Universal Design for Learning


I read that in Maryland they have decided to incorporate Universal Design for Learning into the state educational systems.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that seeks to give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. It also supports test design and instructional material selection for all learners.

UDL is based on the learning styles research that shows that people learn best in different ways such as via visual representations or text or through engaging activities etc.

The UDL approach requires curricular flexibility so that teachers don't have to design multiple lesson plans to accommodate individual students.

The main tenets of UDL all are concerned with providing options (via http://www.cast.org)
Multiple means of representation - give diverse learners options for acquiring information and knowledge
Multiple means of action and expression -provide learners options for demonstrating what they know
Multiple means of engagement - to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation

Many students can benefit from UDL. I think a lot of people associate this design with students who have disabilities, but that is not really the reason for its acceptance. Although any student can benefit from having options, it may particularly help students who speak English as a second language, international students, and older adult students.

Many of the techniques are simple: putting course content online so that students can review material missed in class. Making peer mentoring, group discussions, and cooperative learning situations rather than just lecture part of the course. Teachers can use "guided notes" so that students listen for essential concepts without just being handed notes or simply copying notes from a board or projected slide.

One way to evaluate your own course and methodologies is to monitor what options you do offer and how willing you are to change your instruction.

How often do you change course materials based on current events and student demands?
Do you vary your instructional methods?
Do you provide illustrations, handouts, auditory and visual aids?
How do you get student feedback, provide instructions, ask questions, and connect new topics to prior learning or real-life situations?

The full report and recommendations of the Maryland Statewide Task Force to Explore the Incorporation of Universal Design for Learning UDL Principles is available as a pdf at http://www.marylandpublicschools.org


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