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Effects of Training in Universal Design for Learning on Lesson

Effects of Training in Universal Design for Learning on Lesson

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Volume 28,Number 2,March/April 2007,Pages 108–116 
Effects of Training in Universal Design forLearning on Lesson Plan Development
he effects of training in Universal Design for Learning(UDL) on lesson plan development of special and general educa-tors in a college classroom environment were investigated. A trueexperimental group design with a control group was used for thisstudy. A one-hour teacher training session introduced UDL to theexperimental group; the control group received the interventionlater. A three-factor analysis of variance with repeated measureswas completed for each of the dependent variables (i.e., UDLlesson plan). Differences were found between pretest and posttestmeasures for both treatment groups for special education andgeneral education teachers. The results suggest that a simpleintroduction to UDL can help teachers to design a lesson planaccessible for all students.
Act (IDEA; 1997) and its most recent revision,the Individu-als with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA;2004),have suggested that research has found that all stu-dents with disabilities must be held to high expectations andmust be ensured access to the same general education cur-riculum taught to students without disabilities to the maxi-mum extent possible. Yet
they have to access the generalcurriculum has been unclear,especially for students with sig-nificant disabilities (Browder et al.,2005). Throughout thepast 2 decades,the field of special education has debated thepros and cons of including students with disabilities in gen-eral education classrooms (Huber,Rosenfeld,& Fiorello,2001; McLeskey,Waldron,So,Swanson,& Loveland,2001;Polloway & Bursuck,1996). On the one hand,studies haveshown that students with mild to moderate disabilities (Blum,Lipsett,& Yocom,2002; Waldron & McLeskey,1998; Witzel,Mercer,& Miller,2003) and students with severe disabilities(Burns,Storey,& Certo,1999; Kennedy,Shukla,& Fryxell,1997; McDonnell,Mathot-Buckner,Thorson,& Fister,2001;Mu,Siegel,& Allinder,2000) have been successfully includedin general education classrooms. On the other hand,parents,teachers,and support associations have continued to voiceconcerns that exceptional students’needs are not always metin inclusive settings (Mancini & Layton,2004; McLeskey,Henry,& Axelrod,1999; Praisner,2003). In particular,con-cerns have largely focused on meeting students’needs throughadaptations or modifications of the general education cur-riculum and instruction.Researchers and advocates of inclusion have claimedthat individualized instruction is the quintessential guide tomodifying the curriculum for all students. In this model,it istypically special education teachers who are responsible for reducing curriculum capacity and teaching remedial skills,often outside the general education classroom. When Ryn-dak,Jackson,and Billingsley (2000) asked experts in thefield of severe disabilities to define inclusion,one definitionthey provided was to collaboratively plan,implement,andevaluate instruction that is integrated through the generaleducation instruction that meets the need of each student.Through a triangulation process across 19 studies,Hunt andGoetz (1997) found that curricular adaptation as a vital com-
ponent for effective inclusion was one of the six themes thatran across the studies.Other researchers have suggested that one reason for thepotential failure of students with disabilities in general edu-cation settings is related to lesson plan development. For example,Schumm and Vaughn (1995) found that althoughteachers viewed accommodations as advantageous for all stu-dents,they were unable to modify their instruction due totime constraints,classroom management,and differing achieve-ment levels of students. They also suggested that many gen-eral education teachers are uncertain of what inclusion entailsand doubt their ability to teach students with disabilities. Inthe area of severe disabilities,Smith (2000) found that teach-ers did not feel they have the proper training or preparation toinclude students. Cawley,Foley,and Miller (2003) acknowl-edged that lack of teacher education and limited trainingwithin university teacher preparation programs could be a pos-sible explanation for deficiencies in curriculum modifications.
