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Student Choice Menus with Eric Boyer

Welcome to Episode 34 of the ThinkUDL podcast: Student Choice Menus with Eric Boyer.  Eric Boyer is an Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations in the College of Education and Counseling at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. I got the chance to sit down with Eric at the Teaching for Active and Engaged Learning Lilly Conference in San Diego, California, February 27-29, 2020. Our conversation hits the high points of multiple intelligences, choice theory, self-determination theory, and reflective journaling. Eric’s background teaching high school and then teaching in the Education department at St. Martin’s University brings theory to practice in providing a menu of choices and motivational engagement to his classes. All of the things that Eric and I talk about are also available on our resource page so if you want to look further into anything we discuss in today’s episode, you can follow up there. This conversation is filled with creative ideas and UDL applications and great ideas for teaching that could be applied to many different subject areas and circumstances. Join us for a lively conversation focussing on student choice and teaching innovation!


Eric Boyer: find him here!

World History Learning Menu: Here is the latest iteration of the World History Learning Menu that Eric mentions in the podcast.

Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom:  This is the text Eric uses for his Curriculum & Instruction class.

William Glasser on Choice Theory: Check out this work on internal motivation for student learning.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination):  Curriculum used at the school where Eric taught and used quite extensively around the nation.

INSPECT Categories, this is the website of Eric’s colleague at Bremerton High School, it can be seen as an option on the Learning Menu.

Self Determination Theory, this was the theory of motivation Eric utilized as the basis for his dissertation.

Eric’s PhD Advisor/mentor Dr. Arthur Ellis, wrote this book and it’s what Eric used for the Reflective Journaling prompts for my dissertation:

International Teaching Learning Cooperative: Look here for all of the opportunities that ITLC provides for faculty!

Lilly Conferences: Take a look at all of the Lilly Conferences available year round and somewhere within a drive to you since they are held from coast to coast and in between! These are fabulous, friendly teaching and learning conferences that give you actionable items that you can use right away, and inspiration for more!


[Lillian]  Welcome to Think UDL, the Universal Design for Learning podcast.  Where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. 


I’m your host, Lillian Nave, and I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding, and facilitating, but how you design and implement it, and why it even matters.  


Welcome to episode 34 of the Think UDL podcast: Student Choice Menus with Eric Boyer.  Eric Boyer is an assistant professor of educational foundations in the College of Education and Counseling at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington.  I got the chance to sit down with Eric at the Teaching for Active and Engaged Learning Lilly conference in San Diego, California February 27 through 29, 2020.  Our conversation hits the high points of multiple intelligences, choice theory, self-determination theory, and reflective journaling.  Eric’s background teaching high school and then teaching in the education department at St. Martin’s University brings theory to practice in providing a menu of choices and motivational engagement to his classes.  All of the things Eric and I talk about are also available on our resource page.  So if you want to look further into anything we discuss in today’s episode, you can follow up there.  This conversation is filled with creative ideas and UDL applications and great ideas for teaching that could be applied to many different subject areas and circumstances.  Join us for a lively conversation focusing on student choice and teaching innovation.   

Welcome to the Lilly conference in San Diego, California.  Sunny San Diego.  I am here talking with Eric Boyer from St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington, which is the Olympia, Washington area, and he’s the professor of educational foundations at St. Martin’s University and I had the great fortune to meet him at the Lilly conference.  And we’re both actually Lilly ambassadors so that’s right you know we get a chance to talk to other folks here and introduce them to why we think the Lilly conferences are amazing.  So, thank you so much for joining me on the Think UDL podcast. 


[Eric]   Yes, well, thank you.  Thank you for having me. 


[Lillian]   So, I really want to get to talk to you about this learning menu you were telling me about.  But I always have a first question that I asked my guests, and that is what makes you a different kind of learner? 


[Eric]    Yes, so, I would say what makes me a different kind of learner is I’ve always learned through storytelling and conversation.   


[Lillian]    Really? 

[Eric]    Yeah, and so, when I think back to my own experience with learning, I can remember just really enjoying the classes and the teachers that I had–especially in middle school in high school–that were not only conversational with the class but had woven in activities for us students to be conversational with each other.  And having been a teacher and a professor now, I have to realize that’s what I do; but at the same time, not everybody learns that way.  So I had to be mindful of I might tell a story and I might have a student say, you know, hey can we get back on track?  Well, my story is intended to make a connection to the learning, but some people– if someone makes a tangent, or a teacher a professor makes a tangent, and some students are so linear that it’s hard for them to get on that.  So, I try to bring in different modalities, and I now utilize a text for my curriculum and instruction class called Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom and it’s a guide for teachers and professors to really differentiate a lesson plan.  And so to bring in spatial awareness, mathematical awareness, audio-visual, all types of different modalities, music. 


