Welcome to the module on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In this section, we will
look at the what, how, and why of UDL and its application for our co-teaching
classrooms. If we embrace the principals of UDL, then all of our learners will have
access to the curriculum and be successful within our inclusive classrooms without
perhaps the need for so many accommodations and modifications. If we design our
instruction with accessibility in mind, then all learners will benefit. Throughout this
module, you will think about and discuss the following questions:
• What is UDL?
• How should it impact my classroom instruction?
• How can I use the principals of UDL in my classroom to benefit all learners?
After completing this module, you will be able to:
1. Define UDL
2. Identify the principals of UDL
3. Identify specific ways that UDL will be implemented within your classroom
What is UDL?
UDL is an educational philosophy and framework that promotes the use of learning
strategies and techniques that allow for the design of accessible instruction for all
The essence of this philosophy can be found in its origins in the architectural arena, based
on the theory of Ronald Mace, that if a building is built from the outset with design
options and features that allow for the widest spectrum of users then there would be no
need to go back and “rebuild” or “redesign” a building or structure.
If we apply this philosophy in our early childhood classroom, we would “build” the
curriculum and lessons in such as way as to allow for access for all students. Instead of
“recreating” a lesson once we have designed it with only typical students in mind, we can
create lessons with every student in mind then we will automatically build in the
strategies, techniques, and technologies that will allow for all students to participate and
access the lesson and its material.
Watch this video that gives an overview of UDL by clicking on the link
Now that we have given an overall definition for UDL, let’s look at how UDL looks in
our early childhood classrooms.
How does UDL impact instruction?
UDL was originally defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the
1990s and identifies three principal ways in which it may impact a curriculum through
the use of:
• Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring
information and knowledge,
• Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating
what they know, and
• Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them
appropriately, and motivate them to learn
As you can imagine, these three simple principals can have a great impact on the way
that we present a lesson within our inclusive preschool classrooms. Let’s look at the
first principal, multiple means of representation.
For example, if we want to teach a lesson about the city during our theme, “In the
Country, In the City” and we want to use the principal of multiple means of
representation we would want to look at how we are providing options for perception,
language and symbols, and options for comprehension.
This would include not only using the materials provided in the curriculum like the
picture cards, but we would want to provide other input through other modalities,
such as auditory ( audio recording of city sounds), visual (pictures, picture symbols),
audiovisual( using visualizer/ELMO, Interwrite, or LCD projector to display video
clips from a website ), technology (a PowerPoint or slideshow on the computer),
kinesthetic (games- “Red Light/Green Light” or dramatizations such as “riding” the
bus), and music( singing and musical instruments). We might also want to use a
visualizer and Kidspiration to create a graphic organizer for the “city” or the
“country”. In addition, we would want to allow for interpersonal and intrapersonal
learning that could be incorporated in a “build a city” or “build a farm” activity using
empty boxes and recycling materials. Or the intrapersonal learner may need to access
the city and country information on their own using technology as a way to interact
with the theme materials through website links.
If we wanted to look at the principal of providing multiple means of action and
expression, this would include providing options for physical action, expressive skills
and fluency, and options for executive functions.
Using our “In the City, In the Country” theme again, we would want to make sure
that any opportunities for children to express themselves would allow for a variety of
means of expression. We would typically expect children in our preschool classrooms
to either verbally respond or maybe draw a picture. However, this is not allowing for
multiple means of expression. In our inclusive settings, we would want to use
technology to allow for children’s differences. We might use a voice output device
with picture symbols to allow for children to respond or the use of a Smartboard or
Interwrite board. We might need to assess “how” a student can access the computer
through the use of different technologies, such as a touch screen, roller ball mouse, or
some other type of interface. We may need to scaffold some of our responses, so that
all students would have equal opportunity to respond in a way that is most productive
for them. Instead of expecting every child to “draw” picture of a “city” , it might be
easier to allow some students to use software that has clip art or just use pre-cut
pictures/die cut shapes to build their “cities”. We might also want to create an
interactive PowerPoint, Interwrite, or Smartboard activity that would allow students
the opportunity to use other kinesthetic or large motor skills to respond and
demonstrate their knowledge.
