Week 6

October 15, 2021 3 By Allison Preble

This week I focused my time researching student perspectives from outside Durham Academy. My favorite topic I read about was universal design. Universal design is when teachers design their course, instruction and materials, course work, instruction and materials so that all students, no matter their learning style, can achieve. One article I read says, ” Universal design provides a powerful, tacit message—student diversity is now the norm, not the exception.” I really loved this quote. The idea that there is a way for teachers to create lesson plans that reach all different types of students with neuro-diversities is an exciting and hopeful idea.

The most compelling article I found examined 38 other papers about universal design. This analysis highlighted three inclusive practices that could address some of the concerns students cited in my student survey:

Backward design: Setting the educational goals for the class first and then developing multiple means of instruction for students to reach these goals.

Multiple means of presentation for course content: Skill or content understanding may be shown by students through different mediums. For example, in order to test a student’s proficiency of Bastille Day, a teacher could give students the option to write an essay, create a slideshow, or present a speech. Comfort was a key theme in my student survey. I had one student talk about how difficult it was to participate in class discussions. They had the right ideas, but could never share them because of their performance anxiety. Perhaps if this student could choose their most comfortable means of presentation, their teacher would better see their understanding.

Instructor approachability and empathy: While approachability is subjective, teachers classroom policies can create an open and inclusive environment for all students to feel comfortable. For example implementing extra time to meet with students, allowing assistive technology, and kicking off the year with caring and inclusive statements are three examples that could help students feel at ease. Students at Durham Academy echoed these ideas. One student said that when their teachers try to understand them on a personal level they feel more comfortable in class.

As I go into this next week, I plan to start preparing for my interview process.