[Lillian]    That certainly works on that UDL guidelines, and we can put a link to that on our resources page so yeah we’d love to kind of pick your brain as we go throughout this podcast and make sure that I have those for our listeners who say oh wow that sounds like a great resource, I want to be able to use it. 


[Eric]    Yes, for sure 

[Lillian]    Yeah and I bet well storytelling I know history is your background and you taught in the high school right for 12 years 


[Eric]    Yes, I taught high school for 12 years and my bachelor’s degree is psychology with a minor in history.  And so I started out as a special ed teacher at the high school level, and then I ended up getting my social studies in history endorsement in Washington State.  So, I taught nine years.  I taught four years at Central Kitsap High School, and then five years at Bremerton High School world history, AP world, US, I taught–I created an intro to psych course.  But the thing that really made me love teaching history– and for the most part most, my students really appreciated it–was I taught history through the lens of psychology.  So, the story–what is history?  It’s not just a collection of name, dates, and facts, right yeah right history is–it’s a story, but it has multiple threads like there’s not one sort of accurate story–a textbook might tell you otherwise–but, what I would do is just explore the different stories and look at it through the lens of psychology.  And I would ask my students okay well what is psychology?  And they kind of look at me, I thought this was a history class?  And I’d say well psychology is the study of human behavior.  That’s what we do in psychology.  So, what are you doing, what are historians doing?  A good historian is analyzing the behavior of individuals in the past.  So it’s a story that’s laid out in front of us.  It’s an experiment in human behavior that’s laid out in front of us, and we’re examining it. 


[Lillian]    Oh, super brilliant, I love that  


[Eric]    Yeah, using it to inform our own society big picture, or even just our own self, you know.  So, the impetus for me to leave teaching high school and go to the University was just the fact that I would have high school students all the time saying how much they enjoyed my class, but then just the complaints and the bitterness towards other teachers, and a lot of high school teachers either they’re burned out or they just fall into the same pattern of do the worksheet, read the textbook, do the multiple-choice test, and that’s not learning that’s just pushing papers around.  And so I decided I needed to put myself in a position to train teachers, and so that was the next step for me. 


[Lillian]    Oh, fantastic, wow. And, I know storytelling– if you love storytelling and that’s the way you learn, to me it seems a natural fit that you are a historian. 


[Eric]    Yeah, right. 

[Lillian]    That makes a lot of sense.  Not a lot of storytellers that are you know, maybe mathematicians, I’m not sure maybe I’m not really thinking that right, but that sounds like they fit really well together.  So, you have a– we have this great opportunity to talk to each other before the first session, and you told me about this learning menu, and it’s something that you’ve been working with for a while.  I know part of your dissertation was working on that, and I thought this is so fantastic, I would love for our listeners to hear about that and maybe they can incorporate that into their courses and so I’d love to hear about how use UDL in that learning menu. 


[Eric]    Yeah, for sure.  So, you know, if you look at UDL, you’ve got engagement, representation, and action and expression.   Which is you know the why, the what, and the how.  And I immediately gravitated towards UDL because my teaching at the high school, and how I trained my teachers my pre-service teachers, I use a very simple model.  It’s the most simple model that you can even grasp.  Kindergartners can grasp it.  All human beings are what I like to call a combination of the three H, so it’s my 3 H model.   And what that means–very simple–head, hands, heart.  So, big picture: life is about your head, so what do you know, and how does that knowledge inform you and what you do and what you think and what you believe.  The hands is what are your skills, and so how do you take the knowledge that you have– and this can be related to work or related to social relationships or what have you– in this context its related to school.  So, what do you know, what can you do with it, and then the hardest: why do you care? And so when I look at UDL, so the representation is the head, so how do you engage with content with your students?  The how is the action and the expression.  So how do you get the students to work with the knowledge far beyond answering a multiple-choice test or fill in the blank. What does that do for me or memorize these vocab terms. 


[Lillian]    Right and not even know what they mean. 

[Eric]   Exactly yeah I could arbitrarily ask you to memorize 50 items in this room and I’ll quiz you on it tomorrow, you know, who cares.  And then the final piece is the engagement, which is the heart.  So it’s the why.  Why are we doing this?  And I tell my teachers my teacher candidates I said the number one thing you need to have prepared to answer to your students every day is when they ask you why are we doing this?  And you have to have at least three really good answers.  And so the idea with the learning menu was to begin to give my students some choice, but choice within parameters.  You can’t just alright guys, we’re reading chapter 10, do what you want with it.  And so the thought sort of came to me when I was having my students– it was a World War II lesson and I was having them– they were going to have like a little bit of a quiz you know just some open-ended questions and a few sprinkles of multiple-choice just to kind of–  


[Lillian]    A little recall exercise so know what they’re talking about, yeah. 


