UDL, or Universal Design for Learning, embraces the notion that sometimes students have a hard time learning because there are barriers that exist in the learning environment and in the curriculum. As a UDL school, AIMS works to remove as many barriers to learning as we can and to foster life-long learners through a growth mindset. UDL recognizes that we are all on a learning journey and sometimes that journey is successful and sometimes it is hard. UDL teachers remain flexible in their teaching so that they can support student learning no matter where each student is on that journey.
For each lesson, AIMS teachers think through three different areas of instruction and work to remove as many barriers as possible for students.
- Multiple Means of Engagement: In the first area, teachers consider how they are engaging students in learning. This looks like having a well-organized and well-run classroom. Making lesson goals clear, providing specific feedback to students, and asking them to work with others builds the classroom community. Finally this area teaches students self-regulation skills so that students can manage their own coping, self-assessment, and reflection skills when they feel anxious or upset. The goal of this area of instruction is to develop learners who are purposeful and motivated. These students know what they are learning and why, and they have the emotional capacity to motivate themselves to learn and complete assignments.
- Multiple Means of Representation: The second area focuses on how the lesson is presented to the students. Teachers consider if the lesson can be presented so that students can both see and hear the information. Vocabulary is emphasized so that students can access the information through reading, writing, and talking about what they have learned. Visuals are important to help student remember information. Teachers help students access background knowledge to build on what they know. In addition, organizational structures and patterns are made plain through graphic organizers and outlines. The goal of this area of instruction is to develop learners who are resourceful and knowledgeable. These students know how to access information and use various resources to help them learn.
Multiple Means of Action and Expression: The third area of lesson design requires students to "show what they know." However, in most instances there are different ways for students to express what they know and understand and not every students needs to express learning the same way. Students will have choices about how they express themselves, through writing, artwork, digitally, in a presentation, or on a poster. Technology will be embraced as both a tool for communication and as a way to showcase knowledge. Teachers will also consider how to provide different levels of support for different students so that everyone is working at a level of optimum challenge. Finally, teachers will coach students to develop their executive functions, or "soft skills" like goal setting, planning and strategy development, managing materials, and monitoring progress toward a goal. The goal of this area is to develop strategic and goal-directed learners who are able to create a goal they believe in and see that goal to its completion.