Introduction to Universal Design for Learning
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Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

Introduction to Universal Design for
Learning Universal Design for Learning, or UDL is a design framework based on
scientific insights into how humans learn. It’s an intentional way of
planning for teaching to improve learning that addresses the diverse
needs of all learners. There are three learning networks that serve as the
foundation of Universal Design for Learning. principles. They are a) Affective
networks, why people engage and persist in learning new ideas. b) Recognition
networks, what we see, hear, and read and how we categorize these ideas. And c) Strategic networks, how learners organize and express ideas. When these networks
are effectively activated learning follows. The UDL principles aligned to
these three learning networks: Multiple means of engagement aligns to the
affective network or the why of learning. How we feel about a learning challenge
determines our motivation to begin, then persist when the learning gets difficult.
A learner’s engagement can vary widely depending on a variety of factors
including cultural considerations, personal connection to the topic,
background knowledge, and learning interests and preferences. There is no
one uniform type of engagement that works best for all learners in all
situations. Providing multiple ways for learners to engage with the content is
essential. Multiple means of representation aligns with the recognition network, or the what of learning, lt relates to how we consume
and organize new information. As with engagement, all learners vary in the way
they perceive and understand information. A learner’s ability to understand new
information depends on factors such as their language and cultural
background, their preference for text or video, their ability to transfer old
learning to new situations, or simply their ability to see or hear the content,
Because there is variability among learners, there is no one way of
representing information that will work best for all learners in all situations.
Providing multiple ways for learners to understand the content is essential.
Multiple means of action and expression aligns to the strategic network, or the
how of learning. It relates to how learners interact with the learning
environment and organize, plan and demonstrate their learning. Not
surprisingly, learners vary and how they best communicate and execute learning.
Some prefer to demonstrate their knowledge by taking tests while others
do better sharing their ideas in video or audio. Some do best when they are
provided with structure and organization, while others prefer to be more
self-directed. Because there is variability among learners, there is no
one way of structuring learning or expressing knowledge that will work best
for all learners in all situations. Providing multiple ways for learners to
act and show what they know is essential. The UDL guidelines are a tool for use in
the implementation of Universal Design for Learning. They offer a
blueprint for putting the UDL framework into practice. The guidelines are
organized vertically according to the three principles, multiple means of
engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of
action and expression. Each principle contains guidelines and checkpoints that
offer more detailed information about the principle. The guidelines are also
organized horizontally. The rows from top to bottom increase in complexity and the
degree to which they empower learners. In the access row, the goal is to provide
barrier free learning opportunities. In the build row, teachers and learners work together to enhance learning opportunities.
In the internalized row, learners are empowered to take charge of their
learning. The culminating row in the table describes the attributes of an
expert learner. These principles, guidelines, and checkpoints give
educators a blueprint for putting UDL into practice. Becoming expert learners
is the ultimate outcome for students when the UDL framework is applied. Expert learners are purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and
goal directed. Universal Design for Learning provides educators with a
framework for creating learning environments that encourage curiosity,
passion, self-reflection, persistence, mastery and growth. In short UDL is key
to helping students become the best learner they can be. Flexible design is a
foundational component of UDL. Because learners have diverse strengths and
needs, planning for success is required. Using the principles of design, educators
can plan learning environments, methods, materials, and assessments that remove
learning barriers and support the needs of diverse learners. Such intentional,
flexible design ensures students reach their goal of becoming expert learners,
Universal Design for Learning is based on research from the learning sciences,
cognitive psychology, and neuroscience, supported by thousands of research
articles. To learn more about the research underlying UDL, click on the
link to CAST’s UDL guidelines. To access a specific research link click
on the corresponding check point.

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