10 Reasons to Support Inclusive School Communities for ALL Students

5. Use of Best Practices in Instruction

With an increasingly wide range of abilities, interests, and backgrounds in the general student population, educators are beginning to design curricula and provide instruction, materials, and assessments that meet the needs of the widest range of learners from the outset. By working together, educational team members can creatively design grade-level instruction to better meet the needs of all students. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that can be used proactively to help guide practices so that instruction and assessments are presented in ways that permit the widest range of students to access information.

Using UDL, educators can incorporate multiple and flexible means of engagement, representation, and expression in the planning stages of activities and lessons for all students. Then, if additional adaptation is needed, teachers can use Specially Designed Instruction (SDI), which is making specific adjustments based on a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) to further personalize learning. It is important to note that regulations for IDEA state that “a child with a disability is not removed from education in age-appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general education curriculum.” Even if some changes in materials are needed, instruction must be aligned to grade-level content standards.

Both UDL and SDI involve appropriately varying the ways in which individual students go about learning. They may also involve students demonstrating different ways of understanding the main concepts. For example, when learning how to use details in a text as a first step in understanding inferences, students may work with text written at different levels. When the class is studying one text, such as reading a common novel, teachers could provide multiple options for the students to access and understand the novel, such as the traditional text, an interactive novel with text-to-speech and a built in bilingual dictionary, or a graphic novel. SDI might also include adapting the text into a summary with a reduced reading level and having a peer read the passage aloud, and then having the student work with the peer to use a word bank with pictures to fill in a graphic organizer that identifies explicit details. The main concept of finding details in the text as a first step to supporting inferences would be the same for all students, but the instructional approach would differ, and performance expectations may differ. Introducing these types of instruction expands the variety of instructional approaches and results in increased learning for all students.

Professional Development: Design for Each and Every Learner: Universal Design for Learning Modules

Tool: Inclusive Big Ideas: Planning Grade level, Standards-Based Lessons

Article: TIP #23: Supporting the Communication Needs of Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) Users Who are English Learners