Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to teaching and learning that gives all students equal opportunity to succeed. The goal of UDL is to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning. It’s about building in flexibility that can be adjusted for every person’s strengths and needs.
UDL recognizes the role that a flexible instruction and environment plays in empowering learners to make decisions about the supports and strategies that will optimize achievement of learning goals. As part of my doctorate research I developed a UDL Practice Profile that highlights what research pointed to as essential elements of UDL. Click here to read more about how this profile was developed. Below is more information about the elements in the practice profile.
This category represents and expands upon the foundational belief of UDL that there exist multiple pathways to achieving a goal and that learning should be designed so that there exists enough flexibility for each student to use a barrier-free pathway that aligns with their unique learning profile. The specific elements associated with this category focus on the philosophical shifts associated with learner variability, the unlinking of the method to the goal, and defining a continuum associated with the goal in a way that accounts for where students are in the scaffolding process towards achievement.
This category outlines the range of elements that teachers can flexibly design to empower learners to make choices that both maximize their strengths and support their learning needs. The category includes the traditional UDL understanding of instruction consisting of methods, materials, and assessment practices and also considers the role that the physical and social environments play in supporting the flexibility associated with UDL. The UDL Guidelines, which will be discussed in more detail in my next blog post, outlines considerations for creating flexibility in each of the elements in this category.
The end goal of UDL is to support students to become "expert learners". The UDL Guidelines are designed to outline a continuum toward this involving creating access and then building and internalize the skills to achieve this. In this way, the curriculum gets extended to include the development of self-regulation, executive functioning, and skills involved with enacting learner agency. These skills are often assumed rather than explicitly taught and practiced. Implementing UDL requires making this hidden part of the curriculum more explicit. Each of the elements outlined below moves a student toward the goal of being purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal directed.