ECC Universal Design Early Education


1 he Universal Design of Early Education : T for All Children Moving Forward Conn - Powers, M., Conn - Powers, A. F., Traub, E. K., & Hutter - Pishgahi, L. (2006, September). T he universal design of early education: M oving forward for all children . Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web.

2 forward moving The Universal Design of The Universal Design of The Universal Design of The Universal Design of The Universal Design of Early Education Early Education Early Education Early Education Early Education ward for All Children Moving F or or ward for All Children Moving F or Moving F ward for All Children Moving F or ward for All Children ward for All Children or Moving F Michael Conn-Powers, Alice Frazeur Cross, A French television commercial shows typically abled people Elizabeth Krider Traub, trying to function and participate in a world designed for people and Lois Hutter-Pishgahi with disabilities. Speaking persons approach receptionists, who respond only in sign language; walkers slip down wet inclines navigated by people in wheelchairs; a sighted individual looks for books in a library but finds them all printed in Braille. Graphic images communicate a strong message: the world is Michael Conn-Powers, PhD, is harder when it is not conceived with your abilities in mind. director of the Early Childhood Cen- ter, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, at Indiana University in Bloomington. He has worked on his commercial reflects a French utility company’s commitment to local and state projects to support the May —“ recognizing the diverse needs of its employees and customers T creation of early care and education the world be made for you. Access for everyone” (EDF Group 2005). Images programs that work for all children like this spur thoughtful reflection. How well have we conceived early and their families. education programs to support and respond to all young children? Do they EdD, is a Alice Frazeur Cross, welcome and include every child? Are activity areas and materials physi- research associate in the Early Child- cally accessible to each child? Do all families have opportunities to be hood Center. She has been a teacher, program coordinator, and involved in their children’s education? Is every child engaged and learning? center director in small and large Answering yes to these questions has become more challenging as the early childhood settings, a teacher population of children in the United States has become increasingly diverse educator, and a participant in system in ability levels, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and economic status development projects. (West, Denton, & Germino-Hausken 2000). Elizabeth Krider Traub, MS, is a research associate in the Early Child- hood Center and focuses her re- search, writing, and training efforts Reaching all children on infants, toddlers, and their fami- lies, exploring the challenges of Specially designed programs, including Head Start, early childhood special welcoming and including them in education, Title III programs for English-language learners, and Title I com- community programs. pensatory education, identify successful strategies for educating children Lois Hutter-Pishgahi, MS, is a research associate in the Early Child- who may struggle to learn because of health or other medical needs, emo- hood Center and is involved in writ- tional or behavioral problems, and/or disabilities. Children facing language ing, research, and the development barriers or growing up in poverty may have additional learning challenges. of numerous materials related to But the goal for educators is to design early education programs that meet supporting inclusive environments for the needs of all learners within a common setting and begin to move away young children. from specialized programs. Moreover, as educators we need to accomplish Cluster illustrations throughout by this goal while also focusing on standards and program accountability. Sandi Collins. • on the Web • September 2006 1 Young Children Beyond the Journal

3 forward moving A framework for supporting all young learners is universal design . The universal design of early learning “sug- gests that instead of creating a curriculum and then adapting The goal for educa- it to meet the needs of individual children in the program, it is better to start off with an instructional design which provides tors is to design early learners with a variety of ways to access and process information and education programs demonstrate what they have learned” (Blagojevic, Twomey, & Labas 2002). This framework calls for early educators to value from the beginning the that meet the needs importance of planning learning environments and activities for a diverse of all learners within population—creating universally designed settings in which all children and their families can participate and learn. a common setting and begin to move away from special- A design idea from architecture ized programs. Universal design principles were first introduced in the field of architec- ture to address the economic, functional, and aesthetic challenges associated with designing physical spaces for all people, including individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. Originators defined the principle of universal design as the “design of products and environments to be usable to the greatest extent possible by people of all ages and abilities” without the need for adaptation or specialized design (Story, Mueller, & Mace 1998, 2). The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University (1997) collaborated with a national consortium of universal design researchers and practitioners to develop seven core design prin- ciples—equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space for approach and use—for guiding the planning of buildings, physical spaces, and materials. The influence of these design principles is evident throughout our communities: curb cuts and entrance ramps, elevators with voice announcements, and automatic doors at store entrances. At first these design applications may seem solely intended for people with disabilities. But developers of the universal design framework recognized that usability would increase as special needs features began to serve all. People who use wheelchairs benefit from curb cuts and ramps, but so do bicycle riders, parents pushing strollers, and travelers pulling wheeled luggage. Elevators that announce floor numbers assist individuals with impaired sight along with shorter people who may not be able to see the light indicators when the elevator is crowded with riders. Doors that open automatically aid those not strong enough to open them as well as individu- als whose arms hold packages or young children. Photo courtesy of the authors • 2 on the Web • September 2006 Young Children Beyond the Journal

