Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides guidance supporting all students' learning.

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework for designing curriculum that provides all students equitable opportunities to learn. UDL promotes access as a formal principle rather than an add-on. It is proactive rather than reactive, benefiting not just students with disabilities but improving access for all students. Research consistently shows that UDL positively affects students’ persistence, retention, and satisfaction (Roberts et al., 2011).

UDL’s framework is based on three principles, for creating educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone, while still maintaining high academic standards.

What does UDL have to do with Teaching?

Course Design

The UDL framework is complex. When starting out not every guideline can be met in every course. With course design, thinking of UDL as an ongoing project helps one to make small adjustments over time, progressively increasing student access to the course and content. For example, take a course concept that students, generally, have a hard time understanding. Design multiple modes of working with this concept instead of just one. Group discussions, drawing, handouts, worksheets and debates are different modes of instruction and provide students with opportunities for multiple means of engagement, representations and action/expression.

Thomas Tobin, author of Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, uses a clear and accessible definition of UDL as “Plus-One” thinking. For every interaction that learners have in the course with materials, each other, instructors, the world, provide one more for that interaction to happen. 

Teaching Strategy Ideas using UDL Framework

Tobin, T., & Behling, K. (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal design for learning in higher education. West Virginia University Press.

See Also: