Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Applying Universal Design for Learning to Instructional Lesson Planning

Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Applying Universal Design for Learning to Instructional Lesson Planning

Article excerpt


Walk into any Canadian elementary, middle, or secondary level classroom today and you will no doubt encounter a rich mosaic of students who exhibit a diverse range of capabilities, learning profiles, and interests. In Canadian schools the majority of students with special needs are educated in inclusive classrooms in their neighborhood schools where the general education classroom teacher takes responsibility for the learning of all students. Inclusion is the recommended teaching practice in Canadian schools and is supported by provincial educational policy. In British Columbia, inclusion describes the principle that 'all students are entitled to equitable access to learning, achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs' (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2011, p. 2). While inclusion in the province is 'not necessarily synonymous with full integration in regular classrooms' (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2011, p. 2), legislation emphasizes educating students with special needs in neighborhood schools with same age and grade peers to the fullest extent possible.

The Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2011) outlines policies, procedures, and guidelines for the delivery of special education services in British Columbia schools. Key student planning policies that are intended to facilitate inclusion of students who have special needs are included. Use of both instructional modifications and adaptations are clearly defined.

Modifications are instructional and assessment-related decisions made to accommodate a student's educational needs that consist of individualized learning goals and outcomes which are different than learning outcomes of a course or subject. Modifications should be considered for those students whose special needs are such that they are unable to access the curriculum (i.e., students with limited awareness of their surroundings, students with fragile mental/physical health, students medically and cognitively/multiply challenged.) Using the strategy of modifications for students not identified as special needs should be a rare practice (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2011, p. VI).

Adaptations are teaching and assessment strategies especially designed to accommodate a student's needs so he or she can achieve the learning outcomes of the subject or course and to demonstrate mastery of concepts. Essentially, adaptations are "best practice" in teaching. A student working on learning outcomes may be supported through use of adaptations. Adaptations do not represent unfair advantages to students. In fact, the opposite could be true. If appropriate adaptations are not used, students could be unfairly penalized for having learning differences, creating serious negative impacts to their achievement and self-concept (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2011, p. V).

Modifications and adaptations are mandated for inclusive education in British Columbia. Yet, the two policies appear to be fundamentally divergent. Modifications emphasize special education practices that are typically beyond the regular grade level curriculum of the general classroom environment. Limiting the strategy to students with special needs, modifications create a dichotomy within the inclusive classroom to accommodate for students with special needs, but not for others. On the other hand, adaptations emphasize practices within the regular classroom so that all students may achieve. Accommodating for diverse learning needs, adaptations encourage and unify a common community of classroom learners.

Meo (2008) argues that the traditional categorization of students as either 'regular' or 'special' is erroneous and oversimplifies and inaccurately represents the diversity present in today's classrooms. Indeed, a global shift in understanding disability is occurring, as evident in the World Health Organization's (2006) revised definition of disability:

Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

http://www. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.