4 moving forward Educational Applications of the Seven Principles of Universal Design for Learning Educational application Physical principle Instruction uses a single curriculum that is The design allows — Equitable curriculum 1. Equitable use — accessible to students with widely diverse abilities; curriculum does all users equal access and avoids not unnecessarily segregate students or call undue attention to segregating or stigmatizing anyone. their “differences.” Curriculum is designed to engage all students. — The curriculum is designed to be presented Flexible curriculum — 2. Flexibility in use The design accommodates a wide range of flexibly to accommodate a range of individual abilities and prefer- ences; it considers physical and sensory-motor disabilities as well individual preferences and abilities. as varied learning preferences and paces. Instruction is straightforward, — 3. Simple and intuitive — The design Simple and intuitive instruction provided in the mode most accessible to students; language, is easy to understand. learning levels, and complexity of presentation can be adjusted; student progress is monitored on an ongoing basis to reset goals and instructional methods as needed. Curriculum provides multiple 4. Perceptible information — — The Multiple means of presentation design communicates necessary means of presentation to teach students in ways that will most effectively reach them, regardless of sensory ability, level of information effectively to the user, understanding or attention; presentation can be altered to meet through different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile), regardless of the recognition patterns of individual students. user’s sensory abilities. 5. Tolerance for error Success-oriented curriculum — — The design The teacher encourages engage- minimizes hazards and the adverse ment with curriculum by eliminating unnecessary barriers to consequences of accidental or engagement; the teacher provides a supportive learning environ- unintended actions. ment through ongoing assistance, applying principles of effective curriculum design as needed: e.g., teaching Big Ideas, priming background knowledge, scaffolding instruction, and so on. — The design The overall classroom — Appropriate level of student effort 6. Low physical effort can be used efficiently and comfort- environment provides ease of access to curricular materials, ably and with a minimum of fatigue. promotes comfort, addresses motivation, and encourages student engagement by accommodating varied means of student re- sponse; assessment is ongoing, measuring performance; instruc- tion may change based on results of assessment. — Classroom environment Appropriate environment for learning 7. Size and space for approach and use — Appropriate size and space is and the organization of curricular materials allow for variations in provided for approach, reach, ma- physical and cognitive access by students as well as for variations in instructional methods; classroom environment allows for varied nipulation, and use, regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility. learning. encourages student groupings; classroom space Reproduced by permission, from C. Mason, R. Orkwis, and R. Scott, “Instructional Theories Supporting Universal Design for Learn ing—Teaching eds. Council for Exceptional Children Universal Design for Learning: A Guide for Teachers and Education Professionals, to Individual Learners,” (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005), 23. Copyright © 2005 by Council for Exceptional Children. and Merrill Education • 3 on the Web • September 2006 Young Children Beyond the Journal

5 forward moving Universal design in education The work of the Center for Universal Design inspired educa- tors and authors working in the fields of special education and assistive technology. Many groups (including the National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the Center for Applied Special Technology) are applying universal design principles to the design of general education. The Children with result is “the design of instructional materials and activities that allows the disabilities fall learning goals to be achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, along a continuum organize, engage, and remember” (Orkwis & McLane 1998, 9). of learner differ- Understanding of the principles and their role in education continues to evolve. Mason, Orkwis, and Scott (2005) apply the same seven principles ences rather than put forth by the Center for Universal Design to illustrate their use in learn- constituting a ing and curriculum design (see “Educational Applications of the Seven Principles of Universal Design for Learning”). The work of Rose and Meyer separate category. at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) furthers educa- tors’ understanding. The CAST (n.d.) Web site states that the universal design for learning framework through promotes access to learning • multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowl- edge, • multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and • multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation. Much of the current literature on Photo courtesy of the authors universal design for learning has focused on elementary and secondary What Is Universal education. However, these approaches Design of Early to universal design open doors to increased educational possibilities for Learning? children of all ages. It is designing early educa- tion settings so all children, Moving the idea to early as equal and valued mem- education bers of the program, may access and engage in all The principles of universal design learning opportunities, learn for learning are clearly applicable to from a common curriculum early childhood education. They can according to their individual guide professionals in designing programs in which all children and strengths and abilities, and their families have full and equitable demonstrate their learning access to learning and social opportu- in multiple ways. nities. One premise is that “UDL 4 on the Web • September 2006 • Young Children Beyond the Journal

