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Teaching Tips

Using Universal Design For Learning to Meet the Needs of All Students

Are you concerned that your teaching isn’t reaching all of your students? Are you looking for strategies to assist students who struggle to learn for a variety of reasons, without compromising the rigor of your course?

One way to help all students succeed is to remove barriers from course design, teaching methods, and teaching materials. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an effective pedagogical approach that removes such barriers and enhances learning for students with varied backgrounds, learning preferences, and abilities. Put simply, UDL encourages instructors to design courses that give students options on how to engage in course activities, provide students with choices in how they access and interact with course content, and let students choose from among multiple ways to demonstrate what they have learned.

Applying universal design principles helps to ensure that a course is accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, under as many circumstances as possible.

Three Strategies for Incorporating UDL into Your Teaching

  • Represent course content in a variety of media. Allow students to access the same or similar information in a variety of audio, visual, and textual formats. For example, students learning about earthquakes could read an article, view an animation of a fault, study a labeled diagram, listen to an interview with a seismologist, and view a closed-circuit video of the effects of an earthquake.
  • Provide students with many ways to engage and interact with course content. Engage students in active learning involving different senses. Students might interpret a print from a seismograph, identify potential fault locations on a topographic map, construct a miniature fault with clay, and experiment with blocks on a shake table. Alternatively, you might ask each student to choose two activities they find most appealing or most useful.
  • Allow students to demonstrate their understanding in multiple formats. Provide students multiple ways to express what they have learned (for example, through group work, oral presentations, or report writing). Students could also write lesson plans or develop their own assessments. Concerned about grading multiple submissions in multiple, diverse formats? Create a single grading rubric aligned with the learning objectives of the assignment, and apply that rubric to each submission.

For more information, visit “Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning at Boise State.”

To learn more about the theory and practice of UDL, explore the website of the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

For more information about accessibility and UDL, see Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) at the University of Washington.

Submitted by:
Tasha Souza
Professor of Communication
Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning
Boise State University

Kevin S. Wilson
Instructional Design Consultant
Instructional Design and Academic Assessment (IDEA Shop)
Boise State University

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