[Eric]   Exactly and so and there was a young lady in class this is a this was a U.S. history class and she was a junior, and she was always drawing pictures, very graphic novel-esque all over her notebook and she said that was her doodle and that a good teacher always has their third eye on what students are doing, you know and she asked if she could–oh and then they had to, there was a timeline where they had to fill in sort of some of the timeline pieces.  Well she asked if she could do the timeline as a graphic novel, not as not as a graphic novel but can I illustrate it.  And I said well yeah of course that sounds awesome and so she it was I think it was ten events of World War two like the most important events and she took ten sheets and she literally drew a representation of each event like Pearl Harbor, a Midway, D-day and it was impressive, it was crazy cool and I had to just thought well she’s engaging with the material– 


[Lillian]    Yeah, in the best way that she can and bringing her full self and all of her talents and it was so much better, yeah. 


[Eric]    Exactly  and so I thought and it’s like it just got in my head that Illustrated timeline, why should that not be an option for somebody?  And so I started to draw on different ways and different options for students and so it evolved and sort of this hey by the way you can do it if you want to do it as a PowerPoint presentation, just email to me, or if you want to you know if you’d like to draw a picture of the event, or we were studying African kingdoms you know in the Middle Ages and well why would someone want to go to Timbuktu?  And well make a travel brochure, explain what are the features of mid middle aged Timbuktu and the salt trades and you know and the exploration and the Age of Exploration.  A travel log if you’re Vasco deGama write what you would be thinking if you’re seeing you know these new lands etc.  So yeah so it turned into a full menu literally of options. 


[Lillian]    Wow and so when I explain it to people, the way I really like to get people to conceptualize it is I say okay, you go to a restaurant with your friends what’s the first thing you do you look at the menu.  


[Lillian]   Yeah, you want to see what they have, right? 


[Eric]    Now, if you went to the that restaurant and they served the same dish to every single person every single time,  


[Lillian]    Yeah, nobody’s going to like that restaurant  

[Eric]    Maybe the first time everybody’s down with it and is like oh we all have the same thing and it’s the same, but then you go tomorrow and then it’s the same thing, and then you–and everyone has the same thing, well doesn’t that sound a little like going to class? 


[Lillian]   Yeah, it does, doesn’t it. 


[Eric]   Every single person is doing the same thing the same way and then you’re graded on it.  Whereas you love the spaghetti and meatballs, I’m eating it because I’m hungry but I can’t stand it.  So you get an A,  


[Lillian]    Right because I’m really into eating this spaghetti and meatballs  

[Eric]    And I got a D on my spaghetti eating because I only ate 1/3 of it  


[Lillian]    Yeah and so it’s not your thing. 


[Eric]    You know I ate 60% so I got a D, because you ate 90% so you got an A- on your spaghetti.  And so the idea is–and then at the same time, you can’t walk into a restaurant and have them say we’ll cook you anything you want right, so it’s–there’s actually a theorist named William Glasser, I don’t know if you’ve heard of William Glasser, but he literally wrote the book called Choice Theory


[Lillian]    And we can add that on our resources so folks can look at that, too. 


[Eric]    Absolutely and it’s so and choice theory is exactly what it says, it’s the–everybody loves choices because it creates ownership.  All the way down to the little kid that doesn’t want to eat their vegetables, well there’s the peas, the carrots, or the broccoli. 


[Lillian]   Yeah, you get to choose. 


[Eric]    You get to choose–you can’t get away from the table without eating vegetables, but you get to choose.  And so the idea is you go to the restaurant and you have a series of choices, and then you’re all consuming the same flavors.  We’re at a Mexican restaurant, we’re at an Italian restaurant, what have you, but then you get to choose.  And so now I’m looking at Lillian and I’m like Oh what did you get?  


[Lillian]    Oh, right yeah that looks pretty good.  


[Eric]    Yeah, that looks pretty good.  Well I got the enchiladas and you got the steak frittatas or whatever, but we’re still engaging with the same quote unquote food material.  So, take that into the classroom with a learning menu.  I’ll say to my students: this is the restaurant of world history, and the menu today happens to be centered around chapter 10 which is the Scientific Revolution.  And so we’ve got– we’re learning about Galileo and Newton and Kepler and all these individuals from Europe to sort of begin this transition to learning about utilizing science and how that sort of butts up against religion etc.  Well then have the students engage with that material in a way that speaks to them.  And so the learning menu has an appetizer a–so there’s appetizer, entrée, dessert, and veggies. 


[Lillian]    Oh, wow, okay.  So this is how you use–you show it to the students.  They’ve got that–like it says, here’s your appetizer assignment or option or something like that okay, yeah.  


[Eric]    So we’ll–so the first the work upfront is actually, you walk through the menu.  So, you hand out the menu and we’ve–myself and my colleague that used it–we got it to the point where it was a legit laminated, well first cardstock laminated, so they had their menu. 


[Lillian]    Oh, great, yeah. 

