Universal Design for Learning: A Practical Guide

Section 1.1: Why UDL Matters

Post-secondary instructors are facing more challenges nowadays because the student population is increasingly diverse. Students with diverse cultural backgrounds, skills, abilities, interests, experiences, and social-economic status require instructors to reflect on their teaching practices and adopt user-centred approaches for course design and delivery. But how do user-centred approaches look like in practice? And how can instructors deliver quality learning outcomes to maximum number of students?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a curriculum design, development, and delivery framework that could help answer these questions. UDL seeks to include the maximum number of learners in instruction by offering multiple paths to get to the same learning outcomes, including

  • Multiple means of engagement: the why of learning
  • Multiple means of representation: the what of learning
  • Multiple means of action and expression: the how of learning

UDL supports the design of inclusive and user-centred learning experiences by:

Creating Expert Learners UDL aims to create expert learners who are purposeful, motivated, resourceful, strategic and goal-directed
Teaching to the Margins UDL reminds instructors to think who is experiencing barriers and how to design curriculum for as many students as possible
Planning Proactively UDL advocates ways of anticipating the variability of learners in your class and gathering feedback for redesign
Enabling Access UDL looks at access in terms of how learners engage with the class environment, how they interface with the way knowledge is represented, and how they express their learning
Providing Flexibility UDL emphasizes on programming choice and flexibility to obtain learning outcomes in different ways
Explicitly Addressing Expectations UDL advocates practices that bring implicit understanding to light so that expectations are clear, concrete, and actionable
Frequent and Varied Assessment UDL advocates frequent, varied, low-stakes assessment for engagement and regular feedback

You will learn more about UDL and how it could reshape your course design and delivery through this guide.


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A Comprehensive Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Seanna Takacs; Junsong Zhang; Helen Lee; Lynn Truong; and David Smulders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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