Dr. Nunley focused on providing choices for her students as much as possible. Granted, the choices were often very similar to each other – “choose one of the four worksheets”, but still there was an opportunity for the students to control some aspect of their work in a way that hadn’t been possible before. She also emphasized the building in of voice – if there is a presentation offering more than one way to present (poster, PowerPoint, Prezi…) What I learned most from her, and still use today in organizing my student’s unit sheets is to break out the objective of each assignment section – Basic understanding, Application/analysis, Synthesis/evaluation and Assessment. This aids the kids in focusing on what the main objective of the assignment is with regards to the content being covered. It also reminds all of us that there needs to be a purpose in the work we assign. Since one of my objectives is to give choices for the students, this is also a good way to track the choices I am offering and fulfill each of those needs and categories.
Now let’s take a quick step back and consider the source of any of these selections. That rests in the state determined frameworks or standards that we are required to teach. The first step in making these selections is to consider what the standards require the students to know. I took those lists and divided them out into the assignment categories and made sure there was more than one thing to choose from. This was better, but the choices were often variations on a theme – such as complete 2 of the 5 worksheets available. The idea was that kids could challenge themselves or select worksheets that fit their individual needs for understanding, however that is generally not what happened, and since it was a worksheet either way the choice was limited in terms of meeting individual interests and affinities.
And then came along UDL – Universal Design for Learning