UDL: Universal Design for Learning

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

UDL or Universal Design for Learning has become a buzz concept in recent years. I used to be skeptical of jumping on bandwagons and endorsing new ways to look at old problems. The new ideas usually come with expensive professional development and school supplies, books, software, you name it. One of the things I like about the UDL buzz, it is really a useful concept and way of looking at schools and curriculum development without spending much money to make learning available to all students.

UDL comes to us from the CAST organization.

From their website I pulled this nice concise definition: www.cast.org

“What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.”

This is the idea of least restrictive learning environment taken to a whole new level. If you think about accommodations schools have made over the years at the behest of federal law such as architectural changes for wheelchairs, etc. it really just makes sense. It is time now to move the accommodation focus to curriculum development.

If you have children in your classroom that are hard of hearing, doesn’t it make sense to look at your room and work to maximize your acoustics? This would benefit all children not just the ones with the disability. Partially because of UDL, the notion of outfitting classrooms with sound systems has taken off. A minor investment in speakers and projection equipment will open up that 25% of what you say that never gets heard to the ears of all.

A new thrust in the teaching of reading is developing leveled reading libraries (read Fountas and Pinnell) for school and classroom libraries, it has become standard procedure. In the old days we’d take students to the library and let them loose among the shelves to pick out a book. Now, we can quickly assess student reading levels (lexiles), share this level information with students so they will know which books in the library are the most appropriate for them. It sounds pretty basic, but UDL has caused us all to step back and take a closer look at the way we communicate this information to children.

Within the resources defined by CAST for developing UDL classrooms, you will want to offer ways of customizing the display of information in the classroom.

Within this consideration:

  • How does this help learners meet the goal?
  • How does this account for the variability of all learners?
  • Can learners customize the display?

We concentrate on goals and objectives, really stop and think about learning styles and empower students to customize the learning environment for themselves, to make learning more accessible.

Then, on the CAST site, teachers write and talk about ways they have altered displays in their schools with UDL in mind.

Other considerations might be:

1.3: Offer alternatives for visual information

2.3: Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols

4.1: Vary the methods for response and navigation

4.2: Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies

With the Internet as our best tool, we can all share ways we do things every day that help us integrate all students within a single learning environment. We’ll really provide the least restrictive learning situation in our own classrooms.

Don’t be silent, comment on this blog, what do you think, does your district embrace the ideas of UDL?


Grant Name:  USGA Alliance Grants

Funded By:  National Alliance for Accessible Golf

Description:  Grants support organizations which provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn and enjoy the game of golf and its inherent values. The Alliance and the USGA share the belief that the game of golf is exceptionally well-suited to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in a recreational or competitive activity with participants who have various types of disabilities as well as those who do not have disabilities. We encourage inclusive programming – opportunities that allow participants with disabilities and participants without disabilities to learn and play the game side by side.

Program Areas:   Disabilities, Health/PE

Eligibility:  Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  Ongoing

Average Amount:  $1,000.00 – $20,000.00