Pandemic teaching : application of universal design for learning in eighth-grade English language arts and reading.
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Sharp, Amy A., 1982-
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The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of education globally, requiring educators to teach online and in-building with social distancing protocols. In this context, U.S. school districts were tasked with addressing learner variability in new ways. The purpose of this multiple case study was to understand the application of universal design for learning (UDL) strategies used by eighth-grade English language arts and reading educators in the Texas Independent School District, a one-to-one public school district. The study contributes to the literature on the effectiveness of UDL-based practices by addressing how course design is essential to meeting students' diverse learning needs in synchronous remote learning or socially distanced in-building learning during an emergency. The researcher captured the application of UDL during course design, combined with district-approved digital tools and teaching strategies, to understand how this practice affected course delivery in the synchronous remote and socially distanced, in-building learning environments. A literature review, review of district structures and systems, and qualitative case study of a three member, eighth-grade professional learning community were used to study the application of UDL during the pandemic. The researcher coded and analyzed the data obtained to reveal three themes with six subthemes. The first theme, change in purpose, contained one subtheme: ready-to-learn based upon life situations created a need-to-know and apply for survival. The second theme, change in course materials and content delivery, included three subthemes: (a) the validity of the content, (b) how the content was structured, and (c) the importance of clarity concerning how information was being delivered to their students. The last theme, change in teaching perspectives, was associated with the following subthemes: (a) modifying teaching strategies as the awareness of learner variability increased and (b) innovations supporting nontraditional teaching methods as the participants recognized varying student learning needs in their synchronous remote or in-building instructional settings. Findings revealed the need to develop a comprehensive, district-wide approach to addressing learner variability through professional development and the professional learning community model.