Executive function is an essential part of integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into the curriculum. By using executive function strategies within the UDL framework, you can foster the development of expert, goal-directed learners.
What is Universal Design for Learning?
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) aims to remove barriers to learning and build a flexible framework that is calibrated to each learner’s profile. A universally designed classroom welcomes learners to school just as they are. UDL recognizes that barriers lie in the learning context, not the learners. By offering multiple ways for learners to engage with, represent, and express ideas, UDL celebrates neurodiversity and learner variability.
While it is often assumed that UDL is only for students with learning differences, a universally designed classroom provides options for all learners to learn how they learn best.
UDL and Executive Function
One of the core goals of UDL is to develop expert, goal-directed learners. Unsurprisingly, executive function is key here! Just as the SMARTS curriculum teaches executive function strategies explicitly and prepares students to navigate the learning process, the UDL framework creates a context in which the teaching and modeling of executive function strategies is a priority.
One of the critical elements of UDL is starting with clear learning goals that learners can meet through a variety of means. In parallel, UDL emphasizes that learners should begin by setting their own personal goals (UDL checkpoint 6.1) and determining what they will need to reach those goals (UDL checkpoints 6.2 and 6.3).Self-monitoring one’s progress is an important step that enables learners to reach their goals (UDL checkpoints 6.3 and 6.4).
Finally, self-reflection is critical. After seeing teachers model strategy use and using the strategies independently, students must engage in self-reflection to determine if the strategy was successful or useful. If not, students can plan better for the next time they need to pull from their toolbox of strategies.
To learn more about UDL and executive function, view the UDL Principle of Action and Expression video that includes providing options for executive function. For more information about UDL, check out the UDL guidelines.
- Caitlin Vanderberg, SMARTS Intern
SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org
Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org
The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org