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Advanced Instructional Practice Analysis

Project Overview

Project Description

Analyze advanced instructional technologies in practice in a learning context. It’s quite possible, or even likely, that an ensemble of technologies may be used in a certain educational practice. This could be a description of a practice in which you are or have been involved, or plans you have to implement a practice using instructional technologies, or a case study of an interesting practice someone else has applied and that you would find beneficial to research and analyze. Use as many of the theory concepts defined by members of the group in their published Work 1 as you can, with references and links to the published works of the other course participants.

Icon for Universal Design for Learning- Learning for All

Universal Design for Learning- Learning for All

The Educational Challenge

Each learner comes to school with a different background, interests, and abilities. Each school has its own standards and curriculum to meet the needs of each learner, but is that actually being achieved? In order for the learner to meet standards and goals set by the teacher and district, they need to be invested and engaged in their own learning. According to a 2013 Gallup survey of more than 600,000 students, "researchers classified 55 percent of students as 'engaged,' 28 percent as 'not engaged,' and 17 percent as 'actively disengaged'" (Blad 2014). This is alarming that almost half of the students in school do not feel engaged in their education. How are they supposed to learn if they aren't engaged?

Students may be disengaged for a variety of reasons. The content could be too hard or too easy, the student may not be interested in the topic or there can be outside reasons that are distracting the student throughout their school day. If the content is not at the level for the student, it can be very frustrating or boring. The teacher needs to find ways to engage all the learners in their classroom.

To build engagement, districts should encourage students to discover and apply their strengths, Gallup says, and teachers should take a differentiated approach to build hope, focusing on what motivates each student as an individual. (Blad 2014)

When planning the curriculum educators need to keep in mind the different strengths of their students. Each student can be successful, but may arrive at that success in different ways. If the teacher provides options for learning, each student can choose the way that works best for them. One way to make sure all the learner needs are met, is to follow the Universal Design for Learning framework.

Universal Design for Learning

"Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a theoretical framework developed by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) to guide the development of curricula that are flexible and supportive of all students. This movement calls for the design of structures that anticipate the needs of individuals with disabilities and accommodate these needs from the onset. Universally designed structures are indeed more usable by individuals with disabilities, but in addition they offer unforeseen benefits for all users" (Hall 2003).

Universal Design for Learning provides students with a curriculum that has been structured in a way that all students can access it. "Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible" (Wikipedia). The teacher makes sure that the methods, materials and assessments are accessible to all learners. "A UDL curriculum takes on the burden of adaptation so that the student doesn't have to, minimizing barriers and maximizing access to both information and learning" (Hall 2003). When the proper preparation has taken place, students should feel comfortable and ready to learn.

There are three main principles for the UDL framework.

These 3 principles parallel 3 fundamentally important learning components and 3 distinct learning networks in the brain: recognition, strategy, and affect. The common recommendation of these 3 principles is to select goals, methods, assessment and materials in a way that will minimize barriers and maximize flexibility (Hall 2003).

The more options and choice the student has, the more likely they are to be successful. The three principles provide the teacher with three main points to keep in mind when planning the curriculum. Here is a video that goes over the three principles.

A breakdown of the three principles of UDL (Hall 2003):

1) To support diverse recognition networks:

  • Provide multiple examples
  • Highlight critical features
  • Provide multiple media and formats
  • Support background context

2) To support diverse strategic networks:

  • Provide flexible models of skilled performance
  • Provide opportunities to practice with supports
  • Provide ongoing, relevant feedback
  • Offer flexible opportunities for demonstrating skill

3) To support diverse affective networks:

  • Offer choices of content and tools
  • Offer adjustable levels of challenge
  • Offer choices of rewards
  • Offer choices of learning context

As the teacher there are three main parts that we need to keep in mind: how is the information presented, how will the students show they have learned, and what options do the students have when learning. The diverse recognition networks are the different representations or how the information is presented. A teacher can make sure to support these diverse recognition networks by connecting to the background knowledge of their students. Once they have connected to their background knowledge, the teacher can present the students with different options of how to learn the material- reading a piece of text, listening to an audio recording, or watching a video clip. There wouldn't be different lessons that needed to be planned, just a variety of resources that students would need to have access to for learning.