6 forward moving [universal design for learning] shifts old assumptions about teaching and learning in four fundamental ways” (CAST 2003). CAST suggests that • children with disabilities fall along a continuum of learner differences rather than constituting a separate category; • teachers adjust for learner differences for all children, not just those with disabilities; • curriculum materials should be varied and di- verse, including digital and online resources, not merely a single resource; and • rather than following a set curriculum, teachers al- low for flexibility to accommodate learner differences. A universal design approach for learning follows principles of good practice in early education: (1) recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to education simply will not work; (2) understanding the need to design curricula to meet the needs of diverse classroom populations; and (3) declaring children who attend early education pro- that all grams will be successful in their development and learning. A universal design framework parallels what early educators plan for from the start in thinking about the physical, social-emotional, health, and teaching dimensions of their environments to assure that every child • feels welcomed as a full and equal member; • accesses and engages in all learning opportunities; • learns according to his or her individual strengths and interests; and • demonstrates his or her learning in ways that reflect the individual’s strengths. © Bonnie Blagojevic Principles guiding the universal design of early education How can universal design in early learning help early childhood profes- sionals to further assure that all children learn? As support, we offer the following framework for the universal design of effective early education programs. The physical environment enables all children to have access and equitable opportunities for full participation in all program activities. This includes structures, permanent and movable equipment and furnishings, storage, and materials. promote wellness and minimize risks and Health and safety components hazards for all children. All children, regardless of health status or condi- tions, have ongoing access to learning without interruptions due to illness and injury. The social-emotional environment offers all children equitable access to and full membership in the social-emotional life of the group, and it supports their social-emotional development. on the Web • September 2006 • 5 Young Children Beyond the Journal

7 forward moving The teaching environment gives all children equitable access to learning opportunities through information and activities in multiple formats and multiple means for engage- ment, expression, and learning. This includes the curricu- Programs offer lum, teaching practices, materials, and activities. children multiple provide multiple Individual assessment and program evaluation practices approaches to finding out what children know and can do in order to equita- avenues for re- bly assess individual learning, development, and educational progress. ceiving informa- support the equitable access and engagement Family involvement practices tion, multiple of all families in the full range of experiences. This includes ongoing commu- nication, learning opportunities, and program involvement activities. ways for engaging This framework strives to promote flexible settings and activities that in activities, and respond to young children’s diverse strengths and needs. Programs offer multiple means children multiple avenues for receiving information, multiple ways for engaging in activities, and multiple means for demonstrating what they for demonstrating know. The program incorporates the universal design of the physical, what they know. social-emotional, and teaching environment before children step into the setting, and it balances the needs of all children in delivering education for the whole class. Universal design in action To consider what universal design of early education activities might look like, teachers may start with a general class- room routine such as class meeting time. The following questions can help teachers reflect on how to implement universal design principles. (See examples of practice in “Applications of Universal Design Prin- ciples to Class Meetings.”) Physical environment • How can the space be arranged to accom- modate everyone? • How will children be seated to accommo- date different motor abilities and activity levels so that everyone can move about or attend as needed? • What materials are needed to allow for the range of motor abilities? Health and safety practices • How should the physical space be ar- ranged to ensure that all children can safely move around? • Is the flooring safe for all children to move about and be seated? © Bonnie Blagojevic • 6 on the Web • September 2006 Young Children Beyond the Journal

