UDL series – Engagement: Self Regulation

26 July 2022
By Sam Graff

UDL, a blog series…

To recap, the first blog post in the series describes the principles of UDL and how to take the initial small step into achieving a UDL classroom. You can find the link back to the first post of this series.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) “is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights in how humans learn” (Cast.org). UDL can create an equitable and inclusive learning environment for all students in the classroom.

Within the UDL framework, there are three major categories and their subcategories:

In our earlier blogs about engagement, we focused on designing for recruiting interest and sustaining effort in the classroom. Now, we take another step into the topic of engagement, providing opportunities for students to gain skills in self regulation. CAST states “The ability to self-regulate—to strategically modulate one’s emotional reactions or states in order to be more effective at coping and engaging with the environment—is a critical aspect of human development.” Often, this topic is overlooked and the opportunity to develop this skill is not supported. You can be successful in supporting self regulation in the classroom by promoting expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation, helping facilitate personal coping skills and strategies, and curating self assessments and reflective practices. 

Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation

As previously mentioned in our post about recruiting interest, creating a goal setting activity with your students is an important way to increase engagement, but let’s take it a step further. Set goals that are not only about the course but personal goals for the students as well. Try to incorporate goals that help with both strengths and weaknesses and then provide resources that help students achieve those goals. For example, if a student wants to make sure they prioritize their mental health during the term, make sure they are aware of the resources provided by SHAC at Carleton. You can provide this information on your Moodle page and this does three things – one, it provides information to your students because they might not be aware of SHAC; two, it shows that you care about the personal goals your students set for themselves; and three, it demonstrates that you also make mental health and overall health a priority. 

Providing multiple opportunities and options for students to help them stay motivated can increase engagement in the classroom. 

Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies

When students make the transition from high school to college the amount of stress they face increases, whether it’s from courses, living on their own or in general everything about college. As an instructor who has gone through this yourself, you can share how you also managed the stresses of college. For example, share some coping strategies on the first day of classes when introducing yourself. If meditation worked for you, you could share with them Carleton’s Time to Meditate  information on your Moodle page. Consider creating a section in Moodle where you have resources that go beyond the scope of your course, like tools and resources that will help the student overall be successful at Carleton. 

In addition to sharing your personal experiences, consider modeling responses. For example, help students transition out of a fixed mindset into a growth mindset by shifting how they respond to setbacks and mistakes. Carol Dweck explains in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006) that there are two types of mindsets, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is when the student avoids challenges and can ignore critical feedback because they cannot see themselves make mistakes to learn. In a growth mindset, a student embraces challenges and learns from critical feedback. One way to help students make that step towards a growth mindset is to help them embrace phrases such as  “how can I improve on the areas I am struggling in?” rather than “I am not good at math.” It also matters what you say to your student such as “yes, you can do it” versus “this is a difficult class and it’s not for everyone.”  One of the IDE goals for Carleton is “Goal 3: Establish and sustain the resources and practices necessary to provide an equitable environment for all students, staff, and faculty to thrive,” and with applying a growth mindset and the  UDL principles to your classroom, you are creating an accessible, inclusive, and equitable learning environment for all students.  

Develop self-assessment and reflection

Students have a range of capabilities when it comes to their metacognition. Some students will need more guidelines than others on what can and should go into a metacognitive activity. One way to help students complete this type of assessment is to model it. Metacognition, through self-reflective activities, can increase awareness of the learning progress and process. Students can focus on the success they have made so far and also investigate the challenges they have encountered and use this information to make adjustments and prepare for the next learning activity. Developing self-reflective opportunities in the classroom can increase students’ self regulation skills  which will prepare them for other courses and their future lives.

Small steps add up, and by providing multiple means of engagement, you create an inclusive, equitable, and accessible learning environment.