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Universal Design for Learning

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Many recent principles for designing instruction and instructional environments to address student diversity have been based on the principles of Universal Design (UD).  UD represents a cohesive approach to promoting inclusion, one that considers, on an ongoing basis, how curriculum, instruction, and assessment can be designed to meet the learning needs of the greatest number of students without compromising academic rigor. The concept of universal design offers a more comprehensive approach to good teaching.

From a neurological standpoint, people learn in distinct ways regardless of their backgrounds. People recognize, strategize, and affectively process information using many different strategies, and no two people have the same strengths and weaknesses in their learning styles. In short, people do not have one general learning aptitude, but many learning abilities; thus, a disability or challenge in one area may be compensated for by extraordinary abilities in another.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an instructional method that can address the diverse learning needs in today’s classroom.  The framework of UDL consists of instructional approaches that provide students with choices and alternatives in the materials, content, tools, context, and supports they use.  The three basic principles of UDL are: multiple means of representation and presentation, multiple means of strategic engagement, and multiple means of expression.   Multiple means of representation refers to multi-modal teaching, relying on a mixture of mediums (e.g., lecture, video, group discussions) to relay concepts. Multiple means of strategic engagement refers to maximizing student learning through motivation and relevancy so students have opportunities to interact with and learn the content. Lastly, multiple means of expression allows students to demonstrate their learning through multiple assessment opportunities through multiple assessment opportunities (e.g., multimedia projects instead of written papers, or three quizzes and a project instead of one final exam).

The UDL framework challenges educators to rethink the structure of their curriculum and empowers them with the flexibility to serve a diverse population of learners.

Resources:

UDL on Campus: http://udloncampus.cast.org 

Applications of Universal Design in Postsecondary Education: http://www.washington.edu/doit/programs/center-universal-design-education/applications-universal-design-postsecondary-education

National Center on Universal Design for Learning: http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/postsecondary