8 moving forward Applications of Universal Design Principles to Class Meetings Physical environment using signs and gestures; and even others may predict what will happen next using complete • Expand the group meeting area so that all chil- sentences in English. dren can be present and focus their attention on • Present content in multiple formats, including the activities. verbal, print, video, or concrete objects, repeat- Provide varied seating options so each child may • ing key words/phrases in children’s home lan- lie on the floor, sit on a mat or chair, or use guage and using simple sentences with gestures. specialized seating. Use physical cues to focus children’s attention, • Use other materials of different sizes, textures, • such as pointing to the picture in the book, giving and shapes to help each child actively manipulate verbal prompts to help children begin a re- the objects for learning. sponse, offering language models for children to imitate, and encouraging children to keep think- Health and safety practices ing and trying. • Provide clear, wide paths throughout the class- room so each child may safely and easily reach Individual assessment and program evaluation the meeting area. Request information or action in various ways • • Ensure safe floor covering for safe passage for any including complex questions, simple phrases, and child, including for example a child who is in a emphasis and repetition of key words or phrases. hurry, has visual impairments, or uses a wheeled Identify the multiple ways children can show • stander. what they learn during activities. For example, • Consider each child’s energy level and health the child who waits for another child to respond conditions in planning activities. to a teacher’s request, to handle a show-and-tell object being passed around, or to choose the song demonstrates turn taking. Some children, Social-emotional environment as in the example above, may respond to the Invite and encourage all children to join in, using • request using complete and accurate sentences multiple means of communication (e.g., speaking spoken in English, while others may need to English and/or children’s home language, signing, point, sign, or use words in their home language. displaying symbols). Others may point to the object or event in the Give simple directions using multiple means (e.g., • book in response to simple questions. verbally, signed, in print, modeled) so each child may see, hear, and understand any rules and Family involvement practices expectations. • Share information with families through a news- Use books, songs, and communication that involve • letter written at an appropriate level. Have key and represent all children, regardless of cultural phrases translated into families’ home lan- predominance or linguistic and skill levels. guages, and include photographs of children engaged in an activity. Teaching environment • Provide multiple opportunities for families to be Vary your expectations for participation and • involved. Bilingual parents might be willing to performance. If children are listening to a story translate the information for monolingual fami- and are asked to recall events, some may attend lies. Families could support their child’s involve- to and repeat back key words; others may recall ment by asking specific questions about the the names of characters by pointing to pictures or activity and/or the book read to the group. • 7 on the Web • September 2006 Young Children Beyond the Journal

9 • Do the planned activities accommodate all individual energy levels and health conditions? Social-emotional environment • What strategies will ensure that all children are included, eliminating any What are some barriers that might segregate or stigmatize a child? • How will I communicate necessary rules and expectations for behavior so different ways to that all children can understand? assess what all • How can I support children in interacting with, learning from, and helping children are learning one another? from the activity? Teaching environment What are some • What goals do I have for the activity so that all children are engaged and learning? different ways • What different ways do I need to present information so that everyone children can demon- understands and is engaged? strate their engage- • What kinds of support or encouragement will be needed to engage and en- ment and learning? sure learning among all children? Individual assessment and program evaluation • What are some different ways to assess what all children are learning from the activity? • What are some different ways children can demonstrate their engagement and learning? Family involvement • What information will I share with families about this activity, and what forms of communication will I use? • What reading levels and languages should I keep in mind? • What opportunities for involve- ment can I provide that accommo- © Bonnie Blagojevic date varied work demands and time constraints? Conclusion The population of children in U.S. communities will continue to grow more diverse, not less. Thus, the challenges of educating a diverse population will not diminish. The universal design of early education is an appropriate frame- work for addressing these challenges. Without a doubt, high-quality early education benefits children (Peisner-Feinberg et al. 1999). Our work now is to conceive early education programs that engage and support learning for all children. • 8 on the Web • September 2006 Young Children Beyond the Journal

10 References Blagojevic, B., D. Twomey, & L. Labas. 2002. Universal design for learning: From the start. Orono, ME: University of Maine. Online: CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology). N.d. Publica- tions. Online: CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology). 2003. Sum- mary of universal design for learning concepts. Online: Center for Universal Design. 1997. About UD: Universal design principles. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University. Online: about_ud/udprinciples.htm. EDF Group. 2005. EDF TV film: Diversités. EDF: Supporting the Online: disabled. media.html. Mason, C., R. Orkwis, & R. Scott. 2005. Instructional theories supporting universal design for learning—Teaching to indi- vidual learners. In Universal design for learning: A guide for , eds. Council for Excep- teachers and education professionals Photo courtesy of the author tional Children and Merrill Education, 23. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Orkwis, R., & K. McLane. 1998. A curriculum every student can use: Design principles for student access. ERIC/OSEP Topical Brief. ERIC ED 423654. Peisner-Feinberg, E.S., M.R. Burchinal, R.M. Clifford, M.L. Culkin, C. Howes, S.L. Kagan, N. Yazejian, P. Byler, J. Rustici, & J. Zelazo. 1999. The children of the Cost, Quality, and Out- comes Study go to school: Technical report. Online: tr.pdf. Story, M.F., J.L. Mueller, & R.L. Mace. 1998. Introduction. In The universal design file: Designing for people of all ages and abilities. Online: www. pubs_pdocs/udffile/intro.pdf. Copyright © 2006 by the National Association for America’s kindergartners . NCES 2000-070. West, J., K. Denton, & E. Germino-Hausken. 2000. the Education of Young Children. See Permissions Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. and Reprints online at . Online: 9 • on the Web • September 2006 Young Children Beyond the Journal

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