Planning for Diversity: Universal Design for Learning in Gifted Education
Megan Chrostowski, Dr. Marion Porath
Vancouver School Board, Gifted Education and Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Canada
What is Universal Design for Learning?
!! a strategy for differentiating curriculum and instruction
•! Architectural Foundations:!based in the universal
design / universal access movement in architecture.!
•! Created by the Centre for Applied Technology (CAST) in
•! Catalyst: school buildings were universally accessible;
the school curriculum and instruction were not.!
•! Mandate: to provide access to learning for the full
diversity of students using flexible technology and
individualized instruction and content.
Foundations for UDL in Neurolearning:!
•! UDL principles are based in research on the brain and
learning the learning brain is organized into three
•! all three networks must be engaged for real learning to
•! Neuroimaging everyone has a unique learning
style and each learning network may be more or less
developed than the others at any given developmental
UDL and Technology:!
•! UDL uses digital media to create flexible, customizable
•! Traditional classroom materials and media (text and
speech) are inflexible – one size fits all.
•! New technology are flexible and can be customized for
o! Screen readers
o! Digital images and video
o! Web-based content
Barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in the
capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners'
interactions with inflexible educational materials and
- David Rose, CAST
Can traditional, text-based curriculum
and instruction serve the needs of both
of these learners?
Three Basic Principles of UDL:
•! Multiple means of representation, to give diverse learners options
for!acquiring information and knowledge!
•! Multiple means of action and expression, to provide learners options for
demonstrating what they know!
•! Multiple means of engagement, to tap into learners' interests, offer
appropriate challenges, and increase motivation
UDL and Gifted / Twice Exceptional Learners
•! The majority of gifted students are placed in the regular classroom
environment due to:
o! policies of inclusion!
o! limited places in special programs!
o! reduced budgets for gifted education
o! the diverse nature of gifted learners: many Twice
Exceptional students do not qualify for gifted
•! !High variance in gifted learners' profiles:
o! developmental differences over time lead to fluid
patterns of strengths and weaknesses
o! many gifted students have concomitant
exceptionalities that require support, such as
learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and
•! Alternative modes of presentation of material and products:
o! allows for a wide range of creative responses from
•! !Technology as motivational hook:
o! multi-media, digital environments and new
technology appeal to many underachieving gifted
learners - especially those who also have learning
•! Opening doors to gifted programs:
o! assistive technology and alternative instructional
and presentation formats described by UDL may
provide access to gifted programs for Twice
Exceptional learners and other highly able students
with diverse learning needs.
Proponents of UDL report that it addresses the unique learning needs of all
students, including highly gifted students. Is this true?
•! Can using UDL to differentiate curriculum and instruction in the
regular classroom address the gifted child’s need for both
complexity and support for areas of weakness?
•! Are gifted students with learning disabilities more successful in
classrooms that use UDL principles to differentiate curriculum and
instruction than their peers in regular classrooms that do not? How
do they fare in comparison to peers in specialized classrooms for