Digital Curricula in Secondary Science: Developing UDL Materials, Envisioning UDL Classrooms

Presenters will discuss the challenges and successes encountered in customizing inquiry science curricula according to the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) and in then enacting those Web-delivered curricula in secondary classrooms. 

Date/Time: 
Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Panel

Presenters will discuss the challenges and successes encountered in customizing inquiry science curricula according to the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) and in then enacting those Web-delivered curricula in secondary classrooms.

It has long been understood that teaching is challenging and that reform-based materials multiply the challenges. Two NSF-supported inquiry curricula, Investigating Our World through Science and Technology (IQWST) and Foundation Science (FS), address instructional challenges through educative features and professional development that support teachers across a range of ability and experience. It is known that students are challenged when classroom practices do not meet their needs or capitalize on their strengths as learners. FS and IQWST address both through engaging adolescents in investigations in which they explore original questions; connect science to their everyday lives; and read, write, and talk science in order to build conceptual understanding.

To these curricula, our collaborative team applied principles of universal design for learning (UDL) and harnessed the affordances of technology to enable an even broader range of students to participate successfully in the scientific enterprise. The project developed an authoring system to support future curriculum developers in creating UDL science materials, and used that tool to create digital versions of an FS ecology unit (high school) and an IQWST chemistry unit (middle school). The Web-based materials encourage participation and support the learning of all students, including those on the margins, by providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression that allow customization to fit learner needs and preferences, while maintaining a focus on curriculum learning goals.

In this session, presenters will share what they have learned in the process of designing UDL science curricula that might be helpful to other developers. However, they will devote the majority of the session to sharing their struggles and successes as they began with inquiry and UDL principles, designed materials accordingly, enacted in classrooms, and realized that while they can, indeed, retrofit curricula not originally designed for a digital environment, the act of providing UDL materials does not ensure a UDL classroom. Presenters experienced well-documented difficulties of enacting technologies in schools, but the more interesting experiences are those that shaped their evolving work with teachers to support them in using the materials effectively. Numerous challenges arose as teachers, with particular expectations of the teaching-learning environment and concomitant classroom management practices, did not use the digital materials in ways that took full advantage of their potential. For example, teachers’ conditioning to want all students to be on the same page at the same time, and to complete tasks at the same pace, conflicts with UDL principles and curriculum design, which allows for and encourages differentiation. Students have options, for example, to use supports that might slow their pace, but deepen their understanding. For many teachers, pacing concerns outweighed learning goals, and problematic use of the digital materials has resulted.

This session should interest those interested in UDL or in developing digital science materials for classroom use. Presenters will share their experiences and solutions, as well as present unresolved questions and issues for discussion among participants. Significant time will be allotted for both Q&A and small-group sharing so that participants learn from one another’s experiences in addition to those of the presenters. 

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