Universal Design for Learning in Transition Planning
As we each move through our lives, there are moments of transition. Some transitions are simple, expected, comforting or hardly worth noticing. But some transitions are HUGE, powerful, overwhelming, intimidating, and just plain scary! Think about that transition from middle school to high school, or from college to the “real world” or the first time you had to teach a class. As a teacher who works with students during their high school year as they prepare for that world beyond high school – that world full of adult responsibilities, employment, independent living, college or other schooling, I am continually reminded of the anxiety that the students are often facing. They may not always verbalize their fears and frustrations, but they may exhibit behaviors of concern, begin giving up, or even try to purposefully fail. It is fear I see at these times. So, I am often trying to help students feel less nervous and ensure that some supports are in place to help them be successful. As with every change in life, we need to plan for the next step.
Thinking to those pivotal moments in my life…the big transitions…college graduation, moving to a new city or town, etc…..what scared me? The uncertainty and the insecurity. This is what transition planning is designed to help prevent! (or at least lessen).
Unlike buying a new pair of socks, which doesn’t take much thought, transition to adulthood, begins well before a student’s senior year. Admittedly, I think we could all do a much better job at preparing students for transition….sadly, time and money often interfere. We do the best we can. Ideally transition planning actually starts from the first day of the individuals’ life…growing more systematic and meaningful as the journey through elementary school, middle school and high school unfolds. This process includes gathering information, activities, events, and careful planning to help a student prepare for the next steps in life.
The National Collaboration on Workforce and Disability published an InfoBrief in February 2012, titled “Using Universal Design for Learning: Successful Transition Models for Educators Working with Youth with Learning Disabilities”. In this InfoBrief, the authors discuss the importance of embedding UDL strategies to instruct and engage learners of all learning styles in the curriculum and lesson. Furthermore, the authors point out that by implementing UDL techniques teachers can maximize students’ strengths instead of focusing on their weakness, thereby allowing students to achieve in areas that they may have found impossible to learn in the past. In order to encourage success in high school and post-secondary education (if desired), we need students to experience success in the classroom and also be more prepared for college. This makes sense!
The Interdisciplinary Council on Vocational Evaluation and Assessment states that
“The foundation of vocational evaluation and assessment is that all human assessment should be holistic and humanistic. A holistic approach encompasses issues of diversity, all relevant attributes of the individual, his/her existing or potential environments (ecologies), and the interactions between the individual and the environments. A humanistic approach to vocational evaluation and assessment requires consumer involvement, and processes that are designed and implemented to benefit the individual served, with an emphasis on individual capabilities rather than disability. Further, the environment should fit the individual rather than the individual adjust to the fit of the vocational evaluation” (VA Board for People with Disabilities, 2011).”
Think about this for a moment…
Now think about how we teach transition related activities. Are we able to gather information from our student about his/her interests from a variety of methods? So often, students participate in a computer administered interest inventory and print out a result. Sometimes they are then asked to look up the career interest codes on the computer. But, does this have meaning to all of the students? Have we truly tapped into the students’ method of expressing his/her interests? Did the computer create a barrier? Did the questions create a barrier? Was focus or reading or comprehension an issue? The point is, UDL principles need to be part of all that we do for all students and, yes, even when it is transition related activities that we are talking about.
And, as we begin the activities related to transition – the job shadowing, career exploration, interview practice, community exploration, self-care, budgeting, etc. – we need to appropriately transfer the UDL methods used in the classroom to the new environment. Further it is important that we add (and instruct) any additional UDL solutions that may help reduce barriers. This may mean learning about assistive technology, digital media, apps and tools. If UDL principles have been used throughout the schooling experience, this transition to using strategies in a new environment will be almost second-nature for a student and likely not carry the anxiety or stigma that perhaps would be felt if a student is not familiar with assistive technology or is not comfortable asking for assistance or supports. The hope is, that when a student is adequately prepared for transition to independent living, employment, or post-secondary education, he has the self-confidence, the self-awareness and understanding, and the self-determination to experience success. An added benefit to UDL, if it has been implemented throughout school, is that other students won’t view the use of assistive technology as anything different, because with or without a disability, since it was implemented to help all students, it is likely they are using assistive technologies too.
UDL & Transition = Success in Several Ways
- Students have more understanding of strengths, needs, learning styles.
- Data collected concerning abilities and interests is more relevant when collected in various methods.
- Students understand HOW to learn (important for employment & post-secondary education).
- Students have experienced more success and likely gained more self-confidence.
- Students are familiar with assistive technology that can be used across environments (education, employment, personal life).
- Students have learned strategies that work for them in accessing curriculum, gaining knowledge and demonstrating knowledge gained.
Expanding career options with universal design for learning (ECOUDL). (2011, March). Virginia board for people with disabilities (Project Dissemination guide). Retrieved from http://phillipsprograms.pbworks.com
Using universal design for learning: Successful transition models for educators working with youth with learning disabilities. (2012, February). National collaborative on workforce and disability (Issue 33). Washington, DC.