March 2021 TIC Tip of the Month
Universal Design for Learning & A Trauma-Informed Approach
Students who have experienced trauma may feel like their world is out of control. Giving students adult-approved choices, not only helps students practice problem solving and decision making skills, it helps students feel a sense of control of their educational destiny. Giving students choices also sends a message that the adult believes the student is capable of making good choices and is a valued/respected member of the school community.
Giving students choices is aligned with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a proactive approach to creating learning experiences that are accessible to ALL students, in the same manner that using a Trauma-Informed approach is universally beneficial. Within UDL, there are ways to provide choice for engagement, representation, and action & expression.
Providing multiple means of engagement are aligned with the principles of Trauma-Informed Care (i.e., choice, safety, relationship building, and coping skills). Engagement is broken down into 3 parts: 1) Recruiting Interest, 2) Sustaining Effort and Persistence, and 3) Self-Regulation.
1) Recruiting Interest
Optimize Choice and Autonomy:
- Provide learners with as much autonomy as possible by providing choices in such things as:
- The level of perceived challenge
- The type of rewards or recognition available
- The context or content used for practicing and assessing skills
- The order of or timing for completion of subcomponents of tasks
- Allow students to participate in the design of classroom activities
- Involve students in setting their own personal, academic and behavioral goals
Minimize Threats and Distractions:
One of the most important things a trauma-informed educator can do is to create a safe space for students. To do this, teachers need to reduce potential threats and distractions in the learning environment. When students are focused on having basic needs met, or avoiding a negative experience, or perceive that they are not safe, they cannot concentrate on learning. Some students might find that there is too much sensory stimulation to focus on learning.
- Create an accepting and supportive classroom climate
- Consistent class routines
- Vary the level of risk
- Charts, calendars, schedules, visible timers, cues, etc. that can increase the predictability of daily activities and transitions
- Alerts and previews that can help students anticipate and prepare for changes in activities, schedules, and events
- Vary the level of sensory stimulation
- Background noise or visual stimulation, noise buffers
- Number of items presented at a time
- Pace of work, length of work sessions, availability of breaks or time-outs, or timing or sequence of activities
- Vary the social demands required for learning or performance, the perceived level of support and protection and the requirements for public display and evaluation
- Involve all participants in whole class discussions
Number 2 (Sustaining Effort and Persistence), Number 3 (Self-Regulation), Representation, and Action & Expression will be covered in future Tips of the Month.
The information above was modified from the following site: https://udlguidelines.cast.org/