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Implementing UDL

How to start implementing UDL in your classroom

If you're interested in implementing UDL in your classroom, there are a few things you can do to get started:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the UDL guidelines. Use them as a starting point for thinking about how you can make your teaching more inclusive.
  2. Talk to other teachers who are already using UDL in their classrooms. Find out what works well, and what challenges they've faced.
  3. Plan your lessons using the UDL framework. This will help you to identify any potential barriers to learning, and to make sure that all learners have equal opportunities to succeed.
  4. Use a variety of methods and materials in your teaching. This will ensure that all learners are able to engage with the material in a way that suits them best.
  5. Encourage students to take an active role in their own learning. This will help them to develop into expert learners who are able to take control of their own education.

Applying 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 the learner. 

To apply UDL: 

  1. Know the learning goal, 
  2. Anticipate barriers learners will face to achieve that goal. For example, note where they might need to build more background or might need more support. Note where you need to re-teach or where they are not fully included in the learning experience.
  3. These barriers are starting points for where you can use CAST’s UDL Guidelines as a tool to design options to support the learning goal. 

Webinar: Neurodiversity & Disability Aren't Problems, But UDL is the Solution

Register for this on-demand session hosted by Lilian Nave, Think UDL Podcast, Senior Lecturer, Faculty Coordinator and UDL Coordinator Appalachian State University.

Recorded during our UDL Touchdown event, this session explores UDL-inspired design thinking that can make the difference so that the great multitude of diverse students can not only survive, but thrive throughout their education journey.

What does UDL "look like"?

Universal Design for Learning looks different in every classroom. How one educator applies UDL will vary based on the lesson goal, the learners they are working with, the resources available, and their own preferences. You don’t need specific tools or technologies to implement UDL, but technology can be a powerful leverage for flexibility and engagement.

UDL applied with technology does create a richer and more inclusive experience. It provides phenomenal opportunities to remove barriers and make the learning experience more accessible to every learner. So although it's not required, technology is a huge asset, especially when it ensures that learning opportunities are equal for every learner, regardless of age or ability.

In any lesson or learning experience where UDL has been implemented, here are commonalities you will observe:

  • The goal is clear and the learner knows the goal.
  • There are options any learner can use to progress toward the lesson goal. Learners are encouraged to select their own pathways.
  • There is a focus on the relevance of the goal and lesson.
  • There are flexible options in the assessment(s), materials, and methods of the lesson.
  • Learners have access to the options and resources from the start of a lesson. 
  • There are high expectations for expert learning for all.

The UDL framing to have clear goals and flexible pathways to achieve the goal is consistent no matter the grade level or content areas. Observe how educators have used UDL in their lessons. In what ways can you use this framework to transform your lessons?

How can I use the three principles of UDL?

UDL describes human variability based on parts of the brain that manage the “why” (affective network), the “what” (recognition network), and the “how” (strategic network) of learning.

The chart below includes the three UDL principles adapted from CAST. It also gives you some questions to consider and lists some examples of the principles in action.

  • Provide multiple means of engagement
  • Provide multiple means of representation
  • Provide multiple means of action and expression

How can I engage all learners in my class?

  1. In what ways do I give them choice and autonomy?
  2. How do I make learning relevant to their needs and wants?
  3. In what ways is my classroom accepting and supportive of all learners?


  • Survey individuals about their interests, strengths, and needs. Incorporate the findings into lessons.
  • Use choice menus for working toward goals.
  • State learning goals clearly and in a way that feels relevant.

How can you use UDL in your classroom or home learning environment?

Implementing UDL in the Classroom. Teachers can use UDL principles to create classrooms that are accessible and effective for all learners. By designing lessons with multiple means of engagement, representation, and action/expression, teachers can provide learners with the supports they need to succeed. Implementing UDL can seem daunting, but there are many resources available to help teachers get started. 

The following tips can help you create a UDL-friendly environment in your classroom:

  1. A Teacher’s Role in UDL. As the creator of the learning environment, a teacher’s role is crucial in implementing UDL principles. It is important to remember that UDL is not a “cure-all” for educational challenges, but rather a framework to help ensure that all learners have access to rigorous learning goals, appropriately challenging learning tasks, and multiple means to demonstrate mastery.
  2. How to start implementing UDL in your classroom. There are many ways to begin incorporating UDL into your practice. One simple way is to start by identifying the barriers that prevent some learners from accessing the curriculum. Once you have identified these barriers, you can begin brainstorming solutions that will make the curriculum more accessible for all learners.
  3. How to plan using UDL. When planning lessons, it is important to keep UDL principles in mind. This means creating goals and objectives that are barrier-free and designing activities that allow for multiple means of engagement, representation, and action/expression. Implementing UDL does not mean re-inventing the wheel – there are many resources available to help you get started! 
  4. Create barrier-free goals and objectives: When writing goals and objectives, be sure to avoid using language that could create barriers for some learners. For example, instead of writing “Learners will be able to identify verbs in a sentence,” try “Learners will be able to identify words that describe actions or states of being.” 
  5. Identify and anticipate the barriers: Not all barriers can be anticipated, but it is important to be aware of the potential obstacles that could prevent some learners from accessing the curriculum or participating in activities. By taking the time to identify these barriers upfront, you can save yourself time and energy in the long run! 
  6. Identify solutions: Once you have identified the barriers, it is time to start brainstorming solutions! There are many ways to design barrier-free learning experiences – it just takes a little creativity and out-of-the-box thinking! Implementing Universal Design for Learning in your classroom doesn’t have to be daunting – with a little planning and creativity, it can be easy (and fun)!
  7. Get support from families at home too: Parents or guardians may not be familiar with the concept of their children being active participants in setting their learning goals and so they may have questions about allowing them to make their own learning choices. Explain in parent-teacher conferences that you’ll be adopting UDL and what it means and that you’ll keep working with the them and their families to build the skills to help them become an expert learner. 

Keep Reading

How to plan instruction using UDL

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Technology and UDL

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The Future of UDL

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