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Universal Design

Universal Design

25 June, 2016

Defining Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a teaching method that works to accommodate the needs and abilities of all learners and remove unnecessary hurdles in the learning process. This means developing a flexible learning environment in which information is shown in multiple ways, students involved in learning in various ways, and students are given options when demonstrating their learning.
  • Universal design for learning is the same as ‘universal instructional design’ or UID, and ‘universal design for instruction’ or UDI. All three support the accessible and inclusive instructional techniques that meet the needs and abilities of all learners.

Main principles of UDL:

  1. Provide Options for Perception– Based on the premise that learners access information differently, this principle means giving flexible and numerous ways to present information. For example, using PowerPoint as a visual supplement to your lecture.
  2. Provide Options for Expression– Since learners vary in their abilities to demonstrate their learning in different ways, this principle means giving flexible and multiple ways to allow students to express their knowledge or demonstrate their skills. For example, providing students an option of writing a final exam or submitting a final assignment.
  3. Provide Options for Comprehension– Students will have enthusiasm to learn for different reasons and vary in the types of learning activities that keep them involved. This third principle means providing numerous ways for engaging in course activities. For example, engaging students in both group work activities and individual work, as opposed to involving students only in individual work.

Giving options, however, does not mean changing expectations. For example, if your course learning outcomes includes being able to communicate in writing, it is not possible to offer students the option of demonstrating their learning through an oral presentation rather than through a written assignment.

Purpose of Universal Design for Learning

  1. Integrating universal design principles improves aninclusive learning environment.
  2. Designing a course to cover a wider variety of needs may eliminate potential learning barriers, or unnecessary learning obstacles. If a course can be designed at the onset to do this, then why not?
  3. Giving students with multiple means of perceiving, comprehending, and expressing their learning not only enables for students to get involved with the material in a way that most benefits them, but also motivates students to engage with material in ways that would help them expand their competencies and improve in areas in which their skills are not as strong.

Integrating UDL in a course

  1. If you have already designed a course, reflect on how it is going. What current course activities, methods of instruction, and assessments are working well? What is yourteaching style and what are your students’ learning styles? Ask yourself which students would tent do well in your class and which students might have challenges. For example, students who learn by listening would do well in my lecture course, but students who need to interact with concepts in a hands-on manner might not.
  2. Reflect upon whether or not you could offer more flexibility or choices in the way you present content, the way students get involved in learning in your course, and the way they are assessed.
  3. Have students choose from a selected bank of assignment topics, or enable students (at the beginning of the semester) to determine what percentage of their grade can be dependent on certain assessment options.
  4. Check in with your students to see how things are going. Conduct amid-semester evaluation, and/or assess how productive your classroom climate is.
  5. As with any teaching strategy, reflect on how it went. Did it work for you? For your students? Were students able to attain the course learning outcomes? Make needed adjustments for your next semester.