Express: Students can respond to questions in multiple methods multiple choice or written text, drawing, draggable; Reflection can be submitted in multiple formats digitally or physically.
Response to Learning
Students will have voice in offering possible suggestions for remediation.  Teacher will design deeper learning for those ready.
Lesson Expansion and Independent Practice
Remediation will focus on targeted strategies to close gaps for learners in the areas of conceptual understanding and/or calculations. (practice problems sets, readings, lab explorations)

Deeper learning will focus on students exploring application of wave principles in an area of tying to an interest or curiosity
Access: Allow for digital and physical means of access to practice problems; Deeper learning content can be accessed via readings, videos, or mini-seminars with instructor

Engage: Problems sets can be completed individually, with peer groups, or with instructor; Deeper learning can take the form of research, lab exploration, or building something

Express: Closing of gaps with remediation can be expressed in multiple ways based on format chosen practice problems (digital or physically), readings can be summarized orally, digitally, or physically; Deeper learning will ultimately be expressed as a part of the assessment
Indicate Mastery with Voice and Choice
Students will create a media product which will be used to demonstrate mastery of objective based on the proficiency scale. The higher levels of the scale require application of the concepts to an area of interest or curiosity.
Access: Students will be able to access content related to the outcome via their physical or digital notes, internet resources such as the Physics Classroom and Khan Academy, or consultations with peers of the teacher.

Engage: Students will be working in class on their own or with the help of a peer group.  Students have the options for a variety of a

Express: Students will have the option to express via a traditional test or creation of a multimedia product. The media product will take the format the student chooses (examples: oral presentation with digital tool, written report, video creation, screencast). Students are free to propose an option and co-design with instructor to ensure it meets all requirements.
Did learners demonstrate mastery of the outcome?
Collect feedback from students related to
  • What strategies/tools proved beneficial?
  • Which strategies/tools were not helpful?
  • What strategies/tools would they suggest to help them in the next unit?

The book goes much deeper into reaching all learners with lesson design focused around Project Based Learning.  But, I don't want to spoil all the great ideas shared in the text.  It's the perfect resource for teachers anywhere on the spectrum of increasing student agency in the classroom from beginner to expert, there is something for every instructor. To get your own copy to the book, find it on Amazon.

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