“The best thing we can do to support [teachers] is to invest in our human capital by creating learning experiences and options to help them meet the needs of their students in a way that we all start improving and learning together.”

– Katie Novak, co-author of Universally Designed Leadership

There’s no question that professional development (PD) can help boost teacher performance, but teachers have varying needs just like their students do. By applying the Universal Design for Learning to PD, a district can create a program that’s inclusive of all educators.

In Universally Designed Leadership, Katie Novak and Kristan Rodriguez share how their district formed a committee to evaluate and redesign existing PD programs to make them more democratic, comprehensive, and differentiated.

Instead of requiring a single PD program for everyone, the committee surveyed teachers to better understand the skills and content knowledge they wanted to improve. Then they sought proposals from teacher leaders and administrators to address those issues, leading to a catalog of various peer-to-peer PD courses. Teachers then could mix and match from these PD options to meet their needs.

The design of the individual courses, and provision of multiple options, ensured that the program was in line with the UDL Guidelines.

This initiative was so successful that the district eventually partnered with a local university so that the teachers could continue to propose and instruct PD courses, this time with graduate credits being awarded!

For advice and a detailed protocol on how Katie and Kristan were able to revolutionize their district’s professional development program, be sure to check out Universally Designed Leadership: Applying UDL to Systems and Schools — a practical, example filled handbook for applying the UDL framework at every level of a district.

You can find Katie Novak online via her website katienovakudl.com, and Kristan Rodriguez at rodriguezeducationalconsultingagency.wordpress.com.