[Eric]    And so they–and so upfront, at the beginning of school year, you walk through every item on the menu.  And so we had, let’s see, I’m looking at my notes, we had five appetizer options, we had eight entrée options, and then we had four veggies and four desserts.  And so for each chapter of the text they had to complete an appetizer, an entrée, a veggie, and a dessert.  And once they’ve completed–and of course, then they’d have a timeline.  So, we’re spending three days on this.  Or sometimes if a chapter was particularly large, we might do two learning menu items for each and so you know as a teacher, you just gauge what your time is.  And the learning menu also has a rubric at the top on a scale of one to four, and each of the assignments–whether it’s an appetizer, an entrée, or what have you–is, its explicit to the students is okay but this is what a four looks like, this is what a three looks like, and they can’t turn it in until they have to articulate that I deserve either a three or a four on this .  And so I might look at and say, I think maybe you could maybe add do you think you could add maybe one or two more details on this particular thing?  And then once they start doing it, you collect these and then you have examples too, so you can put examples up on you know the tray of the whiteboard or whatever.  The other feature of that I did was, so they weren’t allowed to do the same appetizer, entrée, or dessert back-to-back.  So, if they really liked doing the trading cards for chapter 10, they could do it again for chapter 12, but I wanted them to try something new, just try something else on the menu.  So that way I’m really differentiating their cognitive work with the material.  They might like something over and over again, but, you know, if I eat the hamburger every time just because I love hamburgers, you know it’s like you know what try the try the burrito you know and if you don’t like it you can go back to the hamburger next time.   


[Lillian]    Yeah, so you’re pushing them a little bit out of their comfort zone, which puts them into their learning zone, right a little bit out.  But they’ve got that safety and security to go back the next time.  But it’s still, you know, providing that option okay yeah great. 


[Eric]    Yeah, so I’ll just give a quick description of a few things.  So, two of the more popular appetizers, one was I called it a magazine read.  And so the way I-and so, but by the way appetizer I use that sort of as an entry ticket.  So, if we’re starting chapter 10, they walk into class and I say okay choose your appetizer, get going.  So, they kind of start on it and really what it is, is they’re just walking through the chapter.  So, think about when you’re in the checkout stand at the grocery store, you’re at the doctor’s office, when people pick up a magazine, do they start at page one and read every word and just go right through? No.  Yeah, no, it’s a mag read so you just you flip through it, you look at the picture, you pause on this picture because oh what’s this all about?  You see a phrase or a quote or whatever and you’re just kind of thumbing through it. And so, same thing with the textbook chapter ten, the magazine read is just walk through it and just–I had a magazine read sort of template just write down jot down Oh page 142 has a really interesting picture, I want to learn more about that.  Or oh, that’s Isaac Newton I’ve seen him before in some other thing.  And so they’re just kind of–the timeline on page whatever was interesting to me, and so just kind of flipping through, just getting a feel for it. 


[Lillian]    And at this point have they done the reading beforehand or this is when they’re just 

[Eric]    This is when they’re just– 

[Lillian]    So, they haven’t, so okay so you’re kind of wetting their appetites like an appetizer, Eric, oh my goodness, this is making a lot of sense! 


[Eric]    Exactly, yes and so that’s and so that’s an appetizer option.  Another appetizer option is just an outline.  So, some students, now think about, me personally–I’d be the magazine read.  Because I’m just going to kind of flow through it, and just take a look at the headings, and like  


[Lillian]    See what I’ve got coming up. 


[Eric]    Like, I totally am confused by what’s going on on page whatever, I hope to learn more about that.  Whereas some students they prefer to do an outline.  Okay, I’m going to sit down, I’m going to get my lined paper.  I see that there’s five sections to the chapter, so one, two, three, four, five.  I’m going to write the heading right, so you– 


[Lillian]    Right, color code it, organize it. 

[Eric]    Yeah, exactly, and then some students are AVID students, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with AVID, so it’s a curriculum used in quite a few high schools that stands for advancement via individual determination.  Basically, it’s a class that students can take as an elective that is all about study strategies, note-taking strategies, college/career readiness, stuff like that.  But in the AVID curriculum they’re required to use what’s called Cornell notes, and so I’m not sure if you’re familiar? 


[Lillian]    No, but we’re going have some resources so people can find this out, this will be great. 


[Eric]    Yeah, so Cornell notes is a very specific way to take notes, and it’s very structured, and it’s in–I can kind of see it in my head but I’d have to have it in front of me to describe it–but basically it’s a structured note-taking system.  So, you have an AVID student in your class, and so if they– so I would have on the appetizer: Cornell notes, because that’s the way that they’ve been engaging with their other classes, so that makes sense.  And then there might be some other students in the class that are not AVID students and they say–they see the student next to them what well what’s that, oh that’s interesting that– 


[Lillian]    Aha, I can learn from my fellow student that way. 

