School Name: Sands Secondary School
School District: SD#37 Delta
Inquiry Team Members: Joanna MacIntosh firstname.lastname@example.org
Dawn Van Skiver email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus was on implementing Universal Design for Learning into the classroom to help create a more inclusive environment for all learners.
Scanning: We used the four key questions to help guide us on the direction we were going to take in UDL in an English 11 class. We considered the length of time this teacher has been teaching and her comfort level. We started small and gave students options for showing their learning. This was challenging for the teacher because she is used to only accepting written responses. She understood the importance of making the curriculum more accessible for learners, but she found that it was harder to grade and felt that some students may slack off. However, she was willing to try as she cares a lot for the learners and wanted to see if she could improve her teaching.
From the experience of our learners, which was the most important aspect for the team, was that most students found they liked to have a few options. It created access points for more learners. We were surprised that some learners didn’t take advantage of the options and these were the students who would have benefited the most. We were curious why and asked the question of our learners. They were just so stuck on the writing part that they felt that if they drew a picture, they wouldn’t be doing the assignment properly and would be graded differently.
The First Peoples Principles of Learning, by being patient and giving it time — not just for the students, but for the English teacher who has a number of years of experience. This was a very risky thing for her to take on, and she was going outside of her comfort zone. While going through it I think she felt like giving up, but she didn’t.
Focus: The reason I chose this area is because I have worked with learners who have struggled on a daily basis for a number of years. They are referred to as students who have ”learning disabilities”. I really believe that they are not disabled at all, and that we do an injustice to them by saying they are just because they cannot work within a certain structure and time frame. These students have hopes and dreams and are happy outside the school walls, but when they come to school they do not feel successful. They struggle with how we teach and make them show their learning. This saddens me because I know how amazing they are at so many things, and I feel that we crush their motivation. My hope is that we will focus more on the learning than on the curriculum, so all students can feel successful.
Hunch: My practices that have been contributing to the experience of my learners, that have been and still are of concern to me, are that I am the resource room teacher in a high school and we pretty much are always trying to get students “caught up”. It feels like learning is not about the learners or how they learn, but about how we are going to get them through and pass the course. I work with many teachers, all of whom are well meaning and care so much about the learners in front of them, but there is a mindset about “getting through the curriculum” instead focusing on the learning. They are more worried about presenting the curriculum rather than focusing on the actual learning. There are many pressures — pressures getting students ready for the next grade, and getting learners ready for university. It is a difficult switch. I struggled with helping student’s complete assignments when I know they were not getting much from them, yet I know they need to complete the assignment in order to pass. I am happy to see that we are making a shift, slow as it may be. I am hoping that I can be a part of the change, but it takes patience and time.
New Professional Learning: I took a couple of courses on UDL to deepen my learning, so that I could work with teachers to help them understand and have conversations around it. I also have read many books and joined a book club so I could talk to others with the same passions. The course I took at CAST was the most helpful because it used the principles of UDL to teach the course, so I was immersed in it.
Taking Action: The strategy used was to teach Student Services about UDL so we could, as a team, join forces and help teachers implement UDL into their classroom. Unfortunately, not everyone was as passionate as me. I created a self-paced course so that our department (Student Services) could learn all about UDL in their schedules. I felt that there were many access points so anyone could benefit; however, many of them didn’t get past the first module. They were very busy — this year especially, due to covid. It was not a good time to implement this strategy. When I get stressed, I tend to cover it up by pouring myself into my work so I don’t have to deal with stuff — so this wasn’t good for me either. I was a wreck; not myself at all. I didn’t think that covid impacted me, but I do believe it did. I learned that not all people are as passionate about UDL and see the benefits that I see, and that is ok. I learned that I need to listen more and see how I can impact change by listening to what others’ needs are.
Checking: I was somewhat satisfied. I felt it was an up and down challenge all year. Covid impacted many of our learners, both students and teachers. In a non-covid year, I think I could do a better job at making a difference. I went much too fast, and I need to slow down; however, I learned a lot and plan to make some changes next year.
Reflections/Advice: Reflecting on my past year, I would say I have to ask better questions and become more curious about what the needs of the teachers whom I work with are. They are the ones who teach the curriculum; I am the one who sees the results. The results for some struggling learners are not good and I need to make sure that they are listened to. I need to find a way to give both teachers and their learners agency and purpose. I also need to find more people who have the same passions as myself, so I can have conversations with them and see how I can make change in my school.