Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Amidst all of the disruption at school with remote learning, Antrim Elementary School in Antrim, New Hampshire, charges ahead with their UDL learning undaunted. Principal Stephanie Syre-Hager, a long-time UDL devotee, expresses her renewed belief in the power of UDL, saying, “UDL has helped us think flexibly about how to support students during remote learning.”
Antrim, a small rural elementary school, started their UDL journey 2 years ago with a team of teachers, school counselor, and the principal coming together to join the NH UDL Innovation Network. The innovation network is a five year professional learning and UDL implementation effort open to all schools across the state of New Hampshire. Funded by the New Hampshire Department of Education and facilitated by CAST, the network has seen significant growth in its first three years, topping 500 educators from across the state. As the Antrim team was learning about UDL through network conferences, instructional rounds, and online modules, they got word in the middle of the year that they were designated a school in need of improvement. Rather than pulling their attention away from UDL, this spurred Antrim to invest even more in their UDL learning. Over the summer, the UDL team attended the CAST UDL Symposium, Becoming Expert Learners.
In year two, Stephanie organized a second UDL team to participate in the network. The second team, led by Carole Storro, Music and Arts teacher, carved its own unique learning path, focusing on lesson design. They also used the opportunity of instructional rounds to try out co-teaching as a first step to integrating it into regular practice. The first team continued its work and began shifting from learning about UDL to planning for schoolwide implementation. As a first step, they facilitated ongoing UDL learning through staff meetings, making videos to model UDL thinking. As the team facilitator, Asher MacLeod said, “I think giving more examples — videos worked great — and adapting the language so staff can access it better will be something to focus on and will increase buy-in.” They also administered an implementation self-assessment survey with all faculty and staff in an effort to understand their baseline understanding and current practice. As a result of this they identified a need to focus on building an inclusive culture and set a concrete goal of shifting the language they used, understanding and integrating the language of UDL more deeply.
As a next step, both teams together launched a schoolwide book study of UDL Now! by Katie Novak (CAST 2016). Then, the Coronavirus interrupted. Knowing they had a staff with many of their own parental obligations and the daily efforts of facilitating learning for their students, the UDL team came up with flexible opportunities for staff to participate in discussion. They identified barriers and designed options for staff to engage, different ways they could make sense of the book and connect it to their current practice, and lots of ways to participate in the conversation. In addition, they wanted to share their design decisions and their connections to the UDL Guidelines openly. They were using UDL like naturals.
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