[Eric]    I can learn from my peer, exactly.  And then general impression, and so like a paragraph reflection of–so maybe I do the magazine read, what’s your general impression of this chapter?  Is this something that looks interesting?  Are you going to care about trying to find a connection?  And then another appetizer would be connecting to me.  Is there anything that you see that connects to me?  And if not, that’s fine, that’s your reflection, and so again that’s the wetting of the appetite.  So then usually in the say that same first day I might take, depending on the you know the chapter and the time etc., probably the first half of a class maybe, and if they’re really humming along maybe the whole first class period to do an appetizer.  Then I come in with the teaching.  And so a lot of times if I do professional development with high school teachers that are already teaching, I’ll get some push back like whoa we don’t have time and they’re just kind of just doing whatever they want, and I say well yeah but you have to give them choice and freedom and opportunity, that doesn’t get you out of your responsibilities as a teacher.  So, I now will take however much time I feel is necessary to do some lecture, have some PowerPoint, have some context, give some background, maybe show a video.  Here’s you know we’re going to watch just ten minute video on Galileo and why he was important to his time and our time.  And then, so that might take again anywhere from a half of a period to a full period, then we launch into the entrée.  So, the entree is sort of literally the meat of their engagement with the material.   And so now they–based on the entrée–can choose how they want to interact with this information.  So, why does every single student have to answer the same multiple-choice question about Isaac Newton, you know, and that’s the question you get from a lot of students and people frankly is well, its history, it’s in the past.  Or, why should I care to know about Galileo versus Newton, you know, how’s that going to help me get a job? 


[Lillian]    Right, they don’t care, it’s not making a connection at all. 


[Eric]    Exactly and so part of the idea of the entrée, again, choice, ownership, they get to weave in their own personal stamp on it, and at the same time they can also–if they want and also if I want depending on my planning for that particular day–is work together or work in groups.  So, I had a–I’ll never forget–I had a fifth period world history class and then there was like four boys 10th graders they loved doing the trading cards, that’s one of the entrees, and then they’d literally like trade–  


[Lillian]    Trade cards.  So, they’d make–what is the trading cards?  Just give me a little background on that one. 


[Eric]    Yeah, so there’s eight entrée options and one of them is just called trading cards.  And what they do is they take–they have to take all of the individuals in that chapter, so the people that they’re introduced to, and they can either draw a picture–so and then I get like a 4×6 note card, and so the top half of one side is a picture of the person so they can either draw the picture of Galileo, or find one online and print it out, or cut one out of a magazine or whatever or sometimes they’d you know take a picture of him on their phone, and then like email to themselves, and then go to computer lab and print it out.  So, talk about ownership of your learning, right?  And so then the bottom half of that front part underneath the picture was specific bio information– 


[Lillian]    Their statistics, where were they born 

[Eric]    Their stats, yeah, where were they from, when were they born, 


[Lillian]    Big scientific theories, you know.  

[Eric]    Yes, exactly.  And then on the back would be their significance to history.  So, three things that made them significant to history.  And then at the very bottom a quote, or a quote about them, and so sometimes–of course depending on the on the chapter, like the Scientific Revolution, I just remember I had like ten individuals, so that’s sufficient.  If it’s light on individuals, then I might ask the students to be creative, well maybe do a trading card for an event.  


[Lillian]    Yeah, or movements or something. 

[Eric]    Yes, exactly.  So, yeah some of the– some of the entrees, so a persuasive speech–so we’ll just go with the same theme, write a speech that Galileo would have written or maybe he did write but it’s lost to history, about why we should use the telescope, or why we should understand that, you know, the earth isn’t the center of the universe.  Illustrate an event was one, the trading cards, a eulogy, so you’re giving a eulogy to Machiavelli, or to Leonardo, and, you know, if you have to speak at their funeral. 


[Lillian]  Wow, what would you say? 

[Eric]  What would you say?  An illustrated timeline–that came from the young lady that did that, the  travel brochure, that’s always a popular one.  Why should I travel to the Renaissance Italy?   And why should I travel to Ming China, you know?  Diary entries, and what else–a news article  


[Lillian]  That you’d write a news article as if it were in that time period?  Okay. 

[Eric]  Yep, you’re a journalist, and you’re covering Genghis Khan.  


[Lillian]  You’ve got to be fast! 

[Eric]  Right, yeah so those are just some of the–and again, each one has a rubric and they have to make sure they’re touching on important historical features and significance to the time, and also making connections to us.  And then they did it they did have to do a veggies, so everyone has to eat their veggies.  And that was either a vocab log, so just your traditional this is the important vocabulary from the– 


[Lillian]  Okay, love it, things you don’t necessarily want to do, but you get to choose your veggie. 


[Eric]  Yeah but they could choose either the vocab log, the concept web, which was a concept in the middle and then they have to do sort of like a web of what connects to it.  And then the most popular one veggie was a I called it an inspect log. 