One possible solution to assist special and general educationteachers in developing lesson plans that accommodate a di-verse student population is called Universal Design for Learn-ing (UDL). UDL,designed by the Center for Applied SpecialTechnology (CAST; 1998),uses flexible instructional materi-als and methods to accommodate a variety of learning differ-ences (Orkwis,2003). UDL was first derived when CASTestablished the National Center on Accessing the GeneralCurriculum (NCAC; 1999). NCAC was a 5-year,federallyfunded program that was committed to improve general cur-riculum access for students with disabilities. NCAC’s fund-ing was terminated in 2004; however,its achievements arecarried on today at CAST. CAST’s Web site describes UDLas a “blueprint for creating flexible goals,methods,materials,and assessments that accommodate learner differences”(CAST,1998,¶ 2). This instructional application extends theearly principles of 
universal design
from architecture,whereeasily accessible structures (e.g.,cut-away curbs,captions ontelevisions,automotive doors) were created to accommodatea variety of users (Burgstahler,2001) to actively participate ineveryday activities.IDEIA (2004) recognizes the term
universal design
ac-cording to Section 3 of the Assistive Technology Act (1998).The act states that universal design “is a concept or philoso-phy for designing and delivering products and services thatare usable by people with the widest possible range of func-tional capabilities,which include products and services thatare directly usable (without requiring assistive technologies)and products and services that are made usable with assistivetechnologies”(pp. 8–9).Similar to the guidelines of architects,UDL introducesthe notion that teachers should plan instructional supports atthe beginning of lesson planning,instead of modifying mate-rials as an afterthought (Hitchcock,2001). The UDL modelintroduces educators to three components for overcomingbarriers that are particularly presented within the general ed-ucation classroom:representation,expression,and engage-ment (CAST,1998).
refers to modifications that can be madeto classroom materials that would make them more accessi-ble to students with disabilities (e.g.,modified books,largeprint,digital text). The second component,
,desig-nates alternate methods of communication for students withlimited speech (e.g.,use of augmentative devices,computers,graphic programs). This second component explains how stu-dents can express themselves by answering questions andcommunicating within the classroom setting. The third com-ponent,
,designates the use of strategies that in-volve students with disabilities in the learning process (e.g.,providing repetition,familiarity,opportunities to respond). Toencourage engagement for all students,the curriculum needsto provide flexible alternatives.Much of the UDL literature provides basic descrip-tions of UDL principles and components and suggestions onhow to implement them (Hitchcock,2001; Hitchcock,Meyer,Rose,& Jackson,2002; Rose,2001). Some researchers (e.g.,O’Connell,2001; Rose & Dolan,2000) have focused on ex-amining current limitations of traditional teaching practicesand providing alternative methods for emphasizing a broader curriculum access for students with disabilities. Other re-searchers (e.g.,Orkwis,2003; Rose & Meyer,2002) exam-ined the role of pragmatic classroom settings and teachers’perceptions of instructional accommodations.With the present emphasis on scientific research in edu-cation and special education (Odom et al.,2005; Shavelson &Towne,2002; Spooner & Browder,2003),it is essential to de-velop experimental studies that provide the educational com-munity with evidence-based practices. Although there hasbeen some documented success with students with disabili-ties in the general curriculum (e.g.,Kennedy et al.,1997; Mc-Donnell et al.,2001),there is a lack of scientific investigationon the feasibility,application,or use of UDL.The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of teacher training about UDL on the lesson plan designs of spe-cial education and general education teachers in a collegeclassroom setting. It was reasoned that before UDL can havea profound impact on teaching and learning,there must beevidence that teachers can learn to use it in planning instruc-tion for students with disabilities.
Participants were 72 graduate and undergraduate students en-rolled in four education classes (i.e.,two special educationclasses and two general education classes) in a southeasternuniversity. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 58 years,
Volume 28,Number 2,March/April 2007
with a mean age of 33 years. There were 55 (76%) womenand 17 (24%) men. Sixty (83%) of the participants wereEuropean American,9 (13%) were African American,and3 (4%) indicated other ethnicities. Twenty-one (29%) of theparticipants were working toward a bachelor’s degree,and 51(71%) of the participants were working toward a master’s de-gree. Forty-one (57%) of the participants were special educa-tion students,and 31 (43%) were general education students.Further demographics showed that 13 (18%) of the partici-pants had never written a lesson plan,63 (87%) were unfa-miliar with UDL,and none of the participants had written alesson plan considering the concepts of UDL. The partici-pants who had not written a lesson plan were in the specialeducation class,representing approximately a quarter of theclass (24%). Furthermore,the special education class hadmore participants with UDL knowledge (17%) than the gen-eral education class (3%).
