Universal Design for Learning (Part 2): UDL Guidelines
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Universal Design for Learning (Part 2): UDL Guidelines


Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is a design framework that instructors can use to reduce barriers students face in the classroom and increase access to opportunities to succeed. In this video, we’re going to explore the three UDL guidelines, which have been developed and researched by the Center for Applied and Special Technologies and the National Center on Universal Design for Learning. Those three principles are that instructors can provide multiple means of engagement or ways in which instructors can make content interesting, relevant and motivating for students to learn. They can provide multiple means of representation of information to your students as they work to develop disciplinary knowledge, or ways we provide materials and resources using a range of presentation formats and techniques, and provide multiple means of action and expression as students seek to demonstrate that knowledge, or a variety of ways in which we assess how students demonstrate their skills and knowledge. Before we delve into what these principles really mean and what they can look like in diverse classrooms, let’s identify why CAST and the National Center on UDL emphasize these three ideas. Each of these three principles is based on a neurocognitive network in our brains. Providing multiple means of engagement activates the WHY networks in our heads– you know, the questions of why should I even learn this or when will I ever use this information. By engaging our learners, we can address these concerns and connect to our affective mental networks. Providing multiple means of representation of information activates the WHAT networks in our heads– the recognition pieces of our brain that understand and process content. By presenting information in more than one way, you can help your students to build deeper and more complete conceptual understandings. And providing multiple means of action and expression activates the HOW networks in our heads– that is, the strategic networks that allow us to take information we’ve learned and transform it into something meaningful and new. Encouraging and enabling your students to demonstrate their learning in lots of different, but appropriate, ways can help them to develop more robust strategic mental networks. So what might each of these principles look like in practice? We’ll dive into each concept in its own video, but here’s an overview of how instructors across disciplines can start to think about providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression in learning interactions with students. To motivate learners and give them a purpose, you can: Offer both group and individual work throughout a course; Design opportunities for engagement and discussion online and face-to-face; and Allow them to choose topics within an assignment’s defined parameters based on their own interests. To present information in diverse ways to students, you can: Offer text, visual, and aural information as appropriate– in other words, integrate readings, videos, visuals, infographics, and lectures; Provide rubrics that offer detailed instructions and performance examples; and Record class sessions, either in whole or in part, for students to review after class or in preparation for exams. And to offer different ways students can demonstrate their learning, you can: Offer flexibility and choice in the ways students demonstrate learning outcomes– for instance, either an in-class or pre-recorded presentation; Provide opportunities for feedback and revision of coursework throughout the class; and Increase the number of low-stakes assignments that help learners work toward course outcomes. Depending on your instructional setting, student population, and personal comfort levels, these principles can be no-tech, low-tech, or high-tech. Nevertheless, UDL adopters often use technology due to the free and low-cost tools that provide powerful learning possibilities. Consider what might work for you and your students!

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