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UDL in the staff room - engagement beyond lollies?

Started by Chrissie Butler 27 May 2013 10:20pm () Replies (2)

UDL in the staff roomEngaging colleagues in a staff meeting at the end of a hectic day can feel like the grave yard shift. Heads are full, everyone's a bit weary and can think of a bundle of things they'd rather be doing.

Whoever is leading or facilitating the meeting will often bring lollies or some kind of kai and that's always appreciated.

What else can we do to support engagement and ease/entice colleagues into learning?

Using the UDL principles at the beginning of planning

The UDL principles offer a starting point. They give us an anchor to think about the resources, activities and environments we create. 

I tend to start with a few questions, shaped by my ongoing use of UDL. They are not rocket science, but they have really changed how I think about planning.

Questions to prompt thinking

  • How well do I know everybody in the room?
  • Can I seek out a little more info about what people's passions are outside of work, what motivates them or more stories that connect to their cultural backgrounds?
  • Can I use what I know to craft the content and activities around people's personal interests and experiences?
  • Can I design resources in multiple, flexible media, e.g a digital text version, a diagram, maybe a video?
  • Can I make available some links to background material in case someone wants to check up on a new term or concept?
  • Can I arrange the room so that there will be some flexibility to work in different ways?
  • Can I offer colleagues opportunities to share ideas in different ways?
  • Can I establish at the outset that I both expect and welcome diverse ideas?

UDL graphic frame

Another simple resource I have started to use is the downloadable UDL Graphic Frame below. It outlines the headings within each of the three principles. I just tend to print off a copy and draw all over it or just scribble a rough version on a bit of paper. I often also have the UDL Guidelines with me too.

UDL graphic frame

Using the UDL guidelines in your staff room

  • What do you do already that aligns with UDL?
  • What could be a next step?


  • Roxy Hickman (View all users posts) 20 Sep 2013 4:46pm ()

    Challenging Thinking - The UDL Experiment

    In a recent visit to a school, I approached a staff workshop on UDL in a very different way than I had in the past. My aim was to make it far more interactive, to make people stop and think, and to weave in UDL without it feeling like another new ‘fad’.

    The topic of discussion was around inclusive practice, as this related directly to the inquiries that the staff were undertaking. I decided to put a bit of a different spin on “know your learner” just to stir a bit of discussion around whose perspective we know our learners. I often use the phrase - “step into their shoes” but I don’t think that we ever really do. We know a student in our class has a hearing impairment or a physical disability and we are empathetic to their needs, but do we really understand what they are experiencing on an emotional level?

    I wanted these staff to not attend a staff meeting, or join a discussion, I wanted them to have an experience. One that changed their thinking about the way they work with their kids.

    I introduced the Disability Simulator

    Task 1:

    As I shared some resources about UDL (The background and research of UDL) I gave out “simulated disabilities” to try on. The terribly hard to see glasses, the information page printed in yellow, a pair of earmuffs, my ipod with the lawnmower and my dog barking, a piece of tape to wrap around your writing hand and the horrible scratchy unsharpend pencils. These were all very exaggerated disabilities - simply to make a point!

    I gave the instructions for this first task verbally, expected the team to read from a piece of paper (info that they had no prior understanding of) asked them to write down what they found out, and then may be expected to stand up and share their findings to the whole group.


    As I had hoped the experiment worked 

    Limiting to one mode of instruction, one mode of action and one mode of expression the instant frustration was evident in the participants.

    One participant, who was not allocated a simulated disability keenly wanted to share back to the group what she had understood - until I had her stuff 3 marshmallows in her mouth before she spoke. (Really mean I know!)

    So we didn’t really find out much about UDL here did we.

    The participants described their experience. How they were able to interact with the activity and how it made them feel. 



    Describe your experience

    How did it make you feel?

     Disability Simulator 7 


    Holes in Glasses were covered in tape

    piece of paper looked dirty

    couldn’t tell that there was writing on it

    no point to taking part

    opt out

    Disability Simulator 1

    Info written in yellow


    Finally made out the title but

    couldn’t read text

    was worried

    couldn’t do what others were doing

    couldn’t complete task

    Disability Simulator 2

    Distraction soundtrack 


    didn’t know what was happening

    didn’t know what to do

    didn’t get help

    felt useless

    Disability Simulator 3


    Put on some Earmuffs 


    trying hard to listen

    So focused on trying to listen meant that I missed what the instructions actually were

    felt lost

    not know what to do

    Disability Simulator 4


    preoccupied during whole activity (even the reading as concerned about having to write with other hand

    couldn’t be bothered


    Disability Simulator 5

    Try talking with 3 marshmallows stuffed in your mouth

    excited because was able to understand text but when presenting I was aware of having to make myself clear

    concentrating on speech

    was more determined, but can imagine many wouldn’t be (especially when others were laughing)

    Disability Simulator 6

    Poorly sharpened pencils - you know those really annoying ones

    Felt that I had to write bigger.

    Only wrote 1. 5 lines

    Felt frustrated


    Others in the class who were not allocated a simulated disability 

    Felt very distracted by those who didn’t know what to do. Hard to concentrate


    With time constraints were not willing to help others as they felt they would not get their own work done.

    The feedback from the participants really showed they were starting to think about “knowing your learner” from a new perspective and how it related to what we expect of our students daily. One of the key points was the extra level of concentration needed to “deal with” their disability that they missed the actual instructions or purpose of the activity.

    Task 2:

    I started to introduce some technology - I played a video , but still gave my instructions verbally, and asked them to write their thoughts on paper.

    A little bit less CHAOS this time - a few more participants were able to participate in the activity with a few less frustrations.

    One comment was that when the tank appeared on the screen, the person with the funny glasses had no idea what people were laughing at, and felt like they had missed the joke so didn’t want to ask. The person sitting next to her kindly asked if she wanted to know what had appeared on the screen. They were more accepting of collaborating and sharing as opposed to having to read the text.

    So the point is that technology can help, but it can only do so much if you only use it in one way.    


    The Third and final task I approached in a very different way.

    I provided:

    • The goal for the activity – verbally and written
    • Visual and verbal instructions that were also accessible on the iPad with links to the materials
    • A video with subtitles – that was clarified the vocabulary of UDL
    • Options for sharing their thoughts using a variety of tools – both high tech and low tech
    • Ways to share with others that included beyond the classroom

    Instructions UDL


    We infact did not use the Simulated Disabilities in this activity as I felt the group had come to grips with “being in their shoes” and I wanted them to make the links of what they had experienced with the UDL video.

    Teachers unpack UDL and make links to learning styles - sound file

    This conversation between a group of the participants was really interesting to listen back to. They nailed it when they said:

    “We would have to show them lots of different ways, how to present. You actually have to model how to use the tools first. We have to set it up and teach them the skills, then they have the power to choose what they’re comfortable with. So that they can be empowered, engaged and master it.”

    I came out of this session buzzing! I felt that I had made my point and that the participants had come to their own conclusion why UDL is important for their practice and their students. 


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