Wednesday / May 29

Universal Design for Learning (UDL): What is it and how do I use it in the Classroom?

UDL: What it is

  1. UDL is based on the belief that traditional educational goals, materials, methods and assessments may create obstacles to learning for some students
  2. UDL is an educational approach to teaching, learning, and assessment that draws on brain research and technologies to respond to individual learner differences, while addressing a holistic approach to teaching and learning.

UDL has roots in Architecture. Think of curb cuts…

The curb cut provides access to the sidewalk for people on bicycles or people that may have mobility challenges.

The same principle applies to learning. UDL provides multiple access or entry points to curriculum for all learners.

UDL: What it isn’t

  1. UDL is not a strategy or technique. It is based on principles that can be applied to the learning curriculum and environment.
  2. UDL is not a curricular adaptation or modification. It should be implemented or “frontloaded” in the initial design of curriculum instead of inserted into the structure of teaching once instruction has commenced.

How can I implement UDL in my classroom?

There are principles in the UDL framework:

  1. Multiple Means of Engagement
  • As a teacher you can provide learning choices such as:
  • Audio/Visual/Hands on
  • Project based Inquiry
  • Email Projects
  • Webquests
  1. Multiple Means of Presentation
  • As a teacher you can present materials in a range of formats such as:
  • Visual Youtube presentations with Closed Captioning
  • Audio support software such as Kurzweil
  • Enlarged print
  • Multimedia presentations such as Powerpoint with Powertalk
  1. Multiple Means of Expression
  • As a teacher you can give your students options for assignments such as:
  • The use of graphic outlining tools
  • Podcasts
  • Drawings
  • Graphs
  • Written reports

Let’s get specific! What does UDL look like in the classroom?

Multiple Means of Engagement

Give the students a written summary or outline of the activity before the lesson to help support the students’ comprehension of information provided orally.

Identify vocabulary that the students may not know before the activity begins.

Provide a copy/overview of the unit/lesson to support teachers, who can then provide follow-up practice and extension for students.

Multiple Means of Presentation

Have the students that need extra support work with a study partner to develop and share a graphic display (e.g., Venn diagram, chart, timeline) of the concepts presented in the activity/lesson.

Allow students to model the tasks to be learned or practiced.

Use assignments to inspire individual learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately and motivate them to learn.

Multiple Means of Expression

Pair students with challenges with a  peer to create a Know, Want to know, and Learned (KWL) chart prior to the introduction of a new topic.

Give students the opportunity to teach the class key concepts using the KWL chart.

When giving oral information or instructions, have students write key words and phrases on the blackboard.

Remember: It’s all about design!

Universal Design for Learning is about Front-loading, not Retrofitting!

Two Great Resources

Universal Design for Learning Center:



Written by

Jennifer Madigan Ed.D. is an Associate Professor in the College of Education, Department of Special Education at San Jose State University. Prior to her position in the College of Education, Dr. Madigan taught for thirteen years throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area Bay Area, in a range of Kindergarten through 12th grade special and general education settings. As an educator, she had the opportunity to serve students and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in a variety of urban and suburban schools. Dr. Madigan’s work in schools includes the inclusion of children with special needs in general education settings, and more recently, research on the effects of single-gender special education for female students identified as learning disabled. She has presented this research at state, national, and international conferences. Additionally, Dr. Madigan has received federal and private funding for her work related to gender issues in special education. She has published articles in the journals Multiple Voices, Advances in Gender and Education, The National Journal of Urban Education and Practice, and E-Journal for Teaching and Learning in Diverse Settings. Jennifer is the author of Mentorship of Special Educators.

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  • I am working on my PPR test and have not been able to pass it. is their something that you can do to help with me passing it. I live in Texas.

    Lenna Lear

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