FREDERICTON (GNB) – Research by New Brunswick teachers on the topic of accommodating learning differences was released today in Fredericton.

“I commend these teachers for their hard work and commitment to improving the learning experience for their students,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny. “Education is one of our government’s top priorities, and research like this will help students reach their potential in the classroom and beyond. Meeting the needs of all learners and offering professional learning opportunities for teachers are priorities in our 10-year education plans.”

The department, in partnership with the University of New Brunswick (UNB), has supported teachers in deepening their understanding of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

UDL is an approach to teaching that recognizes the diverse needs of learners and has been a focus of professional learning for teachers over the last three-and-a-half years. School-based teams studied its implementation in their classrooms to investigate the impact on student achievement and engagement.

Findings related to the use of UDL practices included:

•          Higher test scores and a deeper understanding of concepts among high school math students.

•          Increased student engagement in Grade 7 and 8 social studies classes.

•          Greater student participation, increased independence, and fewer disruptive behaviours in middle school math and language arts classes.

“This UDL monograph is the culmination of a great deal of work,” said Ann Sherman, dean of UNB’s faculty of education. “Nothing is more powerful for teachers to read than the work of their own colleagues. This research took place in New Brunswick schools, with New Brunswick students and teachers, and demonstrates impactful school improvements. It is exciting to be a part of this kind of professional learning opportunity.”

A summary of the findings was shared at an international conference at Harvard University last summer; a research monograph capturing the work of nine school-based teams of teachers was released today at UNB.

Teachers from the following schools took part in the research: Caledonia Regional High School, Fredericton High School, Harbour View High School, Harvey High School, Island View School, Millidgeville North School, Riverview High School, Salem Elementary School, Nashwaak Valley School, New Maryland Elementary School, Barkers Point Elementary School, and Nashwaaksis Middle School.

“Participating in this research gave me and my group the opportunity to put UDL theory into practice and to expand our understanding of how to create flexible lessons that can break down barriers to learning,” said Monica Watson-Bedard, a teacher at Millidgeville North School. “It allowed for the opportunity to work with like-minded teachers within my school, as well as the chance to collaborate with other groups throughout the province. It truly has been a unique opportunity that has greatly impacted my learning, my teaching and my interactions with students.”

A second round of research involving 12 teams of educators will begin this fall.

The government’s 10-year education plans aim to improve educational outcomes and better prepare young people for the future. They set objectives in priority areas to create lifelong learners, support educational leaders and bring stability to the system.