Universal Design for Learning: A Practical Guide

Section 1.3: Opportunities & Challenges

Your best first step into UDL work is a thinking step.

Before getting to any planning, design, organizing, or writing, take some time to consider the next course you’re teaching, the activity you’re trying to plan, or the project you are trying to support.

You have an opportunity to create and translate knowledge and skills using Universal Design for Learning framework. To move into this framework, start with questions.

  • What are your beliefs about learning?
  • What would make you feel that you did a good job as an instructor?
  • What are you carrying forward from past courses or experiences that will colour your teaching?
  • What barriers or difficulties do you anticipate for yourself and for your students?
  • How can you work together to achieve learning experiences that you want to carry forward and build upon?

Universal Design for Learning can feel like a 180 degree turn for instructors because it asks us to turn some of our thinking on its head. It asks us to plan for more assessment, to think about engagement as something beyond motivation, to get more student feedback, and to think about finding multiple routes to learning outcomes. UDL asks us to re-evaluate our historical educational conventions and in many cases, asks us to reflect upon our own educational journeys. Did it have to be that way? Does it have to continue to be?

The guide that follows will address questions about learning outcomes, workload, accommodation plans, classroom diversity, and preparedness. This guide will equip you with the UDL framework and multiple ways of entering that framework. While some of the ideas in UDL seem intuitive, they have a depth to them that is best constructed collaboratively. As you feel your assumptions about diversity, teaching, inclusion, and learning challenged, it is helpful to bounce ideas around. While this guide is designed to help you create some concrete guideposts and ways to get started on UDL, working with different people with different voices and experiences will further those exercises and stretch you towards becoming the type of UDL practitioner you seek to be.


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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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