Two professionals stand at a desk discussing their notes.

Shift from Generational Teaching to Universal Design for Learning Design in Teacher Preparation

Author: Michelle Patterson

In one of our most recent Research to Practice Briefs, we had a conversation with Dr. Eric Moore who shared ways that higher education faculty can prepare preservice teachers to design instruction using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. UDL-designed instruction provides inclusive learning opportunities for students, but generational patterns create a barrier to UDL practice in K-12 classrooms.  These generational patterns, in which teachers fall back on teaching how they were taught, rather than how they were taught to teach, result in abandonment of UDL-designed instruction.  To address this barrier, UDL design in teacher preparation must be explicitly modeled with opportunities for reflection and transfer. The following three steps will support faculty as they prepare preservice teachers.

Step 1: Explicitly model Universal Design for Learning in your teacher preparation coursework

When preparing preservice teachers, it is not enough to implicitly model well-designed instruction. We must guide future teachers to see how the UDL framework has been incorporated in their instruction and why.  This can include prompting learners at the start of a lesson to pay attention, noticing options provided across engagement, representation, and action/expression. When modeling for preservice teachers in online or asynchronous settings, consider using digital text features such as call-out boxes to draw attention to components of UDL design within the content and explain why they were used.

Step 2: Provide preservice teachers opportunities to reflect on their learning experiences

Provide opportunities for preservice teachers to discuss their experiences from the learner perspective. Guide preservice teachers to reflect on how the instructional design worked best for them as individuals and discuss them as a group. This aligns with UDL Checkpoint 9.3 Develop self-assessment and reflection. The act of shared reflection provides preservice teachers an opportunity to see the range of learner variability in their own experiences. Ask what impact the options and supports had on their learning. Facilitate the conversation to demonstrate how no one method or option meets everyone’s needs.

Step 3: Support the transfer of knowledge from their personal experience to their future instructional placement

In keeping with UDL Checkpoint 3.4 Maximize generalization and transfer, guide the preservice teachers to then transfer their learning from these experiences into their own future classroom. As Dr. Moore stated, “Now what would this look like in your future eighth grade math classroom? Your kindergarten classroom? Your high school literature classroom?” The transfer step is a necessary component of preparing teachers to use the UDL framework in their future classrooms.

As you reflect on your own teacher preparation programs, what do you observe as your preservice teachers grow in UDL instructional design? Do you see your preservice teachers putting their UDL knowledge into practice in their lesson design or field placements? How do you prepare them so they do not fall back into traditional, less inclusive instructional design practices? Share your thoughts and questions with us as we continue the conversation in our CIDDL community.

Check out this page to review this Brief or click here to download a PDF copy of the Brief. More CIDDL Briefs can be found on the CIDDL Research and Practice Briefs webpage. Please visit our website for more resources and sign up for the updates from CIDDL.