Action and Expression

Guideline 4: Provide options for physical action that maximize students' opportunity to optimally interact and respond (e.g. navigate, act, compose, and construct meaning).

An assessment in a print format provides limited means of navigation or physical interaction (e.g., by turning pages with fingers, handwriting in spaces provided). Many interactive pieces of educational software similarly provide only limited means of navigation or interaction (e.g., by dexterously manipulating a joystick or keyboard). Navigation and interaction in those limited ways will raise barriers for some students—those who are physically disabled, blind, dysgraphic, or who have various kinds of executive function disorders. It is important to provide materials with which all students can interact. Properly designed assessment materials provide a seamless interface with common assistive technologies—such as voice activated switches, expanded keyboards, and so forth—that enable individuals with motor disabilities to navigate a text and express what they know.

Two images of AT. First image, student using mouse at computer.

Student uses a mouse click and a writing grid as a means of input to write a sentence using symbol based text.

Second image, screen the student sees and use of the mouse to select images for sentences.

Screen view as student uses a mouse click and a writing grid as a means of input to write a sentence using symbol based text.

4.1 Options in the mode for physical response

Students differ widely in their motor capacity and dexterity. To reduce barriers to learning that would be introduced by the differential motor demands of a particular task, provide alternative means for response, selection, and composition.

Image of a student pointing to images and text using a slant board for optimal positioning.

A slant board holds a page of text at an angled for optimal viewing as student points to each word while reading.

Three pair of specialized scissors, with  modified handles

Scissors with different handle structures allow students to cut materials using a variety of motor actions (typical grip, squeeze or push actions).

Learning through video:

Resources for the "National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials" (AIM) - see this website for teachers: http://aim.cast .org/

4.2 Options in the means of navigation and interaction

Students differ widely in their optimal means for navigating through information and activities. To provide equal opportunity for interaction during assessment situations, ensure that there are multiple means for navigating so that navigation and control are accessible to all students.

Resources for "WebAIM: Motor Disabilities, Assistive Technologies" - see this informational website for teachers: http://webaim.org/articles/motor/assistive

Resources for the "National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials" (AIM) - see this website for teachers: http://aim.cast .org/

4.3 Options for accessing tools and assistive technologies

Significant numbers of students consistently use assistive technologies for navigation, interaction, and composition. It is critical that assessments not impose inadvertent barriers to the use of these assistive technologies, which would interfere with determining what students have learned. An important design consideration for online assessments is to ensure that there are keyboard commands for any mouse action so that students may use common assistive technologies that depend on those commands. It is also important, however, to ensure that making an assessment physically accessible does not inadvertently remove its challenge to learning. The goal is not to make answers physically accessible, but to make the learners' ability to express or demonstrate their knowledge accessible.

Guideline 5: Provide options for expressive skills and fluency that maximize interaction and expression with the demands of an assessment item.

Image of an AT adaptive keyboard made by Intellikeys

An adaptive keyboard and custom overlay designed with eight cells providing points of entry to write a sentence. Images are seen in this example for the user to touch and make audio or printed output for communication.

There is no medium of expression that is equally suited for all students or for all kinds of communication. On the contrary, there are media that seem poorly suited or create barriers for some forms of expression and for some students. While a student with cerebral palsy may be able to communicate with oral story-telling, his ability to communicate may falter drastically when attempting to express that same story in writing due to fine motor challenges. Alternative modalities for expression should be provided both to level the playing field among students and to introduce all students to the full range of media that are important for communication and literacy in our multimedia culture. Additionally, students vary widely in their familiarity and fluency with the conventions of any one medium. Within media, therefore, alternative supports should be available to scaffold and guide students who are at different abilities of expression and communication without altering construct relevance.

5.1 Options in the media for communication

Unless specific media and materials are critical to an objective (e.g., the objective is to learn to paint specifically with oils or to learn to handwrite with calligraphy) or construct to be assessed, it is important to provide alternative media for expression. Such alternatives reduce media-specific barriers to expression among students with a variety of special needs but also increase the opportunities for all students to develop a wider palette of expression in a media-rich world.

Sentence created with a visual images paired with text.

A sentence created by a student using a writing grid is cut out and displayed on the page of a notebook as a record of the topic of a story.

Resources on "Create to Educate" - see this informational website for teachers: http://icreatetoeducate.com/

Resources on "Augmentative and Alternative Communication" (AAC) - see this informational website:http://www.circleofinclusion.org/english/augcomm/index.html

5.2 Options in the tools for composition and problem solving

There is a pervasive tendency in schooling to focus on traditional tools for literacy rather than on contemporary ones. This tendency has several liabilities: (1) it does not prepare students for their future; (2) it limits the range of content and teaching methodologies that can be implemented; and, most important, (3) it restricts the kinds of students who can be successful. Modern media tools provide a more flexible and accessible tool kit with which students who have a variety of abilities and disabilities can more successfully articulate what they know. Unless an assessment or test item is focused on demonstrating ability to use a specific tool (e.g., draw with a compass), assessments and curricula should allow many alternatives. Of course, each assessment item should be evaluated to see that the alternative tool does not interfere with the construct relevance of the assessment item.

Two images of a picture book. In the first image there are 3 picture cards above the book.

Student using a picture book selects a symbol from three response options to answer a question posed in a story.

In the second image, a student is selecting one card in response to a question posed in the book.

Student has a picture book and cards with images. The story poses a question and the student selects an image card to indicate the response to the question.

Resources on "Dragon Naturally Speaking" - see this commercial website for teachers, administrators, and students: http://www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/

5.3 Options in the scaffolds for practice and performance

Students who are developing a target skill often need multiple graduated scaffolds and multiple supports to help them as they practice and develop independence. The same supports used for access in the instructional setting should be available to the student in the assessment setting. Assessments should offer alternatives to the degree of freedom available, with supported opportunities (e.g., templates, physical and mnemonic scaffolds, procedural checklists, etc.) that do not interfere with the construct relevance of the item.

Image of 2 plastic rings overlapping one another, with 2 toy sailboats and 1 toy car. The toys are placed to categorize by mode of transport (wheels and not wheels).

Use of objects, plastic rings and toy vehicles to create a Tactile Venn diagram as a physical scaffold to help classify objects.

Resources article from Walden University "Autism Augmentative Communication & Assistive Technology" - see this article for teachers and administrators: http://connected.waldenu.edu/special-education/developmental-disabilities/item/957-autism-augmentative-communication-assistive-technology

Guideline 6: Provide options for student interaction and response for executive functions (e.g. planning, organization, and using working memory).

At the highest level of human capacity to act skillfully are the so-called "executive functions ." Associated with the prefrontal cortex in the brain, these capabilities allow humans to overcome impulsive, short-term reactions to their environment and to instead set long-term goals, plan effective strategies for reaching those goals, monitor their progress, and modify strategies as needed. Of critical importance to educators is the fact that executive functions have limited capacity and are especially vulnerable to disability. This is true because executive capacity is sharply reduced when (1) executive functioning capacity must be devoted to managing "lower-level" skills and responses that are not automatic or fluent (due to either disability or inexperience) and thus the capacity for "higher-level" functions is taken, and (2) executive capacity itself is reduced due to some sort of higher-level disability or to a lack of fluency with executive strategies. The UDL approach typically involves efforts to expand executive capacity in two ways: (1) by scaffolding lower-level skills so they require less executive processing, and (2) by scaffolding higher-level executive skills and strategies so they are more effective and better developed. Previous Guidelines have addressed lower-level scaffolding, and this Guideline addresses ways to provide scaffolding for executive functions themselves.

6.1 Options that guide effective goal-setting

When left on their own, most students—especially those who are immature or who have disabilities that affect executive function—set learning and performance goals for themselves that are inappropriate or unreachable. The most common remedy is to have adults set goals and objectives for them. That short-term remedy, however, does little to help any student develop new skills or strategies, and does even less to support students with executive function weaknesses. A UDL approach embeds graduated scaffolds for approaching assessment tasks in this situation, so that the learner may set personal goals that are both challenging and realistic to the assessment conditions.

6.2 Options that support planning and strategy development

Once a goal is set, effective learners and problem-solvers plan a strategy for reaching that goal. For a student with a disability that compromises executive functions, the strategic planning step is often omitted and impulsive trial and error takes its place. To help students become more plan-oriented and strategic particularly in an assessment situation, a variety of options—cognitive "speed bumps" that prompt them to stop and think, provide construct irrelevant graduated scaffolds to help them implement strategies, engagement in decision-making with competent mentors—are needed and easily applied in the assessment situation.

View this informational "Research Autism: Improving the Quality of Life" website on research in autism for teachers and administrators : http://www.researchautism.net/interventionitem.ikml?ra=92 - http://www.researchautism.net/interventionitem.ikml?ra=92 -

6.3 Options that facilitate managing information and resources

Students may seem unresponsive to corrective feedback or knowledge of results. As a result, they seem "perseverative," careless, or unmotivated. For these students all of the time, and for most students some of the time, it is important to ensure that options can be customized to provide feedback that is explicit, timely, informative, and accessible (see representational Guidelines above and Guidelines for affective feedback). Regardless of assessment or instructional episodes, it is especially important to provide "formative" feedback that allows students to monitor their own progress effectively and to use that information to guide their own effort and practice.

6.4 Options that enhance capacity for monitoring progress

Students may seem unresponsive to corrective feedback or knowledge of results. As a result, they seem "perseverative," careless, or unmotivated. For these students all of the time, and for most students some of the time, it is important to ensure that options can be customized to provide feedback that is explicit, timely, informative, and accessible (see representational Guidelines above and Guidelines for affective feedback). Regardless of assessment or instructional episodes, it is especially important to provide "formative" feedback that allows students to monitor their own progress effectively and to use that information to guide their own effort and practice.