Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences.
Recognizing that the way individuals learn can be unique, the UDL framework, first defined by David H. Rose, Ed.D. of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the 1990s, calls for creating curriculum from the outset that provides:
- Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
- Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
- Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.
Curriculum, as defined in the UDL literature, has four parts: instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments. UDL is intended to increase access to learning by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers to learning, as well as other obstacles. UDL principles also lend themselves to implementing inclusionary practices in the classroom.
Universal Design for Learning is referred to by name in American legislation, such as the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 (Public Law 110-315), the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. The emphasis being placed on equal access to curriculum by all students and the accountability required by IDEA 2004 and No Child Left Behind legislation has presented a need for a practice that will accommodate all learners.
The concept and language of Universal Design for Learning was inspired by the universal design movement in architecture and product development, originally formulated by Ronald L. Mace at North Carolina State University. Universal design calls for "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design". UDL applies this general idea to learning: that curriculum should, from the outset, be designed to accommodate all kinds of learners. Educators have to be deliberate in the teaching and learning process in the classroom (e.g Preparing class learning profiles for each student). This will enable grouping by interest. Those students that have challenges will be given special assistance. This will enable specific multimedia to meet the needs of all students. However, recognizing that the UD principles created to guide the design of things (e.g., buildings, products) are not adequate for the design of social interactions (e.g., human learning environments), researchers at CAST looked to the neurosciences and theories of progressive education in developing the UDL principles. In particular, the work of Lev Vygotsky and, less directly, Benjamin Bloom informed the three-part UDL framework.
Some educational initiatives, such as Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) and Universal Instructional Design (UID), adapt the Mace principles for products and environments to learning environments, primarily at the postsecondary level. While these initiatives are similar to UDL and have, in some cases, compatible goals, they are not equivalent to UDL and the terms are not interchangeable; they refer to distinct frameworks. On the other hand, UDI practices promoted by the DO-IT Center operationalize both UD and UDL principles to help educators maximize the learning of all students.
Implementation initiatives in the US
In 2006, representatives from more than two dozen educational and disability organizations in the US formed the National Universal Design for Learning Taskforce. The goal was to raise awareness of UDL among national, state, and local policymakers.
The organizations represented in the National Task Force on UDL include the National School Boards Association, the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD),the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Easter Seals, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), Association on Higher Education and Disability, Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE), American Occupational Therapy Association, National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC), Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), TASH, the Arc of the United States, the Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals Association (VECAP), the National Cerebral Palsy Association, and the Advocacy Institute.
Activities have included sponsoring a Congressional staff briefing on UDL in February 2007 and supporting efforts to include UDL in major education legislation for both K-12 and postsecondary.
Despite the popularity of UDL among educators and disability support professionals, little research has been conducted to evaluate its effectiveness as a model of good pedagogy.
UDL can be used in the support of students with disabilities and as well as learning differences. In actual case studies conducted by Elizabeth McAra-Craford (Araford Education 2015, Halifax, Nova Scotia), applying Universal Design principles expands the ability of students to access needed supports in post-secondary settings.
A number of books and journal articles have been published on the subject of Universal Design for Learning. These include:
- Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom: Practical Applications, edited by Tracey E. Hall, Anne Meyer, and David H. Rose. Guilford Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4625-0635-4.
- Learning to Read in the Digital Age (1998) by Anne Meyer and David H. Rose. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
- Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning (2002) by David H. Rose & Anne Meyer, with Nicole Strangman and Gabrielle Rappolt. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision & Curriculum Development;
- The Universally Designed Classroom: Accessible Curriculum and Digital Technologies (2005), edited by David H. Rose, Anne Meyer, and Chuck Hitchcock. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- A Practical Reader in Universal Design for Learning (2006), edited by David H. Rose and Anne Meyer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- Burgstahler, Sheryl, & Cory, Rebecca. (2008). Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- Schelly, Catherine L., Davies, Patricia L., & Spooner, Craig L. (2011). Student Perceptions of Faculty Implementation of Universal Design for Learning. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 24(1), 17-28.
- Your UDL Lesson Planner: The Step-by-Step Guide for Teaching all Learners (2016), by Patti Kelly Ralabate. Brookes Publishing. ISBN 978-1681250021
- Culturally Responsive Design for English Learners: The UDL Approach (2017), by Patti Kelly Ralabate and Loui Lord Nelson. CAST Professional Publishing. ISBN 978-1930583054
Universal Design for Learning is a promising, research-based framework approach for improving the quality of education across grade levels and subjects for all learners.
- Rose, DH, & Meyer, A (2002) Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
- Orkwis, R, & McLane, K (1998). A curriculum every student can use: Design principles for student access. ERIC/OSEP Topical Brief No. ED423654. Reston, VA: ERIC/OSEP Special Project.
- Rose & Meyer, 2002, p. 75;
- CAST (2008) Universal design for learning guidelines 1.0. Wakefield, MA: CAST. Retrieved July 1, 2008 from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-18. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- Rose & Meyer, 2002
- Legislative Overview, Universal Design for Learning Task Force
- Karger, J. (2005). What IDEA and NCLB suggest about curriculum access for students with disabilities. In DH Rose, A Meyer, & C Hitchcock, Eds. The Universally Designed Classroom: Accessible Curriculum and Digital Technologies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- "Center for Universal Design, NCSU". Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
- Meyer & Rose, 2002
- Rose & Meyer, 2002; CAST, 2008
- CAST, 2008
- McGuire, JM, Scott, SS, & Shaw, SF (2006). Universal design and its applications in educational environments. Remedial and Special Education 27(3), 166-175
- Burgstahler, S., "Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction", 2011, ""
- National Taskforce on UDL, www.udl4allstudents.org
- National Task Force on UDL, www.udl4allstudents.org
- What is Universal Design for Learning?
- National Universal Design for Learning Task Force
- Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning
- UDL@UVM (Universal Design for Learning at the University of Vermont)
- UDL Technical Modules (Tips and techniques for creating universally designed Word, HTML and PDF documents)
- Center for Universal Design in Education
- e-learning Center Hoy Si Aprendo