Why Use Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

UDL Universal Design for Learning when we see our students as truly unique.

To put is simply; you will be a better teacher with less effort when leveraging the power of UDL. School communities will be able to make systematic changes that impact all students – efficiently and effectively for lasting change.

Decades of research and I stand as proof along with so many others that we can work together to find a better way vs differentiated instruction.

“Results revealed that although students with LD scored lower on pretests, their learning trajectories matched those of students without LD.” – referring to research in a math classroom

The Journal of Special Education 2007 41(1) p.31-49

Let’s PreAssess, is your course using UDL?

Pre-Test: Answer These Questions to see if you are using UDL?

  • What current course activities, methods of instruction, and assessments are working well for those on the margins?
  • What is your teaching style and what are your students’ learning modalities?
  • Which students would likely do well in your class and which students might struggle.
  • Could you offer more flexibility in the way you present content, the way students engage in learning in your course, and the way they are assessed?
  • Do students have a selected bank of assignment topics or do students have a way to customise their assignments such as levels of work?
  • Is your teaching style reaching most or all students? What evidence do you have to support that claim?
  • Where are your formative assessment points? Daily? Weekly?
  • As with any teaching strategy, reflect on how it went. Were students able to attain the course learning outcomes? What data do you have to conclude this?
  • Are you modifying your lessons according to good data, making a better, singular design that fits the needs of more students at once?

How well were you using Universal Design for Learning?

It is a process that never ends. You will want to identify one or more of these questions at any one time, also you should be able to identify several each school year, and finally you will want to be able to identify all of these questions in your work looking across several years.

Who Created Universal Design for Learning?

UDL was coined by the good folks at CAST.org that began their work in 1984 in a search for assistive technologies to learning. They will tell you that the work of universal learning experiences is a singularity as often as possible. So we are constantly guided by the question, “how can I make this learning experience the most accessible and engaging for all my diverse learners?” There is no perfect lesson, but I have many tips and tricks to help you along your way with UDL. Check out my resources and use them school wide, in teams or for yourself.

Universal Design relates to the design field, right?

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.

https://universaldesign.ie/what-is-universal-design/

Making UDL Work For You: The Basics

Universal design for learning is a teaching framework that works to accommodate the needs and abilities of all learners, though a singular design that is accessible for as many of your diverse learners as possible. Also eliminates unnecessary hurdles in the learning process.

The framework, in conjunction with the design process, gives you the chance to reach more of your learners more often, removing barriers along the way. There is no easy answer or one way to use UDL in your course design, but keep in mind these considerations:

  • Integrate fantastic low-tech tools like whiteboards whenever possible
  • Consider tech tools from groups like texthelp whenever possible
  • Know how to provide opt-out tools so they are available to all students at all times.
  • Design for accessibility from the start, not after the process of teaching has begun.
  • Have a process for reviewing results and for making adjustments
  • Work with a team of teachers as locally as is possible.
  • Follow a design process to make the most of your time designing and revising.
  • Experiment! Try new things and have a way to review success.
  • Remember, you matter. Your quality of life in and out of school impacts your students, so aim for efficient and accessible design.
  • Never stop. Make UDL and the design process the culture of your school so that the work of reaching students where they are remains at the heart of what you do.

Where to Learn More About UDL

  • CAST is the founder of UDL and leader in UDL thinking
  • Get started with resources at Cornell University
  • YouTube video introduction with modern identity thinking
  • Understood.org has outstanding tools to get you stared
  • Have you spoken to colleagues on your campus yet? Put the call out and form a PLC. I would be happy to drop by (Zoom) to help you start with a bang.
  • Have you asked you admin for training for everyone? Contact me and we can make a plan.

UDL Media & Entertainment

These include some of the most engaging media I’ve ever enjoyed anchored in universal design and technology.

Assessment: Your UDL Understanding

PostTest: Answer These Questions to see if you are using UDL?

  • What current course activities, methods of instruction, and assessments are working well for those on the margins?
  • What is your teaching style and what are your students’ learning modalities?
  • Which students would likely do well in your class and which students might struggle.
  • Could you offer more flexibility in the way you present content, the way students engage in learning in your course, and the way they are assessed?
  • Do students have a selected bank of assignment topics or do students have a way to customise their assignments such as levels of work?
  • Is your teaching style reaching most or all students? What evidence do you have to support that claim?
  • Where are your formative assessment points? Daily? Weekly?
  • As with any teaching strategy, reflect on how it went. Were students able to attain the course learning outcomes? What data do you have to conclude this?
  • Are you modifying your lessons according to good data, making a better, singular design that fits the needs of more students at once?

How well will you now Universal Design for Learning?

Congratulations! If you have reviewed some of the work on this page, explored some links and (hopefully) watched Crip Camp the movie, I can happily report that you:

  • are ready and excited to take your own Universal Design for Learning in the classroom
  • will be able to deal with differentiated instruction and what makes it different than UDL
  • will be able to support the special education team as you make your course more inclusive
  • are on your way to using theory, practice and examples in your own classroom

Congratulations! Let me know how you are doing @ECIS_Jim on twitter