The final principal, providing multiple means of engagement includes providing
opportunities for individual choice and autonomy. Making sure that children see the
relevance, value, and authenticity of the lesson and information presented. In
addition, we want to provide opportunities for sustained effort, persistence, and self-
Again using our “In the City, In the Country” theme, we would want to make sure
that our activities allow for students to choose an option that allows for their
particular learning style and preferences. For example, we could incorporate
“country” or “city” activities within each of our centers which would allow for drama
(restaurant/store/farm stand in dramatic play), large motor (building ‘cities’ with
recyclables and blocks, musical chairs with theme vocabulary on chairs) and small
motor engagement ( stencils of farm animals and theme words in writing center,
“fishing” in the pond/lake for letters, animal counters, vehicles), visual ( math mats
for sorting with farm/city themes, PowerPoint or digital books, overhead projector or
Elmo for writing activities on whiteboard), auditory and musical (listening to books
on tape, listening lotto, musical instruments to make “traffic” noise), intrapersonal
(theme related books and computer activities, exploring theme related material in
science center), kinesthetic (outdoor games, movement activities such as “driving” in
traffic, building a farm/city, acting out stories), interpersonal (dramatic role playing,
“staffing” a store or restaurant, cooperative learning activities in blocks, building a
farm as a group activity in art). These are just a few “examples”; there are many more
that could be integrated into our center time activities.
As you can see, our early childhood curriculum and setting really allows for the use
of UDL principles without too much difficulty. It really just takes some “mindful”
planning and preparation of materials and activities.
Several other aspects of this principal that we need to consider are varying the levels
of difficulty, providing needed support, incorporating feedback to the learner, and
providing opportunities and options for self-regulation for the learner. In our co-
taught classrooms, the idea of varying the levels of difficulty and providing support
become very critical to the inclusion of all the students in the room. We can provide
additional support and scaffolding of skills, because of the level of staffing that we
have in our co-taught classrooms. Some of our students may need additional
adult/teacher support, assistive technology, or adaptive equipment; all of which can
be provided within our inclusive setting if we have planned for it.
As co-teaching teams, it is imperative that we incorporate UDL principals as we plan
our lessons. The next activity will help you to take this information and apply it to our
early childhood setting.
Open the Modified UDL Checklist that is in the call out box to
the right, read the early childhood examples and then add
some of your own ideas that you could use in your classroom.
(Note: This checklist would be a useful tool to use when
*The Modified Checklist is an attachment; put it in the call out box.
If you would like to access the original (unmodified) UDL checklist it is
on the cast website and it can be accessed by clicking on the link below:
In addition to the UDL Checklist, we have provided you with the UDL Learning
Guidelines in a table format in the call out box. (This is an example of a graphic
*Table of UDL Learning Guidelines is attached, put it in the call out box.
If you would like to see an example of planning and implementing a
UDL lesson, watch the video vignette #2 in the call out box.
*Insert Vignette of teachers using the UDL Checklist and vignette of corresponding
Activity # 2:
Watch the video vignette # 1 in the call out box and see if you
can identify the UDL components.
*Have teachers use discussion thread to share ideas on using UDL within the
classroom/curriculum framework guide. Post examples of lesson that they have
developed using UDL.
RESOURCES: Related Publications
A number of books have been published on the subject of Universal Design for Learning.
• Learning to Read in the Digital Age (1998) by Anne Meyer and David H. Rose.
Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
• Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning (2002)
by David H. Rose & Anne Meyer, with Nicole Strangman and Gabrielle Rappolt.
Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision & Curriculum Development;
• The Universally Designed Classroom: Accessible Curriculum and Digital
Technologies (2005), edited by David H. Rose, Anne Meyer, and Chuck
Hitchcock. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
• A Practical Reader in Universal Design for Learning (2006), edited by David H.
Rose and Anne Meyer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Web Based Resources:
This site gives you access to UDL videos, resources, and to a digital copy of the
book, Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning by
David H. Rose and Anne Meyer. http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/
This is the official site for the Center for Applied Special Technology or CAST.
UDL Toolkits—Free online resource helps educators create UDL-based
understanding and apply UDL principles in classrooms and/or to train others in
CAST UDL Lesson Builder— Free online resource helps educators create UDL-
based lessons. http://lessonbuilder.cast.org/
More links on UDL:
• What is Universal Design for Learning?
• National Universal Design for Learning Task Force
*Maybe this article could be in a callout box.
ERIC #: ED506545
Title: Universal Design in Education: Principles and Applications
Authors: Burgstahler, Sheryl
Publication Date: 2009-03-06
Pub Types: Reports - Descriptive
Journal Name: DO-IT
Publisher: DO-IT. University of Washington, P.O. Box 354842, Seattle, WA 98195.
Tel: 888-972-3648; Tel: 206-685-3648; Fax: 206-221-4171; e-mail:
email@example.com; Web site: http://www.washington.edu/doit
Descriptors: Cognitive Style; Disabilities; Educational Experience; Access to
Education; Information Technology; Higher Education