Report: Collaborative program making classrooms more inclusive

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CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Education and CAST, a nonprofit that works on transforming educational design and practices, have released a report about the first year of the state’s new Universal Design for Learning Innovation Network. The three-year program is designed to equip educators to build a culture in schools that is inclusive to all learners. Via meetings, workshops, site visits, and online presentations, CAST and the NH DOE challenged the standard webinar model by getting participants to tackle UDL principles – multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression – in their own settings.

Frank Edelblut, the commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Education, said the report shows a groundbreaking collaboration between organizations and educators that would empower teachers to expand individualized learning around the state.

“Part of moving our education system into the 21st Century successfully means that we need to invest in our educators and equip them for the personalized learning environment we are creating so that all students can achieve bright futures,” he noted. “When we gathered the teachers together, it was important to change the way we engaged them. If we are asking them to walk away from a ‘stand and deliver’ approach, we certainly could not expect them to be challenged if we gave them a ‘sit and receive’ presentation.”

For the first year, teams of educators, administrators, and officials worked with CAST to capture program designs, participate in professional development, and explore opportunities. During the next year, teachers and others will use the framework to create interactive learning environments, which is immensely important to forming personalized learners. In the third year, specialists will build on best practices and strategies, and share them with others around the state, to improve student outcomes.

As part of the report, surveys about UDL strategies revealed a deeper understanding for the need to think about instructional design to reach more learners, according to Mary Lane, an education consultant with the NH DOE.

“The UDL principles address student variability and the barriers to learning upfront in order to provide personalized learning for all students,” said Lane. “It’s instilling a growth mindset for educators to design curriculum, the environment of the classroom, and the school culture itself, with the child in mind.”

View the New Hampshire Universal Design for Learning Innovation Network report at the top of this post.

To understand how UDL can help create an inclusive classroom, view this video by Greg Amend, a NH DOE UDL scholar and literature teacher at SAU 60: