Understanding the Innovation of Utilizing Universal Design for Learning in Integrated STEM Classrooms by Early Adaptors

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Virginia Tech

Integrated STEM education and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) have been often theorized as compatible. However, there has been little research done to understand how UDL is used in real-world integrated STEM classrooms. Our study aimed to understand how current practicing educators in integrated STEM classrooms combine these teaching methodologies. This was done through a combination of interviews and document analysis of lesson plans, and supplementary information. To evaluate what elements of UDL were used in the documents, researchers developed a UDL codebook based off of the 31 checkpoints in the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) UDL guidelines. The goal of the study was to understand how the adoption of UDL could spread across all integrated STEM educators. Therefore, our study viewed the use of UDL in an integrated STEM classroom as an 'innovation' and analyzed our results through Diffusion of Innovation theory. Specifically looking to providing understanding to the 'innovation' through Rogers 5 Attributes of innovations. The study found that all except two UDL checkpoints were proved to be compatible within integrated STEM classrooms, and were categories developed to explain how the participant achieved these checkpoints. The findings also show that not all UDL checkpoints occur at the same frequency. Through Diffusion of Innovation theory, our study showed that Integrated STEM educators believe that UDL is automatically adopted by educators using Integrated STEM teaching methodologies. They expressed problems associated with implementing some UDL checkpoints, and providing overall themes of complexity when implement UDL in an Integrated STEM classroom.

Integrated STEM education, Inclusive education, Universal Design for Learning, STEM education, Diffusion of Innovation theory