The participants gave their informed consent and volunteeredto take part while enrolled in two special education classesand two general education classes at a southeastern univer-sity. The courses used were General Curriculum Access,In-structional Planning of Lesson Plans,Middle-Grade ScienceMethods,and Middle-Grade Math Methods. These courseswere chosen based on the following criteria:(a) course ob- jectives,(b) number of students in the classroom,and (c) per-tinence of the topic to the class. The courses’objectives wereconsidered so that there would not be a discrepancy betweenthe intervention and the material that was required under thecourse title. The number of students in the classroom wasconsidered adequate to provide power to the study. Finally,the four courses were considered appropriate if a class meet-ing was scheduled in their syllabus to discuss instructionalaccommodations. All of these courses had lectures plannedthat were related to this study,with one course (i.e.,GeneralCurriculum Access) having a lecture on UDL.
Participants in each of the four classes were randomly as-signed to either the treatment group or the control group. Ineach of the four courses,after the pretest,the participantsplaced their names into a hat. Names were then chosen fromthe hat to determine whether the participants were in the con-trol group or in the treatment group. On the following classmeeting,those chosen for the control group came to class onehour later than those in the treatment group. The interventionconsisted of a 1-hour lecture on UDL conducted by one of the co-investigators of the study. The control group receivedthe UDL lesson after completion of the posttest. One of theclassroom instructors’videotaped the 1-hour UDL interven-tion for the control group students to watch later in the se-mester,whereas the other three instructors repeated the UDLlesson to the control group. The same set of instructional ma-terials (i.e.,PowerPoint slides) was used for each presentation.The intervention was a 1-hour classroom presentationon how to modify lesson plans for students with severe andmild disabilities using the three components of UDL. Thepresentation consisted of an introduction to the three princi-ples of UDL and training on how to incorporate these princi-ples into daily lesson planning. The introduction to UDLincluded a description of the individual components thatmake up universal design according to CAST. For example,visual cues,such as re
ment (i.e.,underlining and putting key words into boldlettering),were given to allow participants a strategy to re-member using UDL concepts in developing their own lessonplans. As the UDL concept of re
ation includes devel-oping innovative approaches in presenting materials to stu-dents,it was important for participants to remember the term
.To begin implementing daily lessons involving UDLconcepts,participants were provided with explicit examplesof how students with disabilities may be included in the gen-eral curriculum. This was done through the use of a casestudy (see Figure 1) with a given set of state competencies,including math,language arts,and science goals that were tobe addressed. Participants were given various examples of modifying instruction using several types of augmentativedevices (e.g.,individual prerecorded response pads,leveledcommunication boards) and modified books (e.g.,novelsadapted using Boardmaker™symbols). Participants werethen asked to come up with their own examples. In the cul-minating step,participants,along with the presenter,workedtogether in developing a universally designed lesson plan(using the pretest case study) that incorporated all three com-ponents of UDL. Once the intervention had taken place,par-ticipants completed a posttest. The posttest involved a newlyconstructed case study,including both (a) a different studentwith disabilities and (b) a variety of state competencies thatshould be addressed.
Participants taking the special edu-cation coursework were given a case study of a student witha severe disability,whereas the participants in the general ed-ucation math courses were given a case study that focused ona student with a mild cognitive disability (e.g.,a learning dis-ability or dyslexia). The case study consisted of a general de-scription of the student’s strengths and interests and threegeneral education curriculum goals,one each in the subjectareas of language arts,math,and science (see Figure 1 for anexample). The participants were asked to create a lesson planfocusing on the components of universal design for one gen-eral curriculum goal as a means to include a student with adisability into the general education classroom. A compara-ble novel case study was created for the posttest.A basic lesson plan format was created to include ob- jective,materials,procedure,guided practice,independent
Volume 28,Number 2,March/April 2007

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