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Optimizing Individual Choice and Autonomy in Universal Design for Learning

Optimizing individual choice and autonomy is a universal design for learning (UDL) guideline that supports multiple means of engagement. The UDL guidelines were developed by an organization called CAST. This article will explore how teachers and other educators can give learners choice in the context of their learning.

Optimizing individual choice and autonomy in Universal Design for Learning

Optimizing individual choice and autonomy means providing learners with choices for meeting their learning objectives. Most lessons include learning objectives that specify what learners should be able to do by the end of the lesson. In other words, learners cannot choose their own learning objectives. However, learners should be able to make other choices about how to achieve learning objectives. For example, learners may wish to complete tasks with different tools or media.

While some learners value a variety of choices, others may find this variety overwhelming. As a result, teachers may:

  • Provide a limited number of choices, such as three (3)
  • Recommend one option, but provide alternatives for learners to choose if they wish

Strategies for Optimizing Individual Choice and Autonomy

Teachers can use many strategies for optimizing individual choice and autonomy. For instance, teachers can invite learners to help design some classroom activities or projects. For example, a teacher may assign their class a project to research various countries. The teacher may invite learners to develop a list of questions about the countries that learners will later research the answers to.

In addition, teachers can present assignments in different ways to make them seem more or less challenging. Learners who enjoy challenge may be more engaged by an assignment presented as an opportunity to try new or complex things. Conversely, learners easily overwhelmed by challenge may be more engaged by an assignment presented as a chance to build on existing skills.

Similarly, teachers assigning work online can allow learners to customize layouts or backgrounds. Furthermore, teachers can allow learners to complete sub-tasks at different paces. For example, one learner might finish the first part of a project before the rest of their class. This learner could submit their work for feedback, and have more time for later portions of the project. Likewise, teachers who provide rewards or prizes can give learners choice about the kind of reward or prize they would like.

Moreover, teachers can invite learners to practice new skills in different ways. For example, different ways to measure data that learners might use include:

  • Charts
  • Graphs, such as:
    • Bar graphs
    • Pie graphs
    • Line graphs
  • Physical models or objects

Finally, teachers can support learners setting goals to improve their learning or their behaviours.