Universal Design for Learning
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Universal Design for Learning


This presentation is about Universal Design for Learning and how it might inform your teaching. Deciding on teaching methods can be complicated. Particularly, as the students in your classroom bring a wide variety of unique strengths, interests, and needs that can help or hinder their learning. So how can you teach a course that seeks to meet each student’s individual needs? That’s what Universal Design for Learning or UDL is all about. Principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunity to learn. So what does UDL look like in the classroom? First, begin with your student learning goals. What is it that you want students to be able to do as a result of having taken your course? After you determine those, UDL asks you to consider three areas of learning and instruction and how you might make them accessible to the widest possible audience. In representation, consider how course content is presented to the student. In expression, consider how the student is being asked to demonstrate their learning and apply it in new context. In engagement, consider strategies that make the most of student motivation to learn. Let’s look at representation. The key goal of representation is to provide multiple means for students to access content. For example, think about your course readings. Are they presented in a way that allows users to view and read them? Can your PDF documents be read in a screen reader? And can students access them in both analog and digital formats? You might also consider how you present information. Often, presenting ideas in multiple ways, like using graphics to accompany text, can be helpful for students with different learning preferences. Using graphic organizers can also help students organize and make sense of their knowledge. Increasingly, students are accessing content on mobile devices. You may consider how well digital content in your course can be accessed across multiple screen sizes and device types. And finally, representation often involves a variety of media. Simple strategies, like including subtitles and learners who are hard of hearing or speak English as a new language, can go a long way to help students achieve their learning goals. Next, let’s talk about expression. Expression refers to allowing student multiple means to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Viewing differences in students’ strengths, abilities, and preferences as resources rather than challenges. Some students may prefer to demonstrate their knowledge visually. While others tell stories or dialogue, write or read about their interests, or move around and engage in hands-on activities to engage in course content. Finally, let’s talk about engagement. Engagement refers to allowing as many ways as possible for students to engage in their learning. Drawing from students’ varied strengths and interests, consider using instructional strategies that capitalize and what motivates each individual student and how these motivations can be unique for each individual. There are a number of strategies you can use to draw on students’ varied motivations and interests. One is to use voice & choice, which means drawing from students’ interests, opinions, and ideas to inform classroom learning activities and assessments. This can be as simple as allowing students to choose between two different essay questions on an exam to as complex as having students choose between creating a video, organizing a debate or doing a creative writing project for their final assessments. Increasingly, faculty and students are placing greater emphasis on active learning. This refers to the variety of different methods and activities that ask students to be active agents in their learning and doing hands-on activities in class. Finally, assignments that connect learning activities to the lived experiences of students increases motivation and engagement, and capitalizes on the wealth of experiences students bring to the classroom. Consider service learning or other hands-on activities to provide students another pathway to learn course content. UDL includes a great variety of strategies to make our course content accessible to the widest possible audience. The question is, which will you choose? Visit our website to learn more about incorporating Universal Design for Learning in your course.

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