Getting Started with UDL

Illustration of five people in an open-plan office with some principles of universal design evident, including alternative seating options and wide spaces between furniture.My pathway to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was long and winding. I first came to Universal Design (UD) through architecture and the built environment. Discovering universal design felt like a deep breath out. It is all about designing with respect and consideration for all – designing with accessibility, usability, pleasurability for all who may use the building. It. Just. Made. Sense.

Naturally, the application of UD to learning makes sense as well. If you value the diversity that each of us brings to our teaching and learning, it’s good to have a tool that frames and guides teachers and learners. It helps maximise and utilise this diversity.

UDL aims to change the design of the environment rather than to change the learner. When environments are intentionally designed to reduce barriers, all learners can engage in rigorous, meaningful learning. CAST

The UDL framework is a three-part guideline. It promotes multiple options for key parts of a learning experience:

    1. engaging students
    2. explicit teaching
    3. students’ action and expression of their learning

UDL celebrates learner variability. It supports practical, realistic and achievable means of providing learning experiences that cater to a broader range of students. 

Getting Started with UDL

Universal design for learning can be implemented in any learning scenario: pre-school, school, higher education, online or face-to-face.

Due to the depth of the framework and changing existing practice, getting started with UDL can be daunting. However, some simple steps can help you get started.

First, clearly define the learning goal. Next, consider learner variability and identify barriers that learners may face in reaching the goal. Then, plan flexible and meaningful assessments. Actively design the learning experience using the UDL principles of Engagement, Representation and Action and Expression, and finally, reflect on the learning engagement.

The CAST website is the birthplace and home of all things UDL, including suggestions for implementing each of the UDL framework checkpoints. You can also read more widely on the premise and goals of UDL so that for you, too, IT. JUST. MAKES. SENSE!

See more on Universal Design and more practical suggestions on Universal Design for Learning on the CUDA website.

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