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Interventions in STEM Education: Facilitation through the Universal Design for Learning Framework

This work was written by Dr. Krista Stith and Dr. Rachel Geesa; printed through the Indiana Association for School Principals


All students should have access to prerequisite science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, role models, mentors, and access to individual academic, socio-emotional, and motivational support. Intervention services can provide a keystone for educational learners to succeed in the classroom and beyond. As educators, it is our goal to support and meet the needs of all students to be career and college ready and research indicates intervention services can reduce rates of incarceration, depression, and drug use (Chesmore et al., 2016).


For learners with disabilities and other diverse needs, there is a deficiency gap in STEM education. “While interventions are being used to close the deficiency gap, the gap itself is widening because the ‘average’ learners are also advancing, usually at a more rapid pace” (Basham et al., 2020, p. 129). Students with diverse needs are capable of performing well in STEM education, but educators often lack the preparedness and content credentials to provide high quality STEM education in inclusive interdisciplinary environments (Williams et al., 2018).


More and more students with disabilities hope to enter STEM fields and the Universal Design of Learning as a framework for STEM equity is gaining traction in the research for building student capacity in STEM (Basham et al., 2020; Geesa et al., 2022; Schreffler et al., 2019). Universal Design for Learning guides educators through developing learning experiences that honors the backgrounds of all students. There are three guiding principles: multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of action and expression (Center for Assistive Special Technology [CAST], 2018). We would like to provide a few examples in the diagram to explain how these principles can support interventions for students in STEM.


1. Multiple means of engagement- Provision for students to engage with new content.

2. Multiple means of representation- Provision for students to access new content through multiple avenues.

3. Multiple means of action and expression- Provision of support for students to demonstrate mastery of content and skills through multiple avenues.


Indiana hosts a number of high quality community partners that may assist educational leaders, intervention specialists, program coordinators, and educators in designing flexible ways of engagement, representation, and action/expression for a diverse population.


Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) - https://www.iyi.org/ - As a nonprofit organization serving educators, students, and families across Indiana, IYI supports the youth services field through data accessibility, trainings, and resources.

Indiana Institute on Disability and Community Center of Education and Lifelong Learning (ICTQ) - https://ictq. indiana.edu/ - The ICTQ Center supports educators through on-site trainings, consultations, coaching, and asynchronous online modules in UDL and PBIS.

Ball State University Online STEM (O-STEM) Series - https:// ostem.bsu.edu/ Available Spring 2022, Ball State University has created self-guided modules for educators on incorporating STEM into online environments. Within the modules, course creators integrated UDL principles, professional standards, and social justice standards.

Local partners: A number of professionals may be available in your school community to support the integration of UDL in STEM classrooms. Psychologists, AT team, English Language Learner coordinators, speech and language pathologists, instructional technologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, behavior consultants, social workers, special education directors, paraprofessionals, and afterschool inclusion specialists, and culture specialists.


Conclusion: Universal Design for Learning can be an impactful framework for students to engage in STEM learning. We provided examples that align with UDL’s three principles and highlighted potential community partners around the state who may help educators support students. Considering more students endeavor to enter STEM fields in their postsecondary career, supporting educators in capacity-building in STEM and intervention services is a critical component for inclusive interdisciplinary learning.


Infinite Capacity is dedicated to inclusively fostering personal and professional growth for educators, leaders, and community partners through innovative educational practices. Consulting services are available for school and district-level support. Please e-mail us at contact@infinitecapacity.com for more information. Our book, Leadership in Integrative STEM: Strategies for Facilitating an Experiential and Student-Centered Culture, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Rowman & Littlefield.


References:

Basham, J.D., Marino, M.T., Hunt, C.L., Han, K. (2019). Considering STEM for learners with disabilities and other diverse needs. In C. C. Johnson, M. J. MohrSchroeder, T. J. Moore, & L. D. English (Eds.), Handbook of research on STEM education (pp. 128-137). Routledge.


CAST. (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2. https:// udlguidelines.cast.org/ Chesmore, A., Ou, S., & Reynolds, A. (2016). Childhood placement in special education and adult well-being. The Journal of Special Education, 50(2) 109-120.


Geesa, R. L., Rose, M. A., Stith, K. M., Lowery, K., Caniglia, J., (2022). Equity, diversity, and inclusion within integrative STEM education. In R. L. Geesa, M. A. Rose, & K. M. Stith (Eds.), Leadership in Integrative STEM Education: Collaborative strategies for facilitating an experiential and student-centered culture (pp. 51-70). Rowman & Littlefield.


Schreffler, J., Vasquez III, E., Chini, J., & James, W. (2019). Universal design for learning in postsecondary STEM education for students with disabilities: A systematic literature review. International Journal of STEM Education, 6(1), 1-10.


Williams Jr., T. O., Ernst, J. V., & Rossi, L. (2018). Teaching credentials in the inclusive STEM classroom. Journal of STEM Education, 19(4), 30-34.

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