Universal Design for Learning
What is UDL?
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for curriculum design that addresses learner variability by reducing barriers to the learning environment. This framework is based on the principles of Universal Design, which seek to ensure accessibility to all the environments that individuals may encounter.
Why is UDL Important?
UDL minimizes barriers for all students and supports the natural variability of learners by offering students multiple means to engage with content, represent the content, and act upon/express their knowledge.
The importance of the environment in which learning takes place is also central to UDL, and its desired end result: assisting all students to become expert learners. In emphasizing UDL, Heartland supports the work of the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), the leading nonprofit education research and development organization in UDL, which believes that:
"The goal of education in the 21st century is not simply the mastery of content knowledge or use of new technologies. It is the mastery of the learning process. Education should help turn novice learners into expert learners—individuals who want to learn, who know how to learn strategically, and who, in their own highly individual and flexible ways, are well prepared for a lifetime of learning. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helps educators meet this goal by providing a framework for understanding how to create curricula that meets the needs of all learners from the start."
Principles and Guidelines
Universal Design for Learning articulates the following three principles, as explained by CAST:
Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation
- The “what” of learning.
- Learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them.
- For example, those with sensory disabilities (e.g., blindness or deafness); learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia); language or cultural differences, and so forth may all require different ways of approaching content. Others may simply grasp information quicker or more efficiently through visual or auditory means rather than printed text. Also learning, and transfer of learning, occurs when multiple representations are used, because it allows students to make connections within, as well as between, concepts.
- In short, there is not one means of representation that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for representation is essential
Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
- The “how” of learning.
- Learners differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express what they know.
- For example, individuals with significant movement impairments (e.g., cerebral palsy), those who struggle with strategic and organizational abilities (executive function disorders), those who have language barriers, and so forth approach learning tasks very differently. Some may be able to express themselves well in written text but not speech, and vice versa. It should also be recognized that action and expression require a great deal of strategy, practice, and organization, and this is another are in which learners can differ.
- In reality, there is not one means of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for action and expression is essential.
Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
- The “why” of learning.
- Affect represents a crucial element to learning, and learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn.
- There are a variety of sources that can influence individual variation in affect including neurology, culture, personal relevance, subjectivity, and background knowledge, along with a variety of other factors presented in these guidelines. Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty while other are disengaged, even frightened, by those aspects, preferring strict routine. Some learners might like to work alone, while others prefer to work with their peers.
- In reality, there is not one means of engagement that will be optimal for all learners in all contexts; providing multiple options for engagement is essential.
Faculty Fellows Program
From 2013-2016 Disability Support Services funded a Faculty Fellows Program through grant monies received from the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. This program entailed training six faculty members in UDL, who then provided training and promoted UDL to the college. Over the course of the grant, these Fellows gave four conference presentations, 12 Faculty Academy Is, one Faculty Academy II, two Great Teacher Retreats, and coordinated an on-campus institute with CAST, the premier UDL organization in the country. Besides the aforementioned activities, the Faculty Fellows Program also led to the creation of a campus repository for UDL in SharePoint and an Advanced Certification course in Blackboard.
SharePoint Resource Page
As part of the Fellows Program, a repository of UDL materials was created in SharePoint for any faculty member or staff at the college to access. To access this work center log in to share.heartland.edu and navigate to Universal Design for Learning.
Advanced Certification Course
In conjunction with the Director of Online Learning and Instructional Technology, the Fellows Program created an Advanced Certification course for any faculty member who would like the additional credential. To sign up for this course, please contact the Director of Online Learning and Instructional Technology.
The Center for Applied Special Technology CAST
University of Washington DO-IT
Johnna Darragh, Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood Education
Jill Mohr, Assistant Adjunct Professor
James Patton, Associate Adjunct Professor
Zach Petrea, Associate Professor of English
Stacie Rose-Brooks, Distinguished Professor of Biology
Karen Shaw, Professor I of Education