SMARTThe end of one educator evaluation cycle means the beginning of a new one. As I think of my own professional practice goals (PPG) for next year, I realize that the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can positively impact the goal setting process for all of us.

When setting PPG, remember that you are a learner, and that your goal should guide you to learn. Malcolm Knowles (1984) proposed six assumptions regarding the characteristics of adult learners that differentiate them from child learners and all of these impact the goal-setting process.

  1. Adults tend to see themselves as more responsible, self-directed, and independent.
  2. They have a larger, more diverse stock of knowledge and experience.
  3. Their readiness to learn is based on developmental and real-life responsibilities.
  4. Their orientation to learning is most often problem centered and relevant to their current life situation.
  5. They have a stronger need to know the reasons for learning something.
  6. They tend to be more internally motivated.

All six characteristics relate to Universal Design for Learning when writing PPG. Here’s how.

Step 1: Identifying the goal area

In order for us to be internally motivated, we have to choose goals that are relevant and meaningful to us. We should search for the practices we would explore even in the absence of an evaluation tool, because these practices make us stronger educators.

To do this effectively, begin by identifying a problem. For example, “I have a diverse group of students and I feel like I’m not providing a curriculum that meets all their needs.” Once you have a problem, you can research a solution. In this example, one possible solution would be exploring and implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Step 2: Writing the goal

Once you have an idea that is relevant to your current position and your real-life responsibilities, it’s time to write your goal. A great framework to writing a goal is to use the SMART framework.

  What does this mean for me?
S = Specific and Strategic  How exactly will you improve your professional practice? Be specific about what you want to accomplish.
M = Measurable  How will you “prove” you met this goal? Think about specific evidence and artifacts that would make completion of this goal possible.
A = Action Oriented  Think about strong action verbs. Will you model, observe, facilitate, reflect, etc…
R = Rigorous, Realistic, and Results Focused  Balance rigor with realism. Push yourself to improve your practice without sacrificing other professional obligations. If done well, what will this accomplish?
T = Timed and Tracked  How often will you will complete each task, and when? This is something you could “prove” with artifacts.

Here is a PPG that is SMART:

As a team, we will meet at least 2 times per month to learn about the Universal Design for Learning framework in order to increase student engagement in the classroom, gain expertise to improve practice and student outcomes, and design and implement universally designed curriculum materials which reflect embedded scaffolds to support students of all ability levels, and by January, 2015, we will all implement at least 2 UDL lessons per week.

Here is the alignment to specific SMART indicators.

As a team, we will meet at least 2 times per month (M, T) to learn about the Universal Design for Learning framework (S) in order to increase student engagement in classroom (R), gain expertise to improve practice and student outcomes (R), and design (A) and implement (A) universally designed curriculum materials which reflect embedded scaffolds to support students of all ability levels, and by January, 2014, we will all implement at least 2 UDL lessons per week (T).

Step 3: Write your action steps

In order to be responsible, self-directed, independent learners, we need to support our planning and strategy development by identifying specific actions steps that will help us meet our goal. Think about creating a to-do list that will keep you on track as you work toward your goal. Choose actions that are relevant and valuable to you because you will be more motivated to complete each action step.

During this step, put your diverse experience to good use. Could you add Twitter chats to your action steps, could you model for other teachers, could you start a book club? Think about your experiences as an educator and harness your strengths in your action plan.

Here are just a few possible action steps – but in order for them to be meaningful, choose steps that are most relevant to you.

  • Participate in a book study on Universal Design for Learning (some good ones: UDL Now!, Design and Deliver, Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, and UDL: Practical Applications)
  • Start a discussion thread on Edmodo or another blog where each teacher reflects on their learning at least once a month
  • Participate in the #UDLchat on Twitter the first and third Wednesday of each month
  • Observe cohort members implementing Universal Design in their own classrooms at least once a quarter
  • Participate in Looking at Student Work protocols to examine Universally Designed curricular materials at least once a month
  • Creating a virtual PLC on google hangout

Step 4: Determine when you will complete each action step.

After creating your action steps, decide when each step will be completed, so you can check them off as you develop professionally and meet your goals. This will enhance your capacity to monitor your own process and will allow to self-assess how you’re doing and reflect at the end of the cycle.

Writing Your Professional Practice Goals the UDL Way

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