Universal Design for Learning: A Practical Guide

Section 3.6: Action & Expression

Action and Expression is the how of learning. It prompts us to understand that students can come to learning very differently and will think about, process, demonstrate, and synthesise learning in different ways.

Learners differ in the ways they navigate learning environments, instructions, and assignments. Learners also vary in their skills in various modes of expression of information and also have specific preferences as to how they express their knowledge. We know that some students love to prepare and write exams and some prefer to write papers.

The UDL framework pushes us to think beyond papers and exams, however and think about demonstrating all or parts of our knowledge using speech, writing, building, demonstrating through slide show, crafting, or assembling. It also supports executive functions: the branch of cognition dedicated to organizing, planning, controlling our attention, and monitoring progress. By giving students a sense of mastery over their navigation and expression of learning, it permits them to develop monitoring, planning, and organizing systems since they have autonomy over the process from start to finish and can develop an internal locus of control over the production and expression of learning.

Three ideas for supporting multiple means of Action & Expression:

  1. Implement a multimedia assignment for which students plan the content, layout, and technology. Develop with students around ways of managing the project to support planning and execution.
  2. Offer students the choice between writing a paper or illustrating a storyboard and have students analyse content in light of which mode of expression suits both their assignment and their preference.
  3. Implement the use of assistive technology in class. Help students learn to use voice recorders, screen readers, or text-to-speech software to enhance their learning and demonstrate that by using many technology alternatives.

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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