Universal Design for Learning

Schools cater for a wide range of student learning needs and styles while responding to curriculum demands and an increasing use of technology and online media. Teachers need to plan effectively to ensure that the needs of all students in their classes are being met in the more technology-dependant classroom.

An approach that aims to give all students equal opportunity to learn is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). A Massachusetts-based not-for-profit organisation, Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) works to promote UDL amongst teachers. The approach can be summarised as “providing a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone - not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customised and adjusted for individual needs”.

Examples of UDL guidelines provide more information about access, guided practice and support, and independent practice for all learners. The approach considers the flexibility around how to teach, how students demonstrate what they know and how to stimulate student engagement in the learning process.

UDL and access to media

The use of captioned and audio described media in the classroom aligns with the UDL framework as it promotes inclusion, ensures equal access to media and helps encourage student engagement. UDL encourages learning opportunities that provide multiple means of representation, action and engagement.

Captioned media:

  • Gives students maximum opportunity to understand the information presented through a combination of image, sound and text
  • Provides access to information to inform their learning and students are then able to demonstrate their  knowledge through discussions and follow up activities
  • Helps students remain focused and motivated
  • Allows Deaf or hearing impaired students to learn alongside their peers

Australia’s Classroom Access Project, established a series of pilots in high schools to demonstrate effective access to captioned media and improved sound for students with hearing impairment and their hearing peers. This was designed using the UDL framework.

UDL resources

A CAST video, , gives an overview that goes beyond access and looks at the three key components of the framework: multiple means of representation, multiple means for action and expression and multiple means for engagement. Another way of looking at these ideas include the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of learning.

Interested teachers can join UDL Connect hosted by the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, browse CAST Learning Tools and build resources and lessons.


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