TIES Lessons for All: 5-15-45

What is UDL About the 5-15-45 Tool?

The 5-15-45 tool supports educators to implement UDL. What may not be easy to notice is that the 5-15-45 tool was developed using UDL.

What does it mean to use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to develop a tool?

UDL is a framework that guides the design of learning environments so they are accessible, usable, and engaging from the start. UDL is not added on at the end, but is used throughout the design process to make sure that the needs of all learners are met.

Using UDL to design the 5-15-45 tool, the CAST and TIES Center teams:

  • Defined the goal for the 5-15-45 tool.
  • Empathized with users to identify barriers.
  • Used CAST’s UDL Guidelines to provide multiple means of Engagement, Representation, and Action & Expression to address those barriers and to support the users.

Define the Goal

The overarching goal of the 5-15-45 tool is to support educators, especially general and special educators, to collaborate to make their lessons more inclusive for all learners. This includes those with significant cognitive disabilities. As we developed this tool, we kept this goal at the center of our decision making process.

Empathize with the Users to Identify Barriers

We worked to understand our target users. For example,

  • We developed personas that represented different educators who might use our tool. This helped us understand the needs they have, challenges they face, and how our tool might support those needs.
  • We hosted focus groups to gain feedback from the educators who would use our tool. With these focus groups, we were able to test our assumptions and make sure we were developing a tool that would be useful and supportive.

We dug deep into those focus groups and used the voice of the educators to guide design. This process was also important to help us develop the tone, language, and vocabulary on the site. It helped us be more intentional about the supplemental resources and examples we made available.

To design for the full range of users, it is vital to explore the edges of that variability. Bringing more perspectives to the discussion is important - and is essential for designing with UDL.

From the focus groups, we uncovered challenges our users faced to collaborate to make their lessons more inclusive. This understanding of barriers was central to our process.

We learned that educators faced barriers in terms of:

  • Time. Teachers described that it was challenging to find time to collaborate to make lessons more inclusive. They wanted resources to be organized efficiently, even if they only had 5 minutes between classes, 15 minutes after school, or 45 minutes of prep time.
  • Resources. Teachers shared how many resources are currently designed in a “one size fits all” way that does not support the diverse needs of their students. They wanted the 5-15-45 tool to provide a better understanding of how to collaborate to support redesigning resources to meet more students' needs.
  • Emotion. Teachers felt unsure about starting co-planning discussions with colleagues they didn’t know well. They wanted templates and prompts that would kickstart these collaborative discussions.

Use the UDL Guidelines

Understanding the barriers teachers faced allowed us to be strategic in how we applied CAST’s UDL Guidelines throughout the tool. It helped us add options into the 5-15-45 tool to support the needs of general and special educators.

We designed these options over multiple years as we developed the tool. With each design iteration, we asked ourselves and the educators in our focus groups how the options were supporting their needs and aligned with the goal of our tool.

Here are some of the options that were developed into the tool (the UDL checkpoints are emphasized in bold):

Multiple Means of Engagement
  • Optimize individual choice: Educators have the option to choose the time they have to collaborate (5, 15, or 45 minutes). Even with just 5 minutes of time, there are protocols to support collaboration to make lessons more inclusive.
  • Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity: Educators can choose the lesson they want to design.
  • Minimize threats and distractions: We included images and examples from a wide range of educators from diverse backgrounds and experiences so educators could feel represented in the tool.
  • Heightens the salience of goals and objectives: At the top of every page, there is a statement which indicates the goal or purpose of that page. This is so that no matter where you are within the tool, you know what you are working to achieve.
  • Foster collaboration and community: From the get-go, there is the encouragement to “grab your collaborative partner” to support connections between educators. There are even sample emails to advocate for common planning time.
  • Provide mastery-oriented feedback: There are success indicators to help collaborative partners check-in on their progress. We hope these success indicators promote expectations and beliefs that educators can do this, wherever they are in their comfort with inclusive design.
Multiple Means of Representation
  • Options to customize the display of information: The tool protocols and resources can be printed or used on digital platforms.
  • Text can be read aloud and every image has alt text, providing alternatives for auditory and visual representation. There are transcripts and audio options for the examples.
  • To help clarify syntax and structure, we worked to not overwhelm a page with crowded text. We used a serif font for headings to create a hierarchy of information that visitors can scan. We used a conversational tone in the language. Our focus groups showed us where to remove unnecessary jargon and add more background information.
  • Illustrate content through multiple media and to promote understanding: There is both a visual and text option that is used to orient educators to where they are in the content.
  • We used bold text to emphasize key ideas and organized key ideas in a table to highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, relationships.
  • There is a progress bar and tables to help guide information processing and visualization. The tables have proper headings and accessibility formatting.
Multiple Means of Action & Expression
  • The 5 minute protocol sets the foundation for collaboration. Then, the 15 and 45 minute collaboration builds on that foundation. To build fluencies with graduated levels of support, there is the option for educators to go beyond 45 minute timing if they choose.
  • We encouraged multiple media for communication, such as to use email, Zoom, or meet live.
  • We provided a sample team protocol and agenda. We offered guiding questions and success indicators to enhance capacity for monitoring progress.
  • To support planning and strategy development, there are model examples of educators who used the tool. This provided a realistic vision of what the collaboration sessions may entail.

Collaboration is at the heart of UDL. As we continue to develop the 5-15-45 tool, we will revisit this UDL process to: focus on goals, collaborate with users to understand barriers, and use the UDL Guidelines to incorporate options to support the widest range of educators.

Ultimately, the 5-15-45 tool was intentionally designed to provide an experience that is accessible, usable, and engaging from the start for all. We hope the options continue to support educators to collaborate to design inclusive lessons for each and every learner.

Do you have suggestions on how to improve the 5-15-45 tool? Please connect with us to let us know your goals and needs.