In Universal Design for Learning, lessons are planned from the outset to include all learners without exception. In classrooms that follow a UDL framework, a single lesson is designed to include everyone, even those who are significantly delayed and follow modified or individualized curricula. But how do we do that? How can we design a single lesson that appeals to students with delays, our highest achievers, and everyone in between?
"Same task, different goals"
I recently read The Role of the Resource Teacher in the Three Block Model of UDL by Jennifer Katz. She uses the phrase "same task, different goals" to explain how to include students with significant disabilities in a universally designed classroom. She tells a story about how she and the classroom teacher worked together to include a boy named Sam in a grade 12 pre-calculus class. Sam has Down syndrome was only able to work with numbers up to 20 and was following a modified curriculum that focused on life skills, so the idea of meaningfully including him in such an advanced Math class seemed to be a monumental challenge. Slight adjustments were made to the goals on his IEP - to work with numbers up to 30 and to learn how to use a ruler (another life skill). This allowed Sam to participate in a group project in which students surveyed and designed an addition to the school building. The class was focused on completing calculations and designing the building addition, and Sam helped make measurements and draw the blueprint using the ruler to make straight lines with the help of his classmates. These tasks also supported nonacademic goals that were already in his IEP, such as fine motor skills and social skills. Everyone was working toward goals appropriate to their needs while being meaningfully included in a single project.
I loved the story of Sam - and what I took away from it was that through creativity, collaboration between classroom and resource teachers, and a genuine commitment to inclusion, it is possible to create lessons that include all students in any grade or subject area. When it comes to students who follow IEPs, it is a matter of considering ways their individualized goals can be integrated into lessons targeted to students who follow age-appropriate curriculum. A single lesson, task, or learning experience can target many different goals and abilities. "Same task, different goals" is my new mantra.