Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is “A framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” (CAST) UDL is based on the concept of Universal Design, or UD, which originated through the work of architect Ronald Mace. UD, and, by extension UDL, suggests that we should include the assumption of diversity from the planning stage, and strive to be inclusive to as many different users as possible. It rejects the notion of a mythical “normal” or average user, and instead plans access for a diverse range of participants.

There are three principles of UDL:

  • Multiple means of engagement (This is the WHY of learning)
  • Multiple means of representation (This is the WHAT of learning)
  • Multiple means of action and expression (This is the HOW of learning)

 Learning Opportunities                        Starting Your UDL Journey                         Engagement

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Representation                                      Action & Expression                                    More Resources

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Learning Opportunities

Check back in August for fall learning opportunities!

Starting your UDL Journey

Universal Design for Learning offers an array of opportunities for both instructors and learners, but you may be wondering where to begin! For many, the first step is to consider the learning objectives for your course. What is it that you really expect your students to know? What skills do they have to demonstrate? Once you have determined the core educational requirements for your subject, you can be creative in the way you deliver that information, encourage students to work with the content, and evaluate student learning.

The most important part of incorporating UDL into your teaching is in the planning stages. It might be helpful to include UDL principles into your course syllabus, introduction of your course, description of your learning objectives, and access to course materials.

Multiple Means of Engagement

Multiple means of engagement refers to the “why” of learning. It focuses on the reasons students choose to take a course, what piques their interest, and how they stay motivated over time. There are three concepts related to engagement in UDL:

  • Provide options for Recruiting Interest: Optimize individual choice and autonomy; Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity; Minimize threats and distractions.

  • Provide options for Sustaining Effort and Persistence: Heighten salience of goals and objectives; Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge; Foster collaboration and community; Increase mastery-oriented feedback.

  • Provide options for Self-Regulation: Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation; Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies; Develop self-assessment and reflection

Does the lesson provide options that can help all learners

  • regulate their own learning?
  • sustain effort and motivation?
  • engage and interest all learners?

Multiple Means of Representation

Multiple means of representation refers to the “what” of learning. Here we are talking about the content of the course and the ways that that content is delivered to the student. These include your lecture, a slide deck, a text book or other readings, video or audio recordings, visual representations, models, or any number of other interesting and creative ways to demonstrate the important concepts of the material. There are three key considerations related to representation in UDL:

  • Provide options for Perception: Offer ways of customizing the display of information; Offer alternatives for auditory information; Offer alternatives for visual information

  • Provide options for Language & Symbols: Clarify vocabulary and symbols; Clarify syntax and structure; Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols; Promote understanding across languages; Illustrate through multiple media

  • Provide options for Comprehension: Activate or supply background knowledge; Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships; Guide information processing and visualization; Maximize transfer and generalization

Does the information provide options that help all learners

  • reach higher levels of comprehension and understanding?
  • understand the symbols and expressions?
  • perceive what needs to be learned?

Multiple Means of Action and Expression

Multiple means of action and expression refer to the “how” of learning. This is where we consider how our students will interact with the content from the course. Forms of action and expression range from completing practice questions, participating in class discussions, group work, assignments and tests. The three key concepts of action and expression are:

  • Provide options for Physical Action: Vary the methods for response and navigation; Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies

  • Provide options for Expression & Communication: Use multiple media for communication; Use multiple tools for construction and composition; Build fluencies with graduated levels of support for practice and performance

  • Provide options for Executive Functions: Guide appropriate goal-setting; Support planning and strategy development; Facilitate managing information and resources; Enhance capacity for monitoring progress

Does the activity provide options that help all learners:

  • act strategically?
  • express themselves fluently?
  • physically respond?

Additional Resources: 

                      Videos                                                         Websites



            Sample Documents                                         Further Reading