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Getting to Know Your Learners

Slide7If you have not read our What is Universal Design for Learning? post, we recommend you start there.

For those of you that have learned a little about UDL, you are now ready to dive in and start the journey.  By coming back for the second post in this series, it must mean you actually want to try this out.  GREAT!  We hope we can help make your journey simpler.

A key component of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is understanding who your students really are. That could include:



  • background knowledge
  • personal experiences or situations
  • interests or hobbies
  • challenges or disabilities
  • skills or abilities or strengths

These factors contribute to how well your students will be able to interact with the information you represent.  So, how does one get to know their students?

  • surveys or questionnaires
  • conversations with students
  • observations of students in class and during unstructured breaks (like recess)
  • trial & error
  • parental input
  • former teachers
  • professional assessments (educational, medical, cognitive or psycho-educational assessments)

Knowing your students if more than knowing if they like butterflies or video games. Each area of the brain interacts differently with information. A student might know HOW to add (recognition), but if you ask the same student to write out their own question, they might not be able to line up the place values correctly (strategic) and then gets the addition question incorrect because the numbers are in the wrong place. We will get into that more in a future post. If you know where students will have learning barriers, you can proactively plan to reduce or eliminate those barriers. Here are some possible examples. Think about how you might handle these in your classroom.

 Reducing Barriers

So, by knowing who your learners are, you can help (maybe prevent) many learning barriers. Knowing about the potential problems can help you anticipate challenges and provide better support for all your students.

Maybe you want to do learner profiles and don’t know where to start. There are many different interest surveys and questionnaires all over the place. If you don’t want to search the web, but still want to try, take a look at our Learner Profiles. We designed these for the students in our class based on thousands of other surveys we’d looked at and tried.If you have a copy of one the recommended books, they also have several surveys within the text. The recommended books are Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age by David H. Rose, Anne Meyer, Nicole Strangman and Gabrielle Rappolt or Teaching to Diversity by Jennifer Katz.


I’m in my classroom already:  Learn something about a student in the middle of your class. Not a “high flyer.” Not one with a huge list of assessments already done. Find out about one of those well behaved, quiet and “under the radar” students. What kinds of barriers might be in place that you don’t even know about yet? What are their preferences for how they learn? How do they like to show you what they know?  How did you find out the information? Leave us a comment to let us know what you did.


I’m not in the classroom yet: Make a list of potential learning barriers with a list of ways you might be able to help reduce them.  Do you have any that you can’t figure out how to reduce?  Leave us a comment on your best idea and the one you’re stuck on and we’ll help figure out what you could do.

Love the Ninjas

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