The principles of Universal Design for Learning include engagement, representation, and action and expression. These principles lead us to think about 1) how we engage our students and sustain their interest and persistence, 2) how we ensure our instruction is accessible, helps us connect with students and improves their understanding, and 3) how we support students to show their learning in multiple ways that are connected to the goals of the lesson and students’ individual goals.
Engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, reduces behavioral problems, and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Engagement has long been regarded as a predictor of achievement and cognitive engagement is the ultimate outcome of a student’s ability to concentrate on a task and to persist despite challenges.
Teacher clarity occurs when the teacher decides on learning intentions and success criteria, makes them transparent to students, and demonstrates them by modeling. The teacher checks for understanding, and at the end of each lesson revisits what was covered and ties it all together. Much of student learning is not possible without clarity, as clarity informs planning, assessment, and feedback.
Student assessment is the process of evaluating students’ abilities and achievements. Feedback informs a student and/or teacher about the student’s performance relative to learning goals and redirects teacher and student actions so the student can align effort and activity with a clear outcome that leads to achieving a learning goal. Assessment and feedback are ongoing daily activities in every classroom and are integral to effective teaching.
Metacognitive strategies teach students to think about their own thinking. When students become aware of the learning process, they gain control over their learning.
Differentiated teaching incorporates methods teachers use to extend the knowledge and skills of every student in every class, regardless of their starting point. The objective is to lift the performance of all students, including those who are falling behind and those ahead of year level expectations.
In order to be effective instructional leaders, teachers must support the social, intellectual, and physical structure of the classroom. Taking a proactive approach to building relationships between the teacher and students, among students, and between the teacher and parents ensures that students participate in a learning community based on mutual respect and caring. Students whose learning needs are being met are likely to feel competent and a part of the positive and safe classroom community and, therefore, much less likely to exhibit problem behaviors and more likely to ask for help when they need. Good classroom management strategies increase student achievement, improve classroom culture and climate, provide a safe and welcoming learning environment, and prevent both learning and behavior challenges.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, skills and dispositions necessary to understand and regulate emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL is inclusive of research-based practices such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, Multi-Tiered System of Supports, Restorative Justice, Character Education and Trauma Invested practices.
Culturally responsive pedagogy is a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students' unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student's cultural place in the world.
Collective efficacy is evident when teachers see themselves as part of a team working together for their students. When educators believe in their collective ability to lead the improvement of student outcomes, higher levels of achievement result.