To support diverse strategic networks, the teacher can provide students with different ways of expressing their learning and to give them feedback along the way. After learning about a topic, students could show their learning through a presentation, a paper, a visual display, or through a movie. The teacher or other peers could provide feeback on the work created. For support for diverse affective networks, the teacher provides choices when completing work and when setting goals. Through teacher and student collaboration, students can sets goals for various skills that they need to acquire and choose the method for learning that best meets their needs.

The Educational Technology

Technology is one way that educators can implement UDL. The 3 principles for UDL require the content to be flexible and adaptable for the learners. Digital content provides the teacher with the option to adapt the content for each learner. Each of the 3 principles lends itself to different uses for technology.

Principle 1- To support recognition learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation.

Theory Practice
Provide multiple media and formats
  • Differentiated instruction
  • This work from Jessica Roberts, explains the various pieces of technology that students can use to meet their different learning styles. It gives an example for students who struggle with reading, have the option for listening to an audio version of the book. It discusses Vgotsky's multiple intelligences theory and the resources that support each intelligence. These resources provide the teacher with different websites that can be used to meet the needs of all learners with different modalities as well.
Support background context
  • Concept mapping
  • Kaitlin Fajks explored concept mapping in her work. With concept mapping, students are adding new content to their prior knowledge. They are using a visual hierarchy to organize new information. This allows for better comprehension of the content. 

Principle 2- To support strategic learning, provide mutiple, flexible methods of expression and apprenticeship.

Theory Practice
Provide ongoing, relevant feedback
  • Peer feedback
  • In the work completed by Brittney Joyce, she discusses the the importance of feedback and more specifically peer feedback. She highlighted many resources that allow students to submit their work online to then have it reviewed by peers. When students are reviewing the work of their classmates they are helping their classmate with their work, but also improving their own as well. After reviewing the work of a peer, the student may have more of an insight into their own ideas. By allowing students to give each other feedback, they are able to receive feeback more frequently. The teacher can also add feedback and monitor student interactions. 

Principle 3- To support affective learning, provide multiple, flexible options for engagement.

Theory Practice
Offer choices of content and tools
  • Learning Management Systems
  • Sarah Mohrfeld talks about how the Learning Management System (LMS) is more than just a way to distribute information. It allows for the teacher to monitor the progress of their students as well. Just offering choices for students is helpful to meet their needs, but we also need to make sure it is working. By using a LMS, the teacher now has some data as to how the student choices are working for them. After time the teacher might help a student make better choices in how they learning using some of the data from a LMS.
Offer adjustable levels of challenge
  • Games in Education
  • In my work about games in education, I looked at different ways to engage learners. When teaching a variety of students it can be challenging to meet all of their needs but games in education allows for different levels of learning. When a student reaches the goal they get to move on to the next level. If they do not meet the goal, they get additional practice time with the level. 

UDL in Practice

Neil Lindeman is a professor at San Francisco State University in a technical writing course. He uses UDL to meet the needs of all of his learners. He has incorporated more technology into his own teaching in class and has added a website where students can learn outside of class. The website provides students with resources and other methods of representations. During class, Neil has incorporated powerpoints, videos, and student discussions to help meet the needs of his students. Here are some video clips that explain his changes and the student reactions to the UDL framework.

Here is an overview of what Neil has done with his students. Overview of UDL with Neil Lindeman 

Neil's Case Story:

Here Neil describes the multiple delivery methods:

Neil's students provided feedback to his change to UDL in these two short videos

Here is another examples where this professor from CSU Northridge, goes into detail of different learning styles and how those differences are incorporated into the UDL framework. He starts with an example to decide what type of learner you are and then moves on to give options of how to show student learning depending on the student's strength. Teachers can use these ideas to allow student choice in demonstration their learning or expression. The students from the videos provide their feedback into how these different methods help them to learn. 

