Universal Design for Learning: A Guide for Educators

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At its core, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a mindset. It’s a set of beliefs and principles that guide educators in everything they do. Through UDL, educators can encourage success and improve outcomes by focusing on learner variability and creating customisable learning experiences.

The UDL approach to teaching minimises barriers and maximises outcomes for all learners. It begins with the foundational understanding that every learner is highly variable. No learner is just one thing; we all have strengths and weaknesses. Those strengths and weaknesses become apparent based on the task, the environment, the resources and tools available, and even a learner’s affect (what sort of day they’re having).

UDL aims to change the design of the environment and curriculum rather than to change the learner. By anticipating learner variability and proactively reducing the barriers to learning, UDL empowers all learners to engage in rigorous, meaningful learning experiences.

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We’re not asking for an email address. Helping you on your UDL journey is our goal.

In this guide:

The benefits of UDL are numerous. Learn all about UDL; the benefits of adopting it as a teaching and learning approach; how we can implement UDL in the classroom and help create inclusive learning environments and goal-directed, independent learners.

Explore each section in this guide and discover:

What is Universal Design for Learning?

The principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) were developed by CAST and have been found to have enormous potential to positively impact the experiences of all learners. In this section we uncover what UDL is all about and why it's so beneficial for teaching and learning.

The origins of UDL

Did you know that Universal Design for Learning actually evolved from architecture? Ron Mace came up with the concept. One that envisioned universal design as a means to promote the design of products and environments that would appeal to all people.

In this section we discover the origins of Universal Design and learn that it’s all around us, everyday.

The UDL guidelines

UDL creates inclusive education by encouraging a curriculum design tailored to address the needs of all learners and provides them with multiple pathways to success. In this section we take a look at the UDL guidelines, developed by CAST and how they were conceived with the three major brain networks in mind.

Implementing UDL

UDL is not about adding all of the UDL Guidelines into every lesson - that would not be intentional design, it would take too long, and all those options would be overwhelming to learners. In this section we look at some of the ways we can start implementing UDL into our practices, one step at a time.

How to plan instruction using UDL

When we're planning lessons, it's important to think about how we can make them accessible and engaging for all learners. The UDL framework can be a helpful tool for doing this. In this section we look at how to identify and anticipate the barriers, develop solutions for every learner.

Assistive Technology and UDL

Technology can help learners with diverse needs by supporting, and in some cases accelerating, their learning by providing reinforcement where needed. In this section we look at how providing a variety of flexible learning options and opportunities for engagement, technology can help all learners to succeed.

Why UDL is a valuable approach to both the teacher and the learner

As educators, we are always looking for ways to better meet the needs of all our learners. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework provides a valuable approach for doing just that. In this section we look at why UDL is a valuable approach for both the teacher and the learner.

The future of UDL

When we speak to our UDL colleagues, we often ask them what the next big thing is for the UDL and the community it serves, and there’s always some pretty exciting responses. In this section we take a look at how the future of UDL is likely to be shaped.

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