Output Education

Education Blog

Universal Design for Instruction

Universal Design for Instruction

25 July, 2016

Universal Design for Instruction has been defined as a specific method to teaching that involves the proactive design of instructional materials, strategies, and assessments to meet the diverse learning needs of students with and without incapacities in postsecondary education.

Principles of Universal Design for Instruction

  1. Equitable use: Instruction is designed to be helpful to and accessible by people with diverse abilities. Give the same means of use for all students; identical whenever possible, equivalent when not.
  2. Flexibility in use: Instruction is designed to accommodate an extensive range of individual abilities. Provide options in methods of use.
  3. Simple and intuitive: Instruction is designed in an upfront and predictable manner, regardless of the student’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Remove unnecessary complexity
  4. Perceptible information: Instruction is designed so that required information is communicated effectively to the student, regardless of ambient conditions or the student’s sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for error: Instruction expects variation in individual student learning pace and prerequisite skills.
  6. Low physical effort: Instruction is designed to minimize nonessential physical effort in order to allow maximum attention to learning. Note: This principle does not apply when physical effort is integral to vital requirements of a course.
  7. Size and space for approach and use: Instruction is designed with consideration for suitable size and space for approach, reach, control, and use regardless of a student’s body size, posture, mobility, and communication needs.
  8. A community of learners: The instructional environment encourages interaction and communication among students and between students and faculty
  9. Instructional climate: Instruction is designed to be welcoming and comprehensive. High expectations are espoused for all students.

Other Applications of Universal Design in Educational Settings

In addition to the field of architecture and product design, the idea of anticipating diversity among users and designing features to make environments and products accessible by a broad range of people has relevance to other fields, most notably, education.

Supplementary initiatives to extend the concept of universal design to education have emerged, and they are described in order to delineate other approaches to accessible instructional environments.

Beginning in the 1980s, the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), a not-for-profit organization, has involved in efforts “to expand learning opportunities for all individuals, especially those with disabilities, through the research and development of innovative, technology-based educational resources and strategies”. CAST’s approach is based upon Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with a particular focus on students in the K-12 system and the use of technology to support the goal of differentiated instruction.

Another initiative, funded at the University of Guelph in Canada, studied universal instructional design (UID), a model used by faculty who applied the seven principles from North Carolina State University’s Center for Universal Design (CUD). Although this study’s funding ended in 2003, preliminary results showed a significant relationship between the level of UID in a course and students’ sense of self-efficacy.

A third approach is Universal Design of Instruction (UDI). A model developed by the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) Center at the University of Washington, Universal Design of Instruction embraces both the principles of Universal Design (UD) and those of Universal Design of Learning (UDL) to operationalize practices that can be employed by educators to maximize the learning of all students. Checklists based on UD and UDL principles are available for the application of UD to instruction but also to technology, student services, and physical environments.

Finally, Universal Design in Education (UDE) is the phrase proposed by Bowe in 2000 meaning “the preparation of curriculum materials, and environments so that they can be used, appropriately and with ease, by a wide variety of people.” He suggested ways that UDE could be applied across the educational continuum including continuing and adult education. The broad spectrum of UDE practices are also promoted by DO-IT’s Center for Universal Design in Education. While each of these approaches is grounded in the work of the CUD at North Carolina State University, implementation initiatives as well as guiding principles are not uniform.