Design for Each and Every Learner: Universal Design for Learning Modules

Design for Each and Every Learner: Universal Design for Learning Modules

Welcome to this opportunity

Designing inclusive instruction takes intentional planning and collaboration. The goal of these modules is to learn more about Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a framework developed by CAST, and how to support educators to design learning experiences that are inclusive for each and every learner. 

The modules are fully asynchronous, so you can progress through them at your own pace. They were co-developed by CAST, TIES, and the Lake Washington School District in Washington.  Skip what you already know, review and revisit materials as is helpful, and share with your professional learning team. We hope these modules help to build collaboration to meet the needs of all students as you pursue rigorous learning goals and instruction that reflects high expectations. Let’s explore some of the key features of these modules:

Each and Every Learner

Throughout each module, you will apply, try, reflect, and share your UDL knowledge and skill in Your UDL Journal. We encourage you to use any means you want to record ideas you are learning about and trying (such as writing, uploading images, providing links to resources or videos, or more).

These modules were designed around the core belief that UDL is a framework for all learners regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, socio-economic status, language, or ability. Likewise, students with significant cognitive disabilities are a diverse group of learners and may be identified as having autism, intellectual or cognitive disabilities, multiple disabilities, and deaf-blindness with extensive support needs. We intentionally integrated content and examples of UDL related to students with significant cognitive disabilities to provide you with the motivation, knowledge, and skill to make inclusive practices a reality. 

This isn’t to say that UDL is only for students with significant cognitive disabilities or even inclusive general education classrooms with students with significant cognitive disabilities. Rather, the intention is to show how all learners, including those with significant cognitive disabilities, will benefit from equitable, inclusive instruction that is informed by the UDL framework and UDL Guidelines. 

Learn more about this idea of reaching each and every learner, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, by exploring the TIES Core Values resource.

Module Structure

We understand that the pace and fullness of professional and personal schedules can be barriers to learning about UDL. These four modules have a common structure to help you learn about UDL, try UDL in your context, and reflect on your UDL learning experiences.

  • Introduction: Why - Introduces the module by sharing the importance of the key concepts.
  • Part 1: Build Background - Build Background on key ideas, foundational concepts, and resources.
  • Part 2: Try It - Try it by applying the key ideas and concepts to your work.
  • Part 3: Reflect & Connect - Reflect and connect with colleagues by documenting your UDL application and sharing your observations and thoughts with others.
  • Dive Deeper - Learn more or seek additional opportunities that are more specific to your background or professional learning goals.

Clear Goals, Flexible Pathways

In each module you will find a curated mix of required and optional learning opportunities where you will be asked to choose 2-3 options from a list of various media. The required opportunities provide a common experience for all engaging in the modules, whereas the list of options provides flexibility for you to choose resources that best fit your professional background and learning goals.

Your UDL Journal

Throughout each module, you will apply, try, reflect, and share your UDL knowledge and skill in a UDL Journal. We encourage you to use any means you want to record ideas you are learning about and trying (such as writing, uploading images, providing links to resources or videos, or more).

Ready, Let’s Begin!

Think about all of your learners and what you are teaching, and let’s get started!

Opening reflection

On your own or with a collaborative partner, reflect on the following questions in your UDL Journal.

  1. What does inclusive instruction look like? Diagram, discuss, or outline as many details as you can (i.e., what are the teachers doing, what are students doing, what is...) in order to really visualize what inclusive instruction looks like. How does this vision include students with significant cognitive disabilities?
    • Optional sentence starter: When I visualize inclusive instruction, I picture students ... I hear students... teachers are ... and the learning space looks like ... Every student is engaged and included by...
  2. When was a time each and every student was valued, contributing, and engaged in a meaningful learning experience? What conditions or design of instruction led to that?
    • Optional sentence starter: I remember a time when all students were engaged in this learning experience... Some of the conditions that facilitated this experience were...
  3. What do you hope to learn in these modules? Set a few learning goals for your work.

In these modules, a goal for my own professional learning is ...

Sample open reflection from a teacher

When I visualize inclusive instruction in my classroom, I picture my students working together in flexible ways, such as small groups, pairs, and individually. There are plenty of flexible resources they can use as they pursue learning goals that are meaningful and relevant to each of them. All students are included from the start I want to ensure an equitable learning experience. I hope there are no students who feel unwelcomed or that they cannot access the learning. I like to see students engaged in conversations with each other about the content we are discussing and motivated to learn more. I see students actively building their background knowledge and using the resources to construct their own meaning- I want the learning to be relevant to their interests.

Sometimes students get stuck and struggle. When this happens, I hope they ask a peer for support before they come to me because they trust and support each other. I strive for a culture in the classroom that recognizes how mistakes are important to learning and that feedback is constructive and of value. I have a student who communicates with AAC and she collaborates with her peers in small groups using her device. I hope every student feels they can communicate and learn in the ways that work best for them.

Sometimes, I need to redesign my lessons when they don’t provide relevant or sufficient options for my students. This happens because the curriculum we use in our school needs adjusting. Sometimes students are frustrated or not included when lessons move too quickly. I struggle to challenge the students who complete work in 15 minutes and support those who take much longer to produce their answers.

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TIES Center is supported through a cooperative agreement between the University of Minnesota and the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education (# H326Y170004). The Center is affiliated with the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) which is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. The contents of this report were developed under the Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, but do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Project Officer: Susan Weigert

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) leads the TIES Center partnership.  Collaborating partners are: Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North-Carolina–Charlotte, and the University of North Carolina–Greensboro.

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TIES partner organization logos: Arizona Dept. of Education, CAST, UNC Charlotte, NCEO, University of Kentucky, The University of North Carolina Greensboro, IDEAs that Work