The Connection Between Differentiated Instruction and Universal Design for Learning

In modern times, schooling is becoming more and more developed. Educational institutions use different programs and approaches to teaching future professionals to interest them in their future development. The most popular strategies are differentiated instruction and universal design for learning (DI and UDL). Although both methods share a common goal, the teaching process is pretty different, and this paper will discuss many commonalities.

To begin with, we need to understand what differentiated learning is. First of all, it consists of various techniques that teachers use in the classroom to teach their material better. These can be in multiple ways: group work, individual studies, listening to a text, visual demonstration, presentations with additional information. There are four main components of differentiated teaching that can be modified to have a better effect, namely:

  • Content.
  • Product.
  • Process.
  • Learning environment.

Content can be described as the stuffing itself, the raw material that needs to be helped to be absorbed and understood. A variation on this component is often audio or visual demonstrations of the material, involving close friends of the students in practice so that they can explain it better. At the same time the product is the result of processing the content. The information itself has to be learned and, most importantly, understood. The most common ways to customize a product are to allow people to express their opinion about the product, work in small and large discussion groups, create their product.

A process is an action designed to translate content into a product to help you assimilate and understand the meaning of a subject. It is impossible to make a connection between the material and the students without making some sort of a bridge. That’s was a process is. As with the previous points, the process can be varied, namely different levels of difficulty for each learner, the opportunity to take more time to learn it in more detail, or asking one learner to help another demonstrate and share their knowledge with others.

The learning environment surrounds the learning experience in a school or other institution and all the supporting materials to demonstrate the content. Although it is a supporting component, it dramatically affects the overall outcome. It is impossible to study anything in a fulfilled class with no personal space. There is a need to understand that it is vital to maintain a friendly classroom environment, change the look of the classroom occasionally, allow students to bring things in to create a homely atmosphere, and allow them to move around the classroom to interact with each other. This method of teaching is very variable and depends more on the learning process itself than on the students. Differentiated instruction is designed for ease of learning, not for the students’ convenience.

Universal design for learning, on the other hand, focuses more on the learner. It is a way to connect every student to the learning experience and a way of looking at learning that is fully inclusive and promotes success for all learners, regardless of ability.UDL uses three principles to structure lessons, such as presentation, action and engagement

The Presentation encourages the use of more than one source for materials. In addition, they should be presented in various ways to engage as much effort as possible to absorb the information. In addition to visual accompaniment, audio content should also be considered, as it will be more visible and understandable for the students themselves.

The Action, in turn, involves giving students more interaction with the material than usual. It does not mean that the student having a text only has to read it at home and then present it in front of the class. In this case, it will not bring any usage, moreover, the child will spend their time and efforts and get nothing except the unimportant text, which will give nothing in the future. An example would be using other formats for quizzes instead of test questions. The task of creating a presentation on a topic and demonstrating it during exams could be given.

The engagement is also a very important component of UDL. Without motivation, pupils will not be interested in learning the subject, and the first two points cannot save the situation. To improve engagement, teachers often create games using competition mechanics with other children. As a result, there are no significant conflicts between students, there are usually no losers, only winners, such things as friendship.

Moreover, as the UDL is more geared towards children, it allows students with attention problems to understand the material on an equal footing with others. It helps reduce stress levels for everyone involved and understand children’s issues without asking them directly, which is very important. Psychologically speaking, children do not like to answer questions from adults, so using a universal design will only benefit their learning.

Summing up everything that was written before, it can surely be said that there is a direct link between these teaching methods with their common and differences. First of all, it is better to concentrate on their connections, starting with disagreements. The critical difference is the orienteers they have. DI is based on the teaching process itself, while UDL is more about children’s comfort. As was mentioned before, a universal design for learning was created to help the pupils and make them equal by following different criteria.

In contrast, differentiated learning is more about the material itself and its demonstration, how children understand it, and how it can be conducted. Moreover, differentiated learning occurs as the analysis after the lesson, as a brief review of what happened in the class and how to fix it. It is essential to understand that sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and analyze the mistakes made an hour or two ago. At the same time, universal design is more about pre-lesson preparations. The teacher needs to think about the children they have and, according to that, create a plan of study, which will help present the lesson and make it 100% functional. According to that, sometimes UDL may be improvised during the class, which may also lead to some studying mistakes, while DI is only the analysis and can not harm.

Talking about the things those two approaches have in common, it is evident that the most significant of them is the goal. DI and UDL aim to teach children and give them appropriate education. For this reason, all students have open access to the same content, even though sometimes it might be a bit difficult to understand most of it. Moreover, for a better understanding of the content of the lessons, both DI and UDL create an appropriate teaching environment with TVs and computers. It is very important to have access to such sources of information both for children and teachers. Despite that, both these methods help develop critical thinking and understanding of the school material and everything that surrounds them.

A very important thing is how pupils express their thoughts, skills, and knowledge. Teachers who use DI and UDL want their students to speaking more than themselves and, at the same time, stay aside and ready to support the student any time. Quite evident that the main reason for this is checking homework or the whole material and developing oral skills in order not to be shy in public. Nevin et al. (2018) say that “With administrative support from school districts and faculty in teacher preparation in colleges and universities, pre-service and in-service training can be provided so that educators will gain the critical knowledge and skills to implement the principles of UDL and DI. University faculty can restructure professional teacher education preparation programs so that graduates are no longer viewed as emerging from separate education systems. Quality teachers possess a deep understanding of their content area knowledge and apply research-proven instructional strategies to educate their students appropriately” (p.96) The way UDL and DI can be combined together opens a new way of interaction between pupils and teachers during the studying process. As a result of everything written before, the conclusion is simple – teachers need to combine those two approaches for the best possible teaching process. It will allow teachers to be patient with students and make their studies very comfortable.

Reference

Ann Nevin, Carol Ann Falkenberg, Susan Nullman, Liliana Salazar, and Monica C. Silió. (2018). Universal Design for Learning and Differentiated Instruction: Resolving Competing Mandates of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and No Child Left Behind. Web.

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