Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Diversity from A-Z! Chapter 1 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis

Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536

What is Diversity?

     This chapter starts us off by looking at the concept of diversity and what it looks like in the classroom. A quick Google search defines diversity as:
When you ask a teacher to think of their classroom(s) they could probably make a multi-page list of all of the different ways in which their classroom is diverse. Even when you have a one-grade classroom that, from outside perspective, appears relatively homogeneous, it is full of diverse learners that we work everyday to address. Katz does a great job of summarizing this on page 3 of chapter 1,

     "Diversity is neurological. Diversity is societal. Diversity is human.
      Teaching to diversity requires that teachers create a learning climate
      in the classroom and devise activities that allow all children to feel
      safe, respected, and valued for what they have to contribute."
     - Page 3

Diversity & Social and Emotional Learning

- Shift towards inclusive education of the past few years
- Classroom climates need to be built upon compassion, community, and understanding
- At the same time, curriculum requirements are growing
- Students enter the classroom with various levels of social-emotional states and
  we must be prepared to teach and nurture that aspect of their lives, in addition to
  the academic curriculum

Social Inclusion & Social Exclusion

- Inclusion = all students have opportunities to learn, grow, and belong
- Aboriginal schools typically receive less funding
- Students with disabilities often spend time outside of the classroom

- Laidlaw Foundation 5 Criteria for Successful Social Inclusion
     1 ) Valued Recognition
          - Giving credit where credit is due
     2 ) Human Development
          - Supporting specific talents & interests of others to recognize
             that they can make a positive difference in the world around them
     3 ) Involvement & Engagement
          - Being involved, and having a voice in, decisions occurring around them
     4 ) Proximity
          - Sharing of social spaces
     5 ) Material Well-Being
          - Available material resources for full participation

- On page 7, it mentions that, "...working on a modified program in a regular classroom
  ... is not real inclusion." This part confuses me because I have two students in my
  Grade 8 room that are on a modified program (approx. Kindergarten level) and I feel
  like they are included in what we do... what would true inclusion look like for them if
  this is not it?

Diversity & Academic Complexity

- Meeting the academic needs of all of our students at the same time can be challenging
- In the past (and sometimes still):
     - Lower-level learners spend most of their time on rote-worksheet activities
       with an EA rather than more time with a qualified teacher
     - Higher-level learners are fast-tracked or placed in enrichment programs that
       are intellectually stimulating but socially isolating
- How come we tend to place our low-level students with an EA when our high-level
  students can often grasp content without a lot of teacher support (they don't need us!)

Academic Inclusion & Academic Exclusion

- Inclusion = all students are enrolled in close schools, are responsibility of the classroom
  teacher, and are all provided with an opportunity, regardless of outside factors
- Exclusion = enrolment denial, tailored academic exposure, time away from specific
  staff, time away from peers
- How do you teach a math class where some students are factoring trinomials and others
  are learning to recognize their numbers from 0-100?


What is the biggest diversity challenge you have to overcome in your classroom?

What does true inclusion look like when students cognitive ability places them 8 grades lower than their peer group?

Please leave your thoughts below :)

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