Motivation: March 5th Readings by Kahdeidra

Hey! This is cool! As some of you may know, I am a former special education  teacher and coordinator of after-school programs. Thus, I have experienced a lot of trial, error, heartache, surprises, and major wins in discovering how to engage learners with diverse interests, skill sets, and goals (PROBLEM).

I have separated this provocation into three prompts, and you can feel free to respond to whichever one speaks to you the most, or try your hand at a combination of the three (CHOICE).

  1. Bean’s chapters on integrating writing and critical thinking in the classroom makes several interesting arguments about the value of writing. Bean’s central argument is that writing is both a process and a product. When the connections between writing and critical thinking are explored, the value of writing as a process can be gleaned. Once writing is imagined as packaging, he argues, devoid of thinking and creating, it loses value among learners (Bean 16). He gives examples of how different European cultures have words to express the concept of writing as a process (ie. ‘brouillon’ < French which means to scramble, to place in disarray). English does not have an equivalent concept. Another example that I can think of that the English word ‘essay’ is derived from the French essayer (to try, attempt) and essai ( a trial). Currently, we retain the meaning of essay as an attempt or endeavor in formal use, but the most common usage is for a structured composition. The dual meanings of ‘essay’ as both a verb and a noun illustrates Beans’ argument of writing as a process and a product. Why and how did we come to emphasize the product over the process in the United States? Is this related to a larger discourse on experimentation and conformity in schools? What do you think?

2. In Chapter 3, Bean addresses cultural assumptions about the centrality of writing in academia, and argument writing being the preferred “academic discourse” over other modalities in particular. Was it satisfying to you? How is his rationale in conversation with UDL principles? Do you agree with his characterization of “three cognitively immature essay structures” as “organizational problems”? Be honest. Does it vary by context, or are these structures universally flawed?

3. The three principles of Universal Design for Learning–multiple representation of content, multiple opportunities for expression and action on new content, and multiple opportunities to engage in learning–have been the most useful for me as an educator. It provides a cognitive basis for addressing diverse learners by presenting difference as the norm, not as a deficit that minoritizes learners. Because cultural and neurodiversity are facts of life, curricula must attend to this diversity. My colleague Luis Oleander, who created the UDL for Teachers website (http://udlforteachers.com/), and I  have collaborated on topic briefs to explain how UDL can be used to support linguistically diverse students. Using the videos on his website, and the video on the SPS Faculty Community site, consider the following questions:

  • How does UDL align with the Composing practices of expert academic writers (Bean 30-31)?
  • How does UDL align with Bean’s conclusion on integrating professional and personal writing? Do you agree with these categorical distinctions in writing? Have you encountered and used expressive writing in your own academic courses? Explain.
  • Review the poster descriptions on “Do’s and Dont’s on Designing for Accessibility.” Is it possible to use the  UDL framework to consolidate the advice given? Why or why not? Are there any commonalities among the suggestions?

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