What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?
According to Tobin and Behling, “Universal design for learning (UDL) is a set of design principles based on the neuroscience of how humans learn. It advocates for lowering barriers to learning for everyone in three broad ways:
- Provide multiple means of learner engagement.
- Provide multiple means of representing information.
- Provide multiple means for learners to take action and express themselves.”
The video below from CAST, the organization that pioneered UDL, provides a brief introduction to these principles. (While the cartoons superficially reference K-12, the principles apply equally well to higher education.) As you continue to think about and develop an open pedagogy activity or assignment, keep these questions in mind:
- How might you add multiple means of engagement (the why of learning) in your course, and specifically to your open pedagogy activity or assignment?
- How might you apply multiple means of representation (the what of learning) to materials or information you provide your students?
- How does your open pedagogy activity or assignment use multiple means of action and expression (the how of learning)?
As in other activities, you are encouraged to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions about UDL in the comments below.
6 thoughts on “Universal Design for Learning”
Assignment: Write a book review of a young adult novel (or a review of a teen film/series)
– Invite my students to identify the assignment’s objectives and design its parameters—perhaps this will make the assignment more meaningful to them
– Ask students to bring in and discuss examples of reviews; discuss what makes a “good” and “bad” review
– Ask students to think about the functions of a review, especially a review of a text for children (example: used for gatekeeping, bring attention to work of minoritized authors, critique representations of race, gender, sexuality, etc.)
– Invite students to identify how this assignment can help them develop skills that they will find useful in class
– Allow students to research and engage with different forms of reviews (print, podcast, video, etc.)
– Encourage students to present their reviews to the class in format of their preference
– Build toward assignment by having debates about a particular text in class
– Allow students to develop their own review systems (in place of “stars” or “thumbs up/thumbs down”)
– Ask students to supplement project with a reflection paper so they can reflect on their research/writing process as well as think about what the assignment meant to them
I am contemplating, when possible, to provide students with choice, as to how to complete some assignments. For example, I assign a simulation assignment, where students have to complete a recreation program, wearing a blindfold to simulate the experience of being vision impaired. The student needs to identify the challenges they experienced, and how they surmounted the obstacles (made modifications). Generally, this assignment is submitted as a written report. With today’s technology, I could indicate that a student could make a video of them-self doing the activity, where they verbally describe the obstacles and explain what they did to surmount the obstacles (modifications) Also, I would make a point of explaining the reason for an assignment, like this.
Other simple ways to accomplish UDL
create links to materials being assigned
use voice thread for lectures, so students can process materials through reading the material and hearing the material. Additionally, using Voice Threads allows the student to stop the recording and go at their own pace.
These are some of my thoughts.
I am very familiar with the “Understanding by Design” concept and have been using the theory, in conjunction with the concept behind “Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction” in my sessions with future teachers. I have also stressed the need for “differentiation” , modelled it in my sessions, and required students to include differentiation tasks in the lessons they develop. I passed on some of the tools used by Diane Heacox for “Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom”, among others.
Recently, I have come across the concept of “Universal Design for Learning” in another workshop and now this one. I certainly understand the connection of UDL with both Gagne and with UbD and the description of the concept is much easier to pass on to student than simply the idea of Differentiation coupled with recipes to “cook” their lesson plans.
Being newly aware of the “idea”, identified in these terms, have yet to work on a a strategy to combine UbD – UDL with Open Pedagogy, pe se, as it is presented in this workshop. In Education, we often reinvent the wheel, and In many ways I have been subconsciously aware of UDL, and there is evidence of this awareness, in a number of my course tasks, but I have not identified it as such or spent time in my courses, in stressing the need for students to be consciously becoming familiar with it and including it into their lessons.
Identify an assignment that offers students an opportunity to engage with some aspect of a culture they may or may not identify with that centers around a specific theme (workplace, fitness, work, communication, artifact, health, disability, music, tattoo, faith, friendship, parenting, education, relationship etc);
-students brainstorm themes in small diverse groups and provide reasons for their choice
-students share ideas (generated from small groups) with the class.
-Examine ideas, connections and how students know, invite perspectives that appear to be missing from the discussion.
– Explore as a class the parameters of the assignment, how the assignment will highlight what is important, ignored, different, challenging.
Once the themes emerge, ask students to investigate resources in assigned groups that will support the goals of the assignment. Remind students that they also serve as a resource (perhaps as observer/participant in the culture). Get feedback and offer a list of resources that students have the option of adding to as they work on the assignment.
Resources – accessible video, oral histories, tangible and print artifacts.
Action and Expression:
-assignment culminates in group presentation (timed short skit or group designed activity on the the topic, evidence of having interacted with the culture being discussed, reflection (written, audio, video or verbal).
Assignment: Choose a literary genre and create a short novel that represents your culture.
– Review the benefits of children’s literature
– Evaluate the importance of literary elements and techniques
– Examine short stories for organization (content, graphics)
– Examine various international short stories and discuss similarities and differences
– Use online sources (videos, readings, artifacts)
– Lecture and discussion
– Social media and interviews
– Collaborative work
– Brain storming
– Artistic representation
– Peer review
UDL seems to be a new construct of the multiple intelligences theory that people learn in different ways. The material in my lessons are already presented in several ways: reading the textbook, listening to the lecture, following the Powerpoint notes. I have recently begun to add more images to the Powerpoint notes to hold the attention of visual learners. My assignments are fairly traditional: multiple choice quizzes, essays, and reflection papers. I have had students do Powerpoint projects in the past and recently added an assignment having students write a letter to a politician. I have, also, given students the opportunity to write poetry, portray a historical figure, or write a song. I would like to add more opportunities for students to do these types of assignments. I, also, would like to add assignments that appeal to students interested in the arts.