UDL Tools and Considerations
Tips and Advice for Teachers on Implementing Universal Design for Learning
UDL Enhances Rigor Through Accessibility
As mentioned on the About UDL Page, the focus of Universal Design for Learning is providing students with access to course materials and concepts in multiple ways. We can't predict what each individual student will remember from each type of resource or how each student will take up a specific assignment, so we aim to provide flexible means of engagement. However, flexibility in engagement does not imply reduction in course rigor. We allow more types of engagement in order to solidify course concepts — the goal is to help students better learn, understand, and appreciate course materials so that they're better able to retain information and apply it in their lives beyond the classroom.
Fundamentally, the aim is to maximize student potential, increasing what our students can accomplish and want to accomplish.
TEDx Video: "The Myth of Average"
As Todd Rose explains, fighter pilots have jagged size profiles — there is no such thing as an "average"-sized pilot. By "designing to the edges," the Air Force and aircraft manufacturers improved the function of high-performance aircraft while expanding the number of potential pilots. "And today, we have the most diverse pool of fighter pilots ever. But…many of our top pilots would have never fit in a cockpit designed for average" (emphasis mine).
"Plus One" Lesson Planning with UDL
In an ideal world, you'd integrate UDL before your semester begins, examining how best to explain complex concepts to your students. In reality, it's likely that you've landed on this website mid-semester, and you may be looking at how to use UDL either in your present course or for a future course. For UDL, we use the concept of "Plus One" lesson plan updates: simply choose one item to change, make that small change, and see how it goes.
How "Plus One" Helps:
- UDL Fits Your Teaching. Through UDL, you'll start with the core concepts your students are required to learn — something you've likely already done dozens of times — and then consider all the additional ways you can share these concepts with your students.
- Your Reading List Can Be Infinite. No, you can't expect your students to read the entire internet. But you can provide links to every article you wish they could read. And then let them know the strengths and weaknesses of each article. Let them choose the resources that will help them most. You might be surprised which resources help today's students the most.
- Student Assignments Will Be More Interesting. By allowing students to follow their interests, you can encourage your students to want to do better.
- You can begin using UDL today. With a few quick additions — incorporating a video from YouTube, adding a follow-up quiz, perhaps combining concept lessons to space them out across more days — you can make your present lessons just that extra bit more memorable. In fact, I recommend doing this because…
Why "Plus One" Is Not "Plus Everything Ever":
- UDL Isn't Easy. It takes time to find, share, or produce new materials for your students. Reshaping your course content to meet student expectation isn't necessarily a "natural" process.
- UDL Requires More One-on-One Time with Your Students. Honestly, this should be a good thing. But it can be time-consuming, especially if you're trying to reshape your syllabus. If you have to choose between student interactions versus lesson planning, the student interactions are likely more important. Also, your students might teach you something crucial as you update future courses.
Resources: Bringing UDL to Your Classroom
- 7 Ways to Introduce UDL into your Classroom — Texthelp
- Tips, Tricks and Tools to Build Your Inclusive Classroom Through UDL — EdSurge
- "Plus-One" Thinking: A Framework for Inclusive Teaching by the University of Texas at Austin Innovation Center. (See also the embedded videos with Nico Osier and Brandon Campitelli explaining how they adapted their assignments to better meet student needs.)
Integrating Digital Resources
Although UDL may recommend short videos and images in places where a traditional course might solely depend on long lectures or assigned readings, this does not mean a reduction in the readings or workload. Instead, we use images, "microlectures," and other multimodal resources prepare students for more complex tasks such as reading academic articles, interpreting lecture materials, and writing research papers. By providing memorable overview information about complex course concepts, we enable students to better apply these concepts in their work.
Integrating Multimodal Resources
We communicate through words, of course, but nonverbal cues are a key part of sorting and prioritizing information. Sounds, images, gestures, and the juxtaposition of concepts should be fundamental considerations when you present information to your students.
The Multimodal Tools Page provides a description of the Five Professional Modes of communication. In particular, the pages on Video Design and Presentation Planning may be helpful in helping you plan and create these materials.