Here is the overview of the module Name It, 'Xlpain it, Frame It, Game It

 Here is the Name It video.

'Xplain It is the traditional lecture format.

Frame It allows for students to expression their learning in a visual way.

Game It allows student who learn best by being active to show their learning.

The CAST website has several resources that further explain how UDL can be used in the classroom. There are case studies and videos that show additional examples of UDL. 

The Center for Universal Design in Education provides precollege teachers and students with a variety of resources to help incorporate UDL in their classrooms as well. 

There are also templates out there at help when planning for UDL. With the template, it allows the teacher to create an at a glance plan sheet that highlights the different skills that students will be working on and how to make sure that all students will be successful. Here is a sample template.

Critical Reflection


  • Meets the needs of all students.
  • Students are given multiple modalities to access the content.
  • Gives students the opportunity of choice in assessment.
  • Minimizes the barriers for student learning.
  • Additional student exposure to technology.


  • More teacher prep and planning is necessary.
  • Smaller class sizes might be necessary to meet all of the student needs.
  • Access to technology is necessary for all students to participate to the full potential.
  • More time is required to teach and assess each student individually.
  • Teachers must shift away from traditional resources.
  • Additional training or coursework may be needed to better prepare the teachers.
  • School will have to acquire more equipment and possibly bandwidth to support all of the computer usage.

Even with all of the weaknesses above, I still think the strengths out weigh the possible weaknesses. The students would be receiving a better educational experience if the time was taken to make sure their needs were met and they had some flexibility in their learning. The teachers could work together to plan lessons to help make it more managable to implement. There also might need to be some compromises made at the beginning of the implementation of UDL. Teachers may need to share resources to make it possible. At the beginning, teachers may only be able to fully use UDL for a couple subjects and it could grow over time to include all of them as the resources are available. Students getting the opportunity to have authentic and meaningful learning experiences makes the creative preparations worth it.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Universal Design for Learning has some powerful benefits but it's not without some work. To fully adopt UDL teachers will have to have an open mind in how to implement the content and how to use technology. "Before teachers can implement UDL effectively, they may need to learn a different way of looking at their students and the materials that they use in the classroom" (Hall 2003). Teachers will need to be more creative in how students will be learning to insure that all students needs are met. More challenges include: "shifting away from traditional views of intelligence and traditional reliance on print media, the challenge of acquiring and mastering new technology, and the challenge of garnering support from the school system" (Hall 2003). Traditionally, teachers were taught to teach to the middle and make changes to the cirriculum to meet the needs of the students above and below. Teachers need to change their thinking, so that from the beginning they are trying to think of many ways to get to the same end goal. This mentality will allow for a variety of resources to be added to the cirriculum and will make the content accessible for everyone. The teacher will still have the end result in mind, but now there is more than one way to get there.

One step to implementing this change to UDL is taking within your school. When teachers are invested in the same goal, great things will happen. I don't know a teacher who does not want their students to be successful, getting teachers invested in the process is the first step. Once that has occurred, the teachers can work together to find ways to make all learning free of barriers for their students. This learning framework is still new and will continue to improve and evolve as more teachers are taking the first steps to implementation.

At this point, there are more benefits that drawbacks when using UDL. "The idea is for students to have multiple means of engaging in assignments and activities that interest them while satisfying their personal and professional needs for learning about communications, as well as meeting the course objectives" (Morra 2010). The teacher is required to make changes to meet the needs of their students, but the students will benefit from individualized learning. When students are receiving individualized learning oppportunties and have some choice in their learning, they will likely be more engaged in their learning. Students who are engaged in their learning will develop habitats that will lead to lifelong learning.

Works Cited

Blad, E. (2014, April 9). More Than Half of Students 'Engaged' in School, Says Poll. Education Week.

Hall, T., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2003). Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum.

Morra, T., & Reynolds, J. (2010). Universal Design for Learning: Application for Technology-Enhanced Learning. The Journal of the Virginia Community Colleges.