The Whole Schools Initiative

Universal Design for Learning

We know that all students learn differently. The arts are the common denominator that allows every student in the classroom to explore topics, demonstrate understanding and created deeper meaning. Over the years the Whole Schools Initiative has provided professional development to educators on Multiple Intelligences, Understanding by Design and now Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in order to inform and connect learning in the classroom for all types of learners.

Universal Design for Learning according to CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology),, is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

The Whole Schools Initiative first introduced UDL at the 2012 Whole Schools Initiative Spring Cluster Retreat with a keynote presentation by Don Glass who provided an overview to over 180 teachers and teaching artists. Don returned to the WSI Summer Institute in July with UDL trained teaching artist, Richard Don Glass to give a more in-depth training to Mississippi teaching artists and provide lessons in arts integrated/UDL experiences to over 50 educators. At the end of these trainings, evaluations revealed the desire to learn more, specifically about developing arts integrated/UDL residencies for long-term impact.

In 2012/13, the Whole Schools Initiative (WSI) received a contract by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to provide professional development in arts integration and UDL to teaching artists and educators (which include inclusion and self-contained special education teachers). Highlights of the contract included: professional development opportunities, school residencies, and resources such as model lesson plans. A module was created by Don Glass in order for educators to learn more about UDL at their own pace. This module provides an introductory overview of the critical features, foundations, and use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It provides background information from the learning sciences that shows how UDL can address learning variability, as well as support expert learning strategies across the neural networks associated with learning. Anyone can access this resource.

To interact with the module:
1. Register for CAST’s free UDL Studio learning design environment.
2. Go to the WSI UDL module.

The WSI made UDL a focal point at both the 2012 Fall Cluster Retreat and 2013 Spring Cluster Retreat. Click here for a list of model lessons that contain Common Core State Standards, Mississippi Visual and Performing Arts Frameworks, Arts Integration strategies and principals of UDL.

Incorporating UDL principals is now part of the WSI lesson plan and a requirement when schools submit model lesson plans. UDL will continue to be explored by all WSI schools and a one of the main topics of conversations at professional development opportunities.