[Lillian]  Really?  Tell me about that one. 

[Eric]  And it actually turned into the veggie that students liked the most.  It was the one that actually I let them do every time if they wanted to do it every time.  So, INSPECT is an acronym and it stands for individuals and ideas, nature and the environment, society and social interaction, the “P” is politics, the “E” is economics, the “C” is culture, and the “T” is time and technology.  And so they had to choose–go through the chapter, and they had to choose three of the inspect categories and just describe something in the chapter that connects to that.  And so it also is nice because, I mean, inspecting the chapter, and so I actually would have the students do that with themes, and then–so the INSPECT that’s actually not mine I found it online, I was just looking up ways to weave themes into your teaching practice and so yeah I found it and I use it and I love it so make sure to put that on  your resources. 


[Lillian]  We’ll have it on our resources, yep. 


[Eric]  Yep, so again if I’m doing an INSPECT on individuals and ideas, Galileo and Newton, boom bam, right.  If I’m doing World War I, you know, nature and the environment or nature and geography, how did the terrain affect the way that battles were fought?  And then finally–and this is the one that the students would be clamoring to get through their appetizer, entrée, and veggies because they weren’t allowed to do the dessert  


[Lillian]  Until they had finished their plate, yeah, okay, nice.  


[Eric]  And so they had four options for a dessert and it was an Instagram, snapchat, tweet, or Facebook page.    

[Lillian]  Okay, and so this is real or imagined? 


[Eric]  Imagined and they could do it for real.  I’m like if you want to tweet something to your friends about Galileo, please, I encourage you to.  And some would do like an Instagram of, like a legit instagram–   


[Lillian]  Me and Galileo, duck face. 

[Eric]  Right. But so I actually had like a template, like I had a Facebook page template that they could either write on, or they get online and they could type it in.  And so I had one time I was cracking up, a student did a  Facebook page of Henry VIII, and like who are his top friends, I didn’t have any friends in common, you know, hashtag need a new wife, you know, those sort of things and then like I think on the rubric the desserts had to have like a minimum of three hashtags, you know, you might like Machiavelli as the kid did hashtag fear or love you know, so and yeah so template Facebook page, snap like if they were to do three ten-second snaps, what would it consist of?   And then the tweets were always really good. 


[Lillian]  Yeah this is so speaking their language, you know. 

[Eric]  Yes, exactly.  So yeah, so they–then they would create it as a package, and then they would have a packet cover, so this is my chapter 10 learning menu, or this is my chapter 10 meal.  


[Lillian]  Ok, here’s what I ate in chapter 10.   

[Eric]  And then on the front they would make a cover, again they can either draw it or cut out pictures and paste it on there, and they turn it in, I check it off and that’s their–I’m like you guys if you do everything that’s asked of you and you recognize what makes a three or a four on the rubric, there’s no way you can’t get an A because you’re doing this this work and that’s the work of learning. 


[Lillian]  Of learning, right.  Those who do the work are the ones who are learning, yeah.  So it’s not all that, you know, the professor, the teacher can stand up and speak for an hour and a half, it does not mean that the listeners have learned.  So you are having them work with the material and in a really fun and engaging way, and this is something that–you were doing this while you were writing your dissertation, is that was going on? 


[Eric]  Yeah, so I was teaching full time world history while I was working on my PhD in social studies curriculum, and so basically I talked about– the actually, the main theory I used as the base of my dissertation–it’s called self-determination theory. 


[Lillian]  And we will have a link to that as well, yeah. 

[Eric]  Self-determination theory dot-org is fabulous website.  So, it’s a theory of motivation.  Specifically to think self-determined, are you self-determined?  Well, pretty much every human is self-determined to do something.  So, self-determination theory is how do you get an individual to be motivated to do something when they are in an inherently extrinsic activity?  


[Lillian]  Yes, they have to get through this chapter.  There’s no choice to not get through the chapter.  I choose not to do it, yeah. 


[Eric]  Right, there’s no choice to not come to class, or there’s no choice not to take and pass world history to graduate from high school.  And so every student in the state of Washington has to take world history in the tenth grade.  So it–  


[Lillian]  I can see that right in college classes, I have to take a general ed, you know, I have to take a gen ed, I have to take a first-year seminar, I have to do whatever this course is that I need for my major that I didn’t want to take but here I am in statistics. 


[Eric]  Right, exactly.  And so you have–so self-determination theory in a nutshell it has a continuum.  So think of a line–a continuum line or a spectrum, on the one hand you have something that is 100% extrinsic, like you just said I have to do it.  To the other extreme is 100% intrinsic, so, I play the piano.  I sit down and I can play the piano for an hour  


[Lillian]  Because you want to.  

[Eric]  Because I love it and I want to and it’s inherently intrinsic, it’s just–that’s what I love to do.  So, school leans typically–especially high school–typically towards the extrinsic, right. 


