UDL for Adult Learners: Intentional and Accessible Learning Experiences / by Tyler Wood

One of the main tenets of andragogy is autonomy. Adult learners know how they learn and want to have choices. All three of the main tenets of UDL offer choices. What is UDL?

Multiple Means of Representation

Allowing adult learners different ways of gathering information offers the adult learner a choice of how they wish to see/hear/read the content based on what works best for them. They will chose the one that works best because they are self-motivated to gather the information the most effective way they can. I do this in my own learning frequently, when given a choice. I have always remembered and been able to transfer information when I have visual representation of content in context. I grew up being able to rattle off all of the battle strategies of Hannibal (still can 20 years later) from watching one documentary, but I had trouble contextualizing novels I was not interested in when I was in school. I am uniquely aware of the benefits of offering multiple means of representation for students without disabilities as much as we do for students with them. I am going to have a flipped lesson to teach what a flipped lesson is, so I will have video, audio, and text representations online. In the class setting, I would like something hands-on and interactive, like organizing a classroom with blocks or with the class itself to help teachers visualize and feel the lesson a little more.

Multiple Means of Action and Expression

I still struggle with this one in my own learning because I was in the traditional system for too long, I think. I am comfortable writing essays. I majored in English (lots of essays), and minored in History (essays) and philosophy (long essays). I do see the benefit of having a choice of how you express your knowledge of the content though. I have seen many students create wonderful things that show their knowledge of ideas or content without writing an essay or taking a quiz and those should be honored. For adults, it is even more important because of the shell adults have around them for fear of failure. Having a choice to show what they know in a way they feel comfortable with gives them confidence and allows for a successful learning environment. My particular lesson I am working on is not a mastery course, it is a training, so I will not be asking for much in the way of expression. They do not get graded, and they will not appreciate homework when they are trying to prepare for classes, but I will try and encourage them to use this method with their students and hope they will see the benefits of offering this sort of choice in their class. If I had a class that needed evidence of mastery, I would allow any type of submission they felt gives evidence of their knowledge of the subject. With adults, it is easier to allow them to work independently without them going way off course. Adults tend to need answers when they are lost, where as children can just go way off course sometimes without thinking they didn't get it. 

Multiple Means of Engagement

This one differs the most from pedagogy, I think. When dealing with younger students engagement is external and the onus is on the instructor more to deliver the means of engagement; however, with adults the motivation is generally more internal and the onus is more on the student. Look at university, traditionally, the student has to deal with how it is done and figure it out. All of my professors could not care less if I had trouble understanding their lecture, they would offer me notes or some office time to help explain things, but they would not worry about trying to motivate me. My money and future career was supposed to do that for them. In this way, I think this is also the hardest, but possibly the most interesting of the three UDL principles to apply to andragogy. This is where the instructor can be more informal and break things down on why we are learning them in the grand scheme of things. This is also where an instructor can create a series of lessons that build to a final 'aha' moment. This is a much harder task to do with adults, which is why it would be hard. However, when done right can be very satisfying. This is where UbD is important because the instructor needs to know where s/he wants to end up and how to get the students there in an engaging way. Perhaps it is my English background, but I like the idea of building a story that leads to the end goal. Adults, like anyone, are engaged when there is some connection to the content, real of make-believe (see: movies). A story is an overarching tool for engagement that lends itself to additional methods of engagement because anything can happen in a story you create. Adult students can engage with the story because it offers authentic practice (if written correctly) and choice. I grew up reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and that can be a part of the story as well. 

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