from the EDITOR’S desk
The changing demographics of our classrooms require differentiation strategies to ensure all students are working toward the performance expectations outlined in the NGSS (NGSS Lead States 2013; Framework, Appendix D). If we are to be successful, our views on how students learn must change. Amanda Avallone (2018) argued that we need to rid ourselves of the idea that we teach to the average student. Rather, we should provide choice when it comes to facilitating how learners acquire and express their knowledge. We need to break free of the teaching model in which learners acquire and demonstrate their knowledge in the same way.
One resource that you may find useful is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, in which the teacher thoughtfully analyzes the learning environment and plans for all learners by removing barriers to learning. The guiding principles of UDL are engagement, representation, and action and expression. Although the framework was developed for the purpose of meeting the needs of special education students, its guiding principles are applicable to all students. Through UDL, we interest our learners through engagement, provide access to learning through multiple representations, and allow students to express their learning in a variety of ways (CAST 2018). There are a multitude of UDL strategies that can be employed to make learning accessible for all. This issue of Science Scope features a sample of strategies, including immersion into real-world problems, the use of manipulatives, kinesthetic activities, and science that focuses on making a connection to the learner’s culture.
It can be difficult balancing a sometimes overwhelming number of teaching tasks with meeting the needs of all learners. Start by making a connection to your learners. Understand where they are coming from in terms of their learning abilities, their culture, and their social situation. Work with the special education teachers in your school to add strategies to your teaching toolbox. Consider how you can effectively differentiate the content, process, or product for your students. Above all, be flexible and patient with your students and with yourself.
Editor, Science Scope
Avallone, A. 2018, November 18. Ed tech and Universal Design for Learning: Because one size fits none—https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/next_gen_learning/2018/11/universal_design_for_learning_because_one_size_fits_none.html
CAST. 2018. UDL guidelines, version 2.2. http://udlguidelines.cast.org
NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
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