1. Preparing for the Fall Semester: What Do You Want to Share?
  2. Instructional and Assessment Technology to Prepare for Your Fall Semester
  3. Preparing Teachers for Standards-Based Lesson Planning
  4. Preparing for the Fall Semester: Aligning Instruction to Standards
  5. Technology in Coaching to Decrease Pre-service Educator Stress
  6. Boom-ing into Data Collection
  7. Accessibility Checker for Slides
  8. Technology to Support Executive Function Skills
A university professor lectures in front of a higher education class.

Preparing for the Fall Semester: Aligning Instruction to Standards

Author: Nicholas J. Hoekstra; info@ciddl.org

As June gives way to July, that first day of the fall semester may still seem a ways away. It is never too early to begin planning, though. That is why, in this CIDDL series, we are providing considerations for how to plan for the fall semester. In a previous post, we reviewed a number of sets of educator preparation standards that outline the skills and knowledge teachers should have when entering the classroom and provide a framework for preparing educator preparation programs. We also reviewed how standards incorporate technology to create innovative and equitable learning experiences for all learners. In another blog, we introduced several resources and tools that pre- and in-service teachers can use to create standards-based instruction. In this blog, we will explore some useful frameworks that may help prepare future educators for connecting their teaching to educational standards for students.

Educational Standards for Students

When we refer to educational standards, we refer to a set of standards that define what students should know or be able to do at each grade level in K through 12 education. The most widely recognized educational standards are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These standards have been adopted by 41 states and the District of Columbia and are intended to prepare students to graduate from high school ready to enter college or the workforce. The CCSS are separated into two sets of standards. The English Language Arts (ELA) Standards establish literacy skills and concepts required for college and career readiness across multiple disciplines, including history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Meanwhile, the Mathematics Standards focus on a clear set of math skills that encourage students to solve real-world problems. 

Meanwhile, the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) for adult education are a set of standards that reflect the most important skills and content for preparing adults to be successful in college, work or technical training. These standards are similarly divided into ELA and math standards and represent a key subset of the CCSS that can help states create consistent expectations between k-12 and adult education systems.

The UDL Bridge from Curriculum to Standards

The 21st century classroom is highly diverse. Finding a way to ensure that all students can meet rigorous educational standards can be challenging. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, however, can help educators align their instruction with academic content standards. 

In a 2006 article by Browder and colleagues, the authors suggest that educators require three types of information. This includes foundational knowledge about academic content, covering understanding of the academic standards, domain specific knowledge for the subject being taught, and evidence-based practices for teaching. Next, educators need good examples of how to teach academic skills that link to state standards. Finally, educators require guidelines for developing instructional plans and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that target educational standards. In their article, the authors present a seven-step process that incorporates aspects of UDL to evaluate standards and build alignment with classroom instruction. 

In their article, the authors present a seven-step process that incorporates aspects of UDL to evaluate standards and build alignment with classroom instruction. These steps include:

  1. Identify the academic domains around which planning will occur;
  2. Identify the appropriate state standards for a student’s grade level;
  3. The special and general educators should work together to identify typical materials, activities and contexts around which learning will occur;
  4. Plan alternate achievement targets for students who need them;
  5. Review content to ensure that what has been created for a student maintains high quality and reflects the standard;
  6. Enhance learning activities by incorporating instructional methods to strengthen student learning, such as UDL, assistive technology, or evidenced based practices;
  7. And, finally, identify the important skills a student must learn that cut across several standards and make these skills a focus of the student’s IEP. 

A 2016 article by Rao and Meo provides another model for linking instruction to educational standards more closely aligned with the UDL framework to address learner variability. According to Rao and Meo, the first step educators should take is to “unwrap” a standard. This process involves breaking down a standard to identify the skills that students are expected to demonstrate, on one hand, and what students are expected to know, on the other. The required skills within a standard are often denoted by words that describe what a student must be able to do. Then, a teacher considers the concepts, knowledge and background information that a student will need to know to develop those skills. 

Once the standard has been unpacked, educators can then apply the UDL framework to the goals, assessments, methods, and materials they will use while teaching. In this way, teachers can ensure lessons both align to rigorous educational standards, such as those found in the CCSS, while also taking into account student variability.

UDL and Teacher Preparation Standards

Preparing pre-service teachers to create standards-based instruction while supporting learner variability is highlighted in many teacher preparation standards. For example, one of the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) standards indicates that “The teacher engages learners in multiple ways of demonstrating knowledge and skill as part of the assessment process.” Although UDL is not explicitly used in this standard, providing multiple options for students to demonstrate understanding is essential to UDL implementation. As teacher educators, we need to design instruction that supports the preparation of pre-service teachers for meeting such standards.  

Share Your Experiences

When considering the preparation of future educators, are there particular frameworks or strategies that you find help teachers align their teaching to educational standards? Join our Community to share strategies and tips as well as learn from and grow with other teacher educators.