UDL Blog Series: Creating Expert Learners

When you think of the word expert you probably think of your college professor, a nationally renowned speaker, or an accomplished doctor. All of these are examples of people who have a high level of skill and significant content knowledge. In these examples expertise seems fixed and unchanging. In the book Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice, the authors say that “developing expertise in anything is always a process of continuous learning – practice, adjustment, and refinement.”

When considering expertise through the lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), we understand that becoming an expert is about becoming great at the process of learning. Becoming an expert has ups and downs, which means that an expert learner will experience difficulty and even failure. Cultivating our students to become expert learners means helping them develop resilience so they can see difficulty and failure as a natural part of the learning process. The UDL Guidelines are a wonderful tool to help develop this resilience and to provide opportunities for students to connect at a deeper level with what they are learning.

Let’s start by examining how UDL helps foster a learning environment that cultivates expert learners.

Next, let’s examine the characteristics of expert learners and how understanding these characteristics can help create an environment that facilitates the growth of all students.

Finally, let’s examine how to foster expert learners in the classroom. How would you respond to these questions?


Don’t miss out!

Katie Novak will be at Region 13 on July 27th!

Register TODAY for UDL Now! with author Katie Novak.

For face-to-face registration click here

To attend workshop online click here

Attention Science Teachers!





The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the revised test blueprints and assessed curriculum documents for science on May 22, 2018. They are posted to the TEA STAAR Science Resources webpage and include documents for Grade 5 science, Grade 5 Spanish science, Grade 8 science, and Biology.

STAAR Science Resources Webpage: https://tea.texas.gov/student.assessment/staar/science/

How can I use these documents?

Together the blueprints and assessed curriculum documents provide invaluable information for science teachers. Knowing the number of total test items, reporting category totals, and the percentage of readiness standard questions versus supporting standard questions can help focus planning so you make the most of your instructional time. The documents inform science teachers not only in the testing grades, but can guide vertical alignment planning efforts across grade levels.







The blueprints contain information about the STAAR tests including:

  • Total number of questions on the test
  • Number of questions from each reporting category
  • Breakdown for each category of readiness and supporting standards
  • A reminder that at least 40% of the test questions are dual coded. A dual coded question incorporates scientific investigation and reasoning skills standards along with content standards. These scientific investigation and reasoning skills standards are the process standards that focus on conducting investigations, safe lab practices, critical thinking, and using scientific tools. An example of a scientific investigation and reasoning skills standard from biology is B.3 – the student uses critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and problem solving to make informed decisions within and outside the classroom.


The assessed curriculum documents list all tested TEKS eligible for testing. For the 5th and 8th grade tests the assessed curriculum documents also indicate which lower grade supporting standards are associated with the grade level standards. For example, in 5th grade Reporting Category 3 (Earth and Space) contains TEKS 5.7 and 5.8 as well as 4.7, 4.8, 3.7, and 3.8. The assessed curriculum documents also identify which of the TEKS are readiness standards and which are supporting standards.

What’s the difference between readiness and supporting standards?

Readiness Standards

(60-65% of questions)

Supporting Standards

(35-40% of questions)

• emphasize the integration and application of major scientific concepts

are essential for success in the current grade or course

• are important for preparedness for the next grade or course

• support college and career readiness

• necessitate in-depth instruction

• address significant content and concepts

• focus on content that supports fundamental scientific principles

• introduced in the current grade or course but may be emphasized in a subsequent year

• reinforced in the current grade or course but may be emphasized in a previous year

• play a role in preparing students for the next grade or course but not a central role

• address more narrowly defined content and concepts


Is there a particular value for special education teachers?

Yes! Not only can these resources guide planning for teaching and student support in any classroom setting, but they can also inform ARD committee members writing science goals. When analyzing the needs of the individual student in science, consider content standards AND process standards and remember the balance of readiness and supporting standards.

What should I do with this information now?

In addition to helping you plan for the 18-19 school year, these documents can help determine your summer professional development. Is there a specific reporting category you want to focus on? Do you need more training regarding the scientific investigation and reasoning skills standards?

For more information about Region 13 science resources and workshops, contact Amanda Betz, 512-919-5373, amanda.betz@esc13.txed.net.

If you have questions about the blueprints and assessed curriculum documents, contact the TEA Science Team, Curriculum Standards and Student Support Division, (512) 463-9581.