Universal Design for Learning: Critical Elements
Instruction aligned to the UDL principles should minimally include:
- inclusive, intentional planning
- flexible methods and materials
- timely progress monitoring
UDL-IRN. Testable Assumptions About UDL inPractice. Version 1.1. Lawrence, KS: Author, 2011
Establishing clear goals and outcomes, aligned to content standards and written in language that is understandable and posted broadly in the classroom, is the first step in designing UDL instruction. Knowing the expectations and outcomes of a lesson helps educators and students stay focused on critical learning objectives.
Inclusive, Intentional Planning
Anticipating student diversity and the potential learning needs of every student is the hallmark of UDL. What makes UDL different from some other learning frameworks is the emphasis
Flexible Methods and Materials
Well-placed technology plays a significant role in providing flexible materials. Building access to the curriculum through digital media and tools such as Web sites, video clips, and electronic text can be very effective. When content is provided digitally, it becomes flexible, enabling students to select and adjust the information to best meet their learning needs. With digital content, learners can
manipulate qualities such as:
- font size
- text length
or activate supports such as:
- text to speech
- online definitions for new vocabulary words.
In addition, providing a variety of electronic tools such as note takers, word processors, video recorders, audio recorders, and multimedia authoring software enables students to record and share information with others in a manner that supports their learning needs. Not only do these well-placed technology tools ensure access to information for all students, they also provide a potential gateway for including specific assistive technologies required by more challenged learners. To be considered UDL implementation, technology tools and digital media need to be carefully planned and woven into the curriculum as a strategy to support students as they work toward achieving content goals.
Timely Progress Monitoring
The purpose of progress monitoring is to assess students’ ongoing performance and to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Monitoring student performance allows educators to:
- identify specific ideas or concepts that are difficult for students
- make better instructional decisions about next instructional opportunities
- intentionally deploy the needed strategies and scaffolds to ensure improved performance
- provide immediate, meaningful feedback to students so that they can monitor their progress and seek assistance as needed.
Instructional design of summative assessments is also important. Designing assessments that allow students to select and use their preferred method to express their content knowledge ensures a more accurate snapshot of their learning by eliminating the potential for unnecessary barriers when one or two teacher-imposed modalities are used.