Welcome to a conversation about universal design for learning. This important approach allows us to consider the needs of the diverse group of learners we encounter every day in our college classrooms.
Let’s begin with a definition: “Universal design for learning (often referred to by its initials – UDL) means a scientifically valid (meaning research-based) framework for guiding educational practice and designing curricula (educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments) that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning that: Provides flexibility Reduces barriers And provides accommodations, supports, and challenges”
Or, more simply: Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.” This and the prior definition are from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST).
What sort of flexibility are we talking about? Let’s consider those diverse learners and think about flexibility that will address their needs. Flexibility in the ways: Information is presented Students respond Students demonstrate their knowledge Students are engaged
Why is flexibility needed? Why consider universal design for learning at all?
As we have mentioned, UDL Acknowledges classroom diversity – including: Students with physical, sensory and learning disabilities Students with differing cultural and linguistic backgrounds Students with varied preferences and motivations for learning Students who are unusually gifted and more
Further, UDL: Supports efforts to consider every learner
UDL provides diverse and flexible learning materials.
UDL suggests options for presenting information in different ways (the ‘what’)
UDL provides for different ways for students to express what they know (the ‘how’)
Engages by stimulating interest and motivation (the ‘why)
UDL creates optimum learning contexts and circumstances. (Oh, wait, I meant ‘ optimal ’…not optimus – wrong image! ;-)
UDL promotes cognitive and physical access.
UDL builds toward deep understanding UDL helps learners learn how to learn.
Now, here’s the ‘how’ behind UDL.
Multiple means of representation connect with the brain’s recognition networks.
Multiple means of action and expression connect with the brain’s strategic networks.
Multiple means of engagement connect with the brain’s affective network.
Now what about those barriers? What barriers…you ask? These could be barriers in instructional approaches…in the way we typically structure out teaching (and we may be completely unaware of this). It could be barriers in the way learning materials are designed and structured. And there could be barriers baked into the curriculum itself because of expectations that do not offer alternatives.
And what about the accommodations and supports. When we hear the word ‘accommodation’ we often think of provision someone else makes when students need special assistance. When we think of supports we might be thinking of watering down the level of rigor or changing our overall expectations. And ultimately, we may think that this is someone else’s responsibility. We are accustomed to getting a notification from another office when a student needs ‘special accommodation’ or assistance.
We could spend a great deal of time just addressing the legal basis for accommodating every learner. Information is provided about elsewhere on the site. We could wish for the ‘old days’ when we just assumed that out one-size-fits-all plans worked for everyone. Or, we can rethink, acknowledge our classrooms full of diverse learners, find help, and adjust accordingly.
That is the purpose of this site. The information collected here is intended to provide a comprehensive resource for higher education faculty in using universal design principles to design and structure optimum learning experiences for diverse learners. Visit the Research page for evidence regarding the difference professional development like this can make. The Resources page provides a set of carefully selected and reviewed of a variety of practical help for understanding and applying udl in higher education contexts. The Demos page is intended to develop over time into a collection of tutorials on applying the concepts to common situations.
Tour around. Check things out. And feel free to comment with your feedback and suggestions on what you find helpful or would like to see added to the site. Check back often for additions.
What is Universal Design
What is universal design forlearning? And why do we care in higher ed?
First let’s define “Universal design for learning (UDL) means a scientifically valid (research-based) framework for guiding educational practice & designing curricula (educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments) that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning that:Provides flexibilityReduces barriersProvides accommodations, supports, andchallenges”
Or more simply put:“Universal Design for Learning is a set ofprinciples for curriculum development that giveall individuals equal opportunities to learn” From CAST
What sort of flexibility? in the ways information is presented in the ways students respond in the ways students demonstrate their knowledge in the ways students are engaged
UDL acknowledges classroom diversity – including : students with physical, sensory, & learning disabilities, students with differing cultural and linguistic backgrounds, students with varied preferences and motivations for learning, and students who are unusually gifted and more
Multiple means ofrepresentation connect with the brain’s recognition networks
Multiple means of action and expression connect with the brain’s strategic networks
Multiple means of engagement connect with the brain’s affective network
Barriers? What barriers? in instructional approaches learning materials Embedded in the curriculum itself
Accommodations and supports? Huh?Isn’t that somebody else’s job?
We could talk about the legal stuff – we have covered that elsewhere or the way things were or we can rethink – and plan to design for our diverse learners and how and where to find help
Browse the site pages: Check out the Research page for evidence Check out the Resources page for a variety of practical tips, guides, tools and other helpful information Visit the Demos page for how-to sessions
Feel free to comment!Use the comments on any page to share yourthoughts, questions, experiences, suggestions –or your own tips!
Slideshow references Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) About UDL (http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html) CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0 . Wakefield, MA: Author (http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguide lines)
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