What is 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, according to CAST. The UDL framework promotes flexible and responsive learning environments that are empowering and supportive.
The UDL guidelines provide suggestions to support all learners while accessing and participating in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities. These guidelines are not just strategies, but a way of thinking, planning and delivering instruction.
How do we begin using the UDL framework?
We want to begin using the UDL framework by first defining specific, challenging learning goals. We can then identify potential barriers in the environment and identify resources to reduce and/or eliminate barriers to learning. This process allows each learner to use their strengths to contribute meaningfully in a manner in which they can feel independent, appreciated, and like they belong.
Here are some key questions to consider while planning lessons with UDL in mind:
- For engagement: Does the lesson work for the most marginalized and vulnerable learners? Think of a struggling learner - how will you plan for that learner to be engaged and motivated in the lesson?
- For representation: How will you present information so that every learner - not just the majority - will be able to access, comprehend and own the material?
- For expression: Think about the different ways learners may wish to show what they know - can learners choose a modality?
How does UDL promote equitable educational practices?
When we design for the variability of cultural perspectives and identities, educators can support academic equity for all. If educators provide the same supports for every learner, without first analyzing the learning environment, they can create systematic barriers. When we remove these structural barriers, all learners can participate independently to achieve learning goals, which demonstrates equity by design.
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