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

Module 2

The “What” of UDL

The vision of universally designing instruction for all learners is a tall task. This is where CAST’s  UDL Guidelines and the UDL framework can support educators to take steps to proactively anticipate the range of learners in the classroom to ensure more equitable learning opportunities. The UDL Guidelines and framework offer guidance for ensuring learners can access, build, and internalize the necessary learning standards, skills, and content in any discipline and develop as expert learners. 

This module includes three key concepts to understand:

  • the structure of the UDL Guidelines and how can help educators get started using them;
  • the UDL framework and the UDL Guidelines can be used together to design for inclusive learning align; and
  • there are ways to use UDL to ensure access to meaningful, challenging learning opportunities. 

As you work through Module 2, please add to Your UDL Journal.

Video from the Web version of this publication:

UDL Video 2:

Part 1: Build background

The UDL Guidelines

The UDL Guidelines are a tool that educators can use to design and plan for each and every learner. They are organized both vertically and horizontally. Vertically, they are aligned to three broad brain networks that every individual has: engagement networks involved in the “why” of learning, recognition networks involved in the “what” of learning, and strategic networks involved in the “how” of learning. Horizontally, they are designed to ensure there are opportunities to access, build, and internalize learning.

Explore video about CAST’s UDL Guidelines (~10 slides). After reviewing the video, choose 2-3 options to build additional background.

As you build your background about the UDL Guidelines, demonstrate your understanding: How are the UDL Guidelines structured? In your own words, what do the 9 UDL Guidelines mean? How do you already use strategies and tools that align to the UDL Guidelines?

The UDL Framework

UDL is not about implementing every one of the UDL Guidelines and Checkpoints. Instead, think of the UDL framework as a problem-solving process to intentionally reduce barriers by infusing options for students to achieve the learning goals. UDL can be integrated into instruction by proactively designing the goals, assessments, methods, and materials to have options for Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression.

The way educators implement tools, resources, or strategies will vary, but the “UDL thinking” will be consistent: focus on barriers in the environment, rather than viewing barriers as being in the student; and focus on proactive design with options for Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression to empower students to progress in their learning.

Explore this resource, UDL: A Teacher’s Guide . After reviewing the resource, choose 2-3 options to build additional background about the UDL Framework.

As you build your background about the UDL framework, demonstrate understanding: How is the UDL framework aligned to the UDL Guidelines? How do you determine the goals, assessments, methods, and materials of your learning experience? How do UDL and inclusion intersect?

Start with Accessibility

The top horizontal level of the Guidelines, the Access level, is a critical starting place for design. Students must have access to the content for learning. 

Look at access in your goals, assessments, methods, and materials. For any learning experience, you can ask: How are there options for recruiting interest, perception, and physical action? Continue to reflect on how the horizontal structure of the UDL Guidelines supports how you design for learning in your classroom or context.

Explore this page, Access to Learning . After reviewing the page, choose 2-3 options to build additional background about accessibility. 

As you build your background about accessibility and the UDL Guidelines, understanding: What are ways you can design options for recruiting interest, perception, and physical action in your lessons?

