Universal Design for Learning (UDL):

Teachers will learn principles of Universal Design for Learning and implement these principles in their classrooms.

  • Teachers will seek our resources besides the textbook as their sole source of information.
  • Teachers will implement different instructional and assessment methods to make history accessible to all students (discussion, debate, drama, song, project, etc.)
  • Teachers will incoprorate more instructinoal formats into their classrooms to reach a wider range of students (video, audio, digital, models, etc.)


Ramps and inclines are required for streets and public buildings to help make physical space accessible to people with a physical disability. Why shouldn't students with a disability be given the same access to an equal curriculum. If there were no ramps at Disney World, think about how much you would be taking away from a child who uses a wheelchair? Similarly, if academic accommodations are not put in place for students with learning disabilities, it is as if you are saying, "Welcome to Disney World, it is truly amazing! But you don't have a ticket and you don't have any money. Actually, you don't even have any shoes, so you can't come in." Universal Design for Learning is the practice that makes the curriculum accessible for students. As general education teachers, with special education students under your care, one needs to be prepared to provide students with a way to the curriculum. Universal Design for Learning is simply a logical way to plan. A teacher is not disconnected from the students, but often times, the curriculum is. The teacher needs to discover how the students learn best and to incorporate elements into each lesson that support the growth of each person.

It is important for general education teachers not to view UDL as "one more thing teachers are required to do." UDL can be easily incorporated into normal lessons without much effort. For example, in a lesson on the colony of Jamestown students could watch a video, act out a play, read a teacher-created book, research the colony online, seek out conflicting information, create a song, or have a debate in the perspectives of the Powhaton and the English settlers. A student with a learning disability may have difficulty with written expression; this student should be given the option of expressing his understanding verbally. UDL is important for teachers to understand that equal is not always the same. We would never complain about a ramp on the street knowing that it helps people with a physical disability get from point A to point B. Therefore, as teachers, we should make no reservations for students with learning disabilities.

While no one format of teaching with reach ALL learners optimally, it is by no means detrimental to students' growth. UDL aims to reach more students. It aims to remove barriers in our traditional ways of educating students. Not all students learn best through reading the textbook and listening to lectures. Therefore, a range of instructional and assessment formats should be used as well as a variety of materials. This segment is not only informative, it is very applicable, relevant, and easy to implement into teachers classrooms.


Introduce Universal Design for Learning using the following youtube video from CAST:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDvKnY0g6e4 (5mins)

Say to the staff, "UDL is a progressive way to plan for units. Instead of teaching the content like we always have and letting some students fail, the UDL model anticipates learning barriers ahead of time. Once these barriers are brought out into the open, educators can figure out how to break them down. UDL is a model for education which reaches, in theory, almost all learners. Yes, thinking within this framework does take a considerable amount of time. However, much less time will be spent re-teaching and more students will be given equal access to the curriculum. Our job is to make sure that ALL students meet the learning goals. Universal Design for Learning offers a more accessible way to teach curriculum. This means that we have to consider our learners. In our classrooms we have auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic learners. Unfortunately, the traditional way of teaching social studies usually means reading from the textbook, answering questions, and/or listening to a lecture from the teacher. It is no wonder many students are not interested in history! Research suggests that we should move away from this single-faceted way of teaching history. According to our assigned reading, "Science and Social Studies for Students with Disabilities," the authors suggest that social studies involves different types of learning: factual, conceptual, procedural, and investigative. Let's take a minute to flip to that section to differentiate among the four types." Stress to teachers that in order to teach these four types of learning, students need to be given strategies on how to internalize the content, ideas, and interpretations. Because we have several different types of learners in our classroom, it is important that we use principles of UDL to reach as many learners as possible."

In groups, have teachers brainstorm as many different instructional strategies and materials as they can to teach social studies. Each teacher should also star or tally which instructional method they are most comfortable teaching. Teachers will then be given chart paper to display their ideas. We will reflect on teacher's comfort level, the types of instructional styles that are not comfortable, and try to share ideas with teachers who are more comfortable with diverse methods.
Examples: recordings or digital copies of the book, videos (United Streaming, Brain Pop, youtube, etc.), Games/Simulations, have students create songs, self-created books, use drama, debate, and discussion, etc.
Looking at the charts, ask, "What instructional methods do STUDENTS seem to prefer the most? Do they actually learn from these methods or do they just have fun?" Discuss what methods seem to be the most engaging AND successful for student learning.

Many of us teachers are not comfortable with using technology in our classrooms, or we feel that we do not have enough technology for students to use. Either way, technology is an increasingly important tool, and students are generally comfortable with it."

Show this video clip:
Universal Learning Design: Empowering the Next Generation (10mins)


"Your assignment this week is to read the following blog by Lisa Parisi. Use this blog to inspire you to implement some forms of UDL into your classroom. Experiment with an instructional method that is slightly out of your comfort zone. Bring your experiences with you of implementing UDL for the next segment."

Additional Sources:
Teaching Every Student: Universal Design for Learning, UDL Action Plan for Systemic Change
Universal Design of Instruction (UDI): Definition, Principles, Guidelines, and Examples