Creating awareness of tools and strategies that help support Universal Design for Learning and Project Based Learning is an important goal for SD #48 (Sea to Sky) this year.
On a snowy day in February, SET-BC Tier 1 consultants, Takashi Yamada and Debby Kim facilitated a workshop on “Project Based Learning (PBL) in the Secondary Classroom” using the principles and guidelines of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at Whistler Secondary School in Whistler. The plan for the workshop was to keep it lively and interactive with animated discussions. Tak and Debby incorporated a flipped classroom approach into the workshop by giving the participants links to three short videos on UDL and PBL in the classroom prior to the actual workshop date. It was hoped this would help the workshop participants prepare to engage with the concepts during the scheduled workshop. These videos are available for view here.
The session then started with a review of the three core principles of UDL and an interactive discussion about how PBL and each UDL principle are closely related. It was noted that students would be more engaged when the connections between educational frameworks and learning models such as UDL and PBL are noticed and brought together in classrooms as they are both based on learning principles that view students as diverse and unique individuals.
The participants then were provided with information on the strategies of using class profiles and student profiles – these are effective strategies that teachers can use throughout the school year to get to know students in their classes. They are highlighted in Shelley Moore’s online course called Curriculum for All. The workshop explored concrete examples of how a class profile and individual profile would look like in the classroom. The participants were then given time to think about their classes and to fill in a template of the class profile and student profile. They found these strategies practical and useful for their classes as they helped the teachers understand a community of learners, each with unique learning preferences, strengths, needs, interests and potential.
To help the workshop participants form a clearer idea of how PBL can be implemented in a UDL classroom, they were given an example of PBL in Math. The emphasis was on developing lessons around real world topics and providing open-ended unit questions to engage students to think about the real world differently.
In the afternoon, participants had an opportunity to apply what they had explored in the morning session. They used one of the units they were teaching in class to create an open-ended unit question and real or imaginary scenario to grab students’ attention, wrote learning objectives for the unit, and thought about how they would assess their students. Overall, the participants were very devoted and engaged in PBL. Most of them stayed even after the workshop to work on their lesson plans and rubrics! One teacher said that the use of PBL would result in increased student engagement because students thrive when they have the opportunity to become experts with their knowledge. She also noted that PBL would enable students to become highly motivated because they have frequent opportunities to talk over ideas with their peers.
For the remainder of the year, the workshop participants and the district team will work collaboratively to find ways to provide more support on applying the principles of UDL to the BC redesigned curriculum. They are hoping to see more concrete examples of what teachers in their district, as well as in other school districts in BC, have successfully put together as far as planning units with the PBL framework in the upcoming year. It will be our pleasure to help the Sea to Sky district build its capacity to support PBL and UDL with the redesigned curriculum. Way to go SD #48!