Classroom Menus for Supporting the Academic Success of Diverse Learners

Utilizing both classroom menus and UDL design challenges can help educators plan a range of activities in their classes which can serve as a “buffet” from which learners can pick “just right” activities.

Key Takeaway: Educators can consider Goldilocks to be a metaphor to describe learners who experience Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Utilizing both classroom menus and UDL design challenges can help educators plan a range of activities in their classes which can serve as a “buffet” from which learners can pick “just right” activities. —Matt Barker

“Goldilocks is the perfect metaphor for describing learners experiencing universal design for learning (UDL) because it highlights the importance of learner agency,” says Edyburn and Edyburn as they dive into the essential practices for developing meaningful classroom menus or buffets to meet the needs of diverse learners. The teacher plays a pivotal role in planning educational activities and as such needs support as to how to implement UDL both through the use of educational materials and technologies. Teachers need to consider the general characteristics of diverse learners and support them to choose “just right” learning activities to improve learning outcomes. 

First, teachers need to “bridge the gap between knowing about UDL and doing UDL.” The challenge is for teachers to provide a variety of meaningful activities. One way to do this is for teachers to embark on “discovering alternatives,” essentially, recognising that there are many similar products in the technology marketplace that address a particular challenge.

One example is supporting students with managing their to-do lists. In this instance, it is recommended that the teacher provides a menu of options. This might include the “cloud-based to-do list Remember the Milk”. In this example, the variety of options could be provided as a web list menu, where the learners are supported to review the options to find the one that is “just right.”  To find programs to add to this menu, the authors suggest using a crowd-sourced recommendation platform such as AlternativeTo. In this instance, searching “Alternatives to Remember The Milk” should bring up said platform.

Edyburn and Edyburn (2021) also suggest exploring curated guides. This essentially means investigating websites curated by educators that help teachers navigate various technology tools for learners. 

Once the teacher has begun collating their technology tools, they need to consider how to organize and manage these resources in an online toolkit format. The authors provide three management system suggestions:

  • Using a Web List Menu through the use of web pages
  • Providing an Equalizer Menu, where a range of options are available from easiest to hardest
  • Utilizing a Tic-Tac-Toe Menu, where teachers identify nine learning activities for a topic and students select a row of three activities to complete

The authors then investigate the use of Design Challenges to provide solutions in terms of rolling out UDL in the classroom. They explain that “the development of UDL design challenges” has been created to empower “educators [to] think about accessibility, engagement, and learning solutions in a format that could help standardize decision-making about design interventions.” Furthermore, each challenge is modelled to value academic diversity by asking “what do teachers need to know about why and how students struggle to proactively embed supports to ensure that students can access, engage, and benefit from the learning activities?”

Finally, the authors suggest a four level rubric that can be used by the teacher to assess how effectively they have created a series of “just right” activities. In this instance, they consider text complexity, but the performance indicators can be edited to match the planned activities. The rubric levels are:

Level 0: Beginning performance

  • “no evidence of meaningful student choice”

Level 1: Approaching performance

  • Demonstrates “an appreciation for the need for UDL”
  • Provides an element of choice

Level 2: Meeting performance

  • Multimedia options provided in how the activity is accessed
  • The teacher has a “clearly articulated philosophy that recognized that no single intervention may be sufficient and that multiple tools may be necessary”

Level 3: Exceeding performance

  • As well as level 2, the teacher provides tools that “the students can use to modify the cognitive accessibility of the text” (referenced in Edyburn, 2002)1

Summarized Article:

Edyburn, K., & Edyburn, D. L. (2021). Classroom Menus for Supporting the Academic Success of Diverse Learners. Intervention in School and Clinic, 56(4), 243-249.

Summary by: Matt Barker — Matt loves how the MARIO Framework empowers learners to make meaningful choices to drive their personalized learning journeys.

Additional References

  1. Edyburn, D. L. (2002). Cognitive rescaling strategies: Interventions that alter the cognitive accessibility of text. Closing the Gap, 1, 10-11.

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We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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