Following a plan that is based on an outcome-rather than one that is more concerned with the precise steps necessary to reach that outcome-is the surest way to preserve the outcome when external conditions change.
Goals that are too highly specified limit the possible strategies for reaching them, thus suppressing creative solutions and limiting the number of people who can even attempt to attain the goals.
We believe the key to reconciling standards with student diversity is a careful examination of the standards themselves-first to determine the true purpose of a particular standard, and then to separate that purpose from the methods for attaining it. If the goal statement reflects its true purpose, it can work for an entire class made up of diverse learners. The means, or approaches, can then be individualized.
If the woodworking instructor had only a handsaw and pencil (the woodshop equivalent of traditional, inflexible instructional media and materials), he might find it very difficult to shift set and reinterpret the goal so that all of his students could make progress. However, if he had a range of modern tools to work with (the equivalent of UDL's flexible media), he could broaden the goal from "master cutting wood with a handsaw" to "cutting wood" or "learning basic carpentry,"-two outcomes that better represent his true purpose. All students could work toward these broader goals, using whatever tools suit them best, and all could strive toward levels
of competency that represent individual progress.
Mr. Hernandez might restate the goal more generally: "Students will collect information from a variety of sources." This rewording separates the goal from the methods for attaining it, broadening the options for the entire class. Patrick, instead of having to lower his sights because of difficulty accessing a particular medium, could rely on scaffolds and supports to achieve the same goal as his peers.
Standards that ask students to identify "who, what, when, and where" prioritize the learning of specific content. This is the domain of recognition networks.
Standards that ask students to learn "how" to do something emphasize skills and strategies, the province of strategic networks.
Less common (but we believe, just as important) are the goals that emphasize the value and importance of ideas and connections to students' lives, the "why" of learning, the domain of affective networks.
This standard focuses on process and is rooted in strategic networks. Because the content is not specified and is not key to this particular standard, we could increase students' engagement by encouraging them to select content that interests them and setting the challenge at individually appropriate levels.
For some students, at some times, it may be more important to build engagement than to attempt to develop knowledge or skills. Balancing these three networks as we develop goals is in part a fine art.
Csikszentmihalyi (1997) calls this state "flow" and explains that it's only possible when the level of challenge is just right:
Flow tends to occur when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. . . . When goals are clear, feedback relevant, and challenges and skills are in balance, attention becomes ordered and fully invested. Because of the total demand on psychic energy, a person in flow is completely focused. (pp. 30-31)This state of flow is also noted by Malone (1981) in his studies of video games, in which the challenge escalates as players develop skill, so that they're always playing just above their current level of competence. The video game Lode Runner, for example, includes more than 100 levels, with each level slightly harder than the level beneath it. Mastery of one level opens the door to the next; the difference between successive levels is small, presenting a highly motivating challenge. This same kind of incremental challenge can foster engagement in the classroom.
When a goal is clear, our strategic networks can devise many different ways to reach it
What flexible media is available for math content?
Rose, D.H. & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Association for Curriculum and Development http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/