[Lillian]  Yes, it does. 

[Eric]  And so basically self-determination theory is, okay so if you have this environment of an extrinsic nature, how do you at least push students along a continuum towards intrinsic?  You’re not necessarily going to ever have the kid that’s like I now will read world history by myself in my room forever, right, but you can do these things that makes it interesting, exactly. And so basically my dissertation had to do with describing how the learning menu helped to move students across the continuum.  And so–and then I also did what I call the meta reflective journal, and it sounds fancy but all it was was once every two weeks, the students would just write a reflection about what it is that they’ve been learning and I’d have some specific prompts, it wasn’t just like what have you learned?  Can you find some authentic connection to what we’ve been doing and talking about the last two weeks?  Clear and unclear windows, what’s been clear to you about this particular section and then what’s kind of an unclear?  And then every other time they wrote in the journal, the meta part was they had to look at their previous reflection and see if there if their thinking was still the same.  And so that sort of connects to the metacognitive aspect of thinking about your own thinking. 


[Lillian]  Right, so this is a lot of that affective brain part, the green engagement column on our UDL guidelines, and really getting students interested in their own education and in their own learning so that they can become expert learners.  So, you’re teaching them by providing these options to practice these skills, they’re getting the chance to go wow this is kind of learning a little bit more about themselves.  I really get into it if I can make the trading cards, right, if I can get into these people and it’s kind of fun to be with my friends and we’ll make these little cards together or trade them around.  Then that–I can see how that moves on that continuum you’re talking about from something somebody else is making me do, into oh my gosh remember how much fun we had when we did the Galileo trading cards?  Remember that time in high school when I did the Galileo trading cards? 


[Eric]    Yeah, another one that I forgot to mention is creating a magazine.  And so that was a group entrée.  So I had a group of students one time did an amazing job.  They did–and they called it “The Salon,” it was an Enlightenment magazine, and so they had to have–so it was four students and they had to pick a role, and one was the editor, one was–wrote you know mock letters to the editor, you know, Emmanuel Kent and Francis Bacon they each had op-eds, you know, advertisements, you know, one of them had like it was Isaac and his Fig Newtons, Francis and his bacon,  


[Lillian]   Oh my goodness, how fun. 

[Eric]    Yeah, having fun with it and–but still being academically minded with it.  There’s still my instruction, they’re still–they have to think about what are the important connections to society, and politics, and economics and all that stuff.  But, yeah, have fun.  Like what–at what point in life did someone decide that school and learning had to be filled with anxiety and stress and fear and you know, our brains are meant to learn. 


[Lillian]    Right and that’s the way it has been for so many students, and what I love about the UDL guidelines is deconstructing that.  Like, why is it that we have anxiety?  Why is it that we have fear?  Does it have to be un-fun and thinking about the ways–well, we have to have find value in it and the way you were asking students to connect to that time period or find a way that oh this matters to me because I believe in this, or it’s affected my life in that way, and I’d love how those UDL guidelines help us to take apart that thing and say oh I needed to value to my students because that’s how they’re going to connect and that’s how they’re going to learn.  And if I don’t have that engagement part, that why are we learning, then there’s no point in me going through all of the things that they can learn because they’re not going to. 


[Eric]    Exactly and when you run down the, you know, the subheadings of the UDL guidelines, think about how every single one of them connects to the learning menu.  So, under the representation, so perception, language and symbols, comprehension,  


[Lillian]    Yeah, you’re providing lots of options for that. 

[Eric]     Exactly.  I comprehend the Scientific Revolution more because I’ve been thinking about it more–in more depth than just cramming vocab terms into my brain to spit them back to the teacher  


[Lillian]    Yeah, some scantron test or something, yeah.  

[Eric]    Exactly.  And then the how, so think physical action, expression and communication, executive functions, planning, I mean, the students that did the magazine, that’s real work.  Planning how the format is going to look, I mean, who’s going to do what, what advertisements are we going to have and why, who’s our target audience,  


[Lillian]    Right, and even the fact that you have given them the appetizer, entrée, dessert, and veggie, I guess veggie comes before dessert, that’s also kind of planning and executive functions with understanding I need to do this before this.  So, here’s how I first interface with this material, and then here’s how I go deeper, and here’s how I can plan my time to go from one to the next.  So, that’s helping with those executive functioning skills, and also, I mean, in my head I’m seeing this progress bar going through the lesson saying okay I finished this, I have a sense of accomplishment, and now I’m going into this next part and then I can finish that and have a sense of accomplishment.  So that the kind of metacognition and executive function part I think is helped by the menu, especially when you were saying that you had the laminated menu, you know, they can kind of choose which one they want, mark it up like a sushi menu.  


[Eric]    Yeah, exactly everybody always likes the menu where you can see the picture of the food too. 

