Universal Design for Learning: A Practical Guide

Section 3.4: Engagement

Engagement is part of the Affective Network and is concerned with the WHY of learning. Research into motivation and affect has shown dramatically that there is diversity in the ways different learners are motivated. Learners hold different experiences, different subject-area knowledge, have different goals for learning and for class participation, different interests, passions, and abilities. Some learners crave and enjoy novelty while others prefer routine. Some students enjoy gathering details and stories and building to a concept; others prefer to learn the theory first and understand how it unfolds in real-life second. Some students prefer to think and work alone; others prefer to work in a group; some even prefer a hybrid.

All of these variables taken together mean that if you are planning on a way to “hook” students or hold their interest, you will have to be sure to design for MULTIPLE means of engagement so that everyone gets to jump into the class in ways that not only feel safe, but stimulating and enriching.

Offering choices for engagement is a key aspect of UDL. Assessing and getting feedback on engagement as a beginning, middle, and end step are essential aspects of the design process.

Here are three ideas for supporting multiple means of engagement:

  1. At the beginning of the course or class, ask students to write down or share how the learning outcomes or content is supporting their goals for their program or degree;
  2. At the end of class do a hotwash. Reserve the last ten minutes of class for students to summarize the main points of the class and suggest one change that could be made for the next class. The instructor is strictly a notetaker at this stage. For the next class, the instructor starts the class by summarizing the feedback from the last class to frame the next class;
  3. Have students interview each other on a list of academic strengths and weaknesses (e.g., taking notes, analysis, coming up with big ideas, writing, research) or preferences (e.g., working alone, in groups, in partners; working in quiet or with conversation; novelty vs structure), and have them give three examples of what has worked well in terms of engagement in the past.


Reflective Question:

What ideas can you come up with or adapt here?


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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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