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Chapter image Chapter 22: Strategy 20: Universal design for learning

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20. Employs Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

UDL: (1) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; (2)  reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities; (3) focuses on ways to provide cognitive, as well as physical, access to the curriculum, assessment and pedagogy.

Rather than adapting things for individuals at a later time, UDL environments are created from the outset to be accessible to everyone.  In other words, ‘pre-fitting’, not ‘retro-fitting’ or adapting, is the aim.


Mitchell, 2014, pp236–242.


1. provide multiple means of representation (vision, hearing, touch),

2. provide multiple means of action and expression,

3. provide multiple means of engagement through a range extending from novelty to routines.

  1. All three indicators are met.
  2. Two of the indicators are met
  3. One of the indicators is met.
  4. None of the indicators are met.

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Best practices through Universal Design for Learning. (13.08 US)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles and techniques for creating inclusive classroom instruction and accessible course materials. At its core is the assertion that all students benefit when they are given multiple ways to take in new information, express their comprehension and become engaged in learning. This video features faculty and students at Colorado State University describing the benefits of UDL. Includes captions.


National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

Several videos relating to Grades 1–6.


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Center for Universal Design.

The Center for Universal Design is a national information, technical assistance and research center that evaluates, develops and promotes accessible and universal design in housing, commercial and public facilities, outdoor environments and products. 


Center for Applied Special Education Technology.

Universal Design for Learning is a research-based framework for designing curricula – that is, educational goals, methods, materials and assessments ­– that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for learning. This is accomplished by simultaneously providing rich supports for learning and reducing barriers to the curriculum, while maintaining high achievement standards for all students.


Universal Design for Learning: Creating a learning environment that challenges and engages all students.

This module examines the three principles of Universal Design for Learning and discusses how to apply these principles to the four curricular components (i.e., goals, instructional materials, instructional methods and assessments).


Types of Evidence Supporting UDL.

The UDL Guidelines are based on research from several very different fields and from many different researchers at many different universities and research organizations.  That research has been reviewed, compiled and organized by educators and researchers at CAST. 


UDL is based upon the most widely replicated finding in educational research: learners are highly variable in their response to instruction. In virtually every report of research on instruction or intervention, individual differences are not only evident in the results; they are prominent. UDL treats these individual differences as an equally important focus of attention.  In fact, when viewed through the UDL framework, these findings are fundamental to understanding and designing effective instruction. The research that supports UDL falls into four categories: foundational research of UDL, research on the UDL principles, research on promising practices and research on implementation of UDL.


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Meo, G. (2010). ‘Curriculum planning for all learners: Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to a high school reading comprehension program’. Preventing School Failure, 52(2), 21–30.

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles provide a blueprint for designing a curriculum that addresses the diverse needs of all learners. The author provides an overview of UDL, connections to curriculum planning and practical techniques that guide general and special education teachers in planning and implementing curriculum, using a four-step process for designing and implementing a curriculum (goals, methods, materials and assessments) that is accessible and effective for all learners. In this article, the author focuses on high school social studies content with a goal of supporting all students’ understanding of the content.