[Lillian]    Yes, exactly, that’s what it’s going to look like. 


[Eric]    But yeah and the other cool thing is for the last three years that I taught, I always had the students–so I had 32 desks in my classroom, and I had them in eight groups of four.  And I had the four set up, you know like two next to each other facing two others.  So it’s like you’re literally sitting in at a booth at a restaurant.  And the cool thing is that I’d look around, I’d just marvel sometimes, just look around the room and they’re all working on what it is that they’re working on, but just like at a restaurant, like I’m looking at your yeah steak frittata as I’m like I’m doing the eulogy, you’re working on the writing, and then I look over my oh that’s a really cool trading card that you’ve got going on over there. 


[Lillian]    Maybe next time I’ll be thinking about that. 

[Eric]    Yeah or sometimes like I was saying about the boys, there was a group of four that kind of wanted to always do whatever it is together and bounce ideas off of each other.  So, think about if you’re an administrator and you walk in and every student is like literally engaged in the material, and then me as the teacher I just would go sit at my desk and look at real estate. 


[Lillian]    Yeah, well they’re doing the work because they’re the ones doing the learning. You’ve made trading cards before, you’ve done this, and at least in your head, right, you’ve got this yeah. 


[Eric]    Well and so that and that’s again one thing with veteran teachers that I present this and a lot of times I’ll get some pushback like, well you know this notion of well if you’re the teacher, you have to be the one teaching.  And I say but I’m not necessarily–I’m a teacher when I’m  assisting a student at any capacity, whether I’m lecturing or whether I’m kneeling down next to this student because they’re struggling with understanding how to add more detail to their to their persuasive speech or what have you.  And so what I tell people is yes my title is teacher or professor you know to profess, but at the end of the day really what am I?  I’m a learning facilitator.  It’s the easiest way to put it.  I’m facilitating how these students are learning this information.  And the best part about the menu is it’s pointed enough, it’s specific enough that they have a job, and they know what to do, but it’s open-ended enough that they feel comfortable doing it, right.  And then during the class period when they’re humming along, I am just I’m monitoring, rotating around the room, going to each table, how are you guys doing?  Checking, giving positive praise, oh that looks really cool, I like what you did there.  And then maybe again someone’s stuck, well have you thought about this, right?  And so my first–definitely first year, probably first two or three years teaching, you know, if an administrator came by the room it was like you had this notion of I have to be– 


[Lillian]   Yeah, I better show off to show that I’m really smart. 

[Eric]    So students, they all need to be very quiet, hands folded looking at me and I’m pointing to all these fancy things on the PowerPoint, and talking and whereas now I realize if I were an administrator and I’m walking and I saw that I’d wait and wait and wait until I say well okay well how are you going to and when are you going to get these kids engaged because I see that they’re looking at you, but how many of them are actually absorbing anything?  And then if they do absorb maybe something that you just said, so what?  What are they going to do with it? 


[Lillian]    Right and I love how you have even incorporated like the timeline that one student decided to do the illustrate, sorry, the illustrated timeline, so I can see this–like you can start small.  Like I’m a little overwhelmed to come up with you know 25 menu items right away, but I could certainly start with two, right you know two appetizers, two entrees, two veggies, two desserts or something like that.  Or you know start with three options just for the entrée, you know, or something like that and then slowly build up because I know you had to build it up over time and your students helped you to come up with that. 


[Eric]    Yeah and it really–you’re right, it really evolved.  So it got to the point where in literally the last two years that’s like the learning menu was the driving force for the class.  And so what I would suggest to someone hearing this or wanting to try it, just like you said, start you know, hey we’re going to try this thing, here’s two options instead of you know instead of the vocab log that I have you do every Friday, if you want to do that again, cool, but if you want to try something else, here’s an option for you, yeah you have to incorporate the term, but yeah incorporate in some other way. 


[Lillian]    Right but– and it still gets at the same objectives, right.  So you’re not changing what you want out of the students, you’re just offering choices for them to get to the same objectives in a creative way that provides choice.  And we’ll definitely have links to the choice theory and self-determination theory because I think that’s going to be really helpful for our listeners to get at also why we have that on the UDL guidelines, that’s super important.  


[Eric]    Yeah, absolutely. 

[Lillian]    Well, thank you so much, Eric, for coming to talk to me and  being able to come away from the conference for a second to tell our listeners about this.  I think it’s going to be really helpful so, thank you so much. 


[Eric]    Yeah, absolutely, my pleasure. 



[Lillian]    You can follow the Think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the website.  The Think UDL podcast is made possible by College STAR, the STAR stands for supporting transition, access, and retention in post-secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aids based on UDL principles.  If you’d like to know more, go to the website.  Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University, where, if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple at you!  The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey Quartet, comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell, and Jose Cochez.  Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones, and I am your host, Lillian Nave, thank you for joining us on the Think UDL podcast.  


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