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Fact Sheet: Universal Design for Learning
UDL is an approach to curriculum design that can help
teachers customize curriculum to serve all learners,
regardless of ability, disability, age, gender, or cultural
and linguistic background. UDL provides a blueprint
for designing strategies, materials, assessments, and
tools to reach and teach students with diverse needs.
Universal design for learning (UDL) is a set of principles for designing curriculum that provides all individuals with equal opportunities to learn. UDL is designed to serve all learners, regardless of ability, disability, age, gender, or cultural and linguistic background. UDL provides a blueprint for designing goals, methods, materials, and assessments to reach all students including those with diverse needs. Grounded in research of learner differences and effective instructional settings, UDL principles call for varied and flexible ways to:
UDL is different from other approaches to curriculum design in that educators begin the design process expecting the curriculum to be used by a diverse set of students with varying skills and abilities.
UDL is an approach to learning that addresses and redresses the primary barrier to learning: inflexible, one-size-fits-all curricula that raise unintentional barriers. Learners with disabilities are the most vulnerable to such barriers, but many students without disabilities also find that curricula are poorly designed to meet their learning needs. UDL helps meet the challenges of diversity by recommending the use of flexible instructional materials, techniques, and strategies that empower educators to meet students’ diverse needs. A universally designed curriculum is shaped from the outset to meet the needs of the greatest number of users, making costly, time-consuming, and after-the-fact changes to the curriculum unnecessary.
The UDL framework is grounded in three principles:
Roots of UDL
The term universal design refers to a movement in architecture and product development that aims to make places and things more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Many adaptations for people with disabilities benefit a variety of users. For example, ramps and curb cuts make it easier for parents with baby strollers, elderly people, and delivery people to negotiate walkways and street. Similarly, closed captions on television and movies can be appreciated not only by the deaf and hard of hearing, but by people who can read them in noisy environments. They also can be used as support for listening comprehension by viewers learning the language. The concept that everyone benefits when designs incorporate the needs of every user has become known as universal design. UDL extends this concept to education by applying advances in the understanding of how the brain processes information to the design of curricula that accommodate diverse learning needs.
Under the UDL Umbrella
The good news is that UDL is not in conflict with other methods
How Can Students Benefit From UDL?
Adult students benefit from two major aspects of UDL: (1)
How Can Instructors Incorporate UDL?
Instructors may want to try the following strategies (Rose &
How might this work in the adult education classroom? Because
What’s the Research?
According to the National Center on Universal Design for
Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) (www.cast.org) offers extensive UDL resources and strategies on its website.
Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) (http://www.washington.edu/doit) offers supports for incorporating UDL principles into the postsecondary setting and experiences of students with disabilities.
National Center for Accessible Media (http://ncam.wgbh.org) provides information and resources for expanding access to educational and media technologies for students with disabilities.
National Center on Universal Design for Learning (National UDL Center) (http://www.udlcenter.org) supports the effective implementation of UDL by connecting stakeholders in the field and providing resources and information about UDL and UDL implementation.
NIMAS Development and Technical Assistance Centers (http://aim.cast.org) serve as a resource for information about the policies, practices, and technologies related to the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS).
Teaching Every Student (http://www.cast.org/teaching every student) is a CAST website that includes a multimedia version f the book, Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning (Rose & Meyer, 2002). This website is designed for kindergarten through grade 12 teachers but can be informative for adult education teachers.
UDL Guidelines (http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines) from the National UDL Center provide a set of strategies for plementing UDL along with practical suggestions.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Authors: TEAL Center staff
Reviewed by: Tracey Hall and Boo Murray, CAST
Adapted from CALPRO Fact Sheet No. 2, Universal Design for Learning. Authors: Sally Ianiro with Anestine Hector-Mason
About the TEAL Center: The Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) Center is a project of the U.S. Department of Education,
The Teacher Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) Center is run by the American Institutes for Research and is administered by the Division of Adult Education and Literacy in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education through contract number ED-VAE-09-O-0060