Imagine you went into a big clothes store
and all that was on sale was 1 type of outfit, in 1 size, with no thought given to different
individual body shapes or personalities. That would be crazy right? Expecting everyone to
be able to fit into the same size and express themselves in the same colour and style?
Yet in many cases that’s exactly what is happening in our education system. When it
comes to learning, variability is the rule not the exception and our college campuses
are now grappling with the demands of an increasingly diverse cohort of learners with increasing
numbers of international students, students from different cultural and socio economic
backgrounds, mature students and students with disabilities.
Despite this, curriculums are still designed for the mythical average learner and all are
expected to engage and learn on the same terms. Not enough flexibility is built in at the
design stage to give all students equal opportunities to learn in ways that play to their own strengths.
So, how can our institutions respond to these challenges? Enter Universal Design for Learning,
or UDL for short. UDL is an educational framework that guides
the design of learning goals, materials, methods, and assessments as well as the policies surrounding
these curricular elements with the diversity of learners in mind. The framework was developed
by US organisation CAST and is based on research in the field on neuroscience. It promotes three core principles for educators
to build into their teaching practice, calling on them to provide students with multiple
means of engagement, representation, and action & expression. The framework includes a set
of guidelines on how you can turn these principles into practice for example:
By fostering collaboration with the introduction of group work with clear goals, roles and
responsibilities. By using different types media to support
learning and ensuring that all materials are accessible.
By providing a choice of assessment instruments while maintaining robust learning outcomes.
You are probably already including some UDL elements in your practice without realising
it and there is much more to explore so don’t be afraid to let Universal Design for Learning
give you a new lens through which to look at your teaching and learning practice and
help you to better reach all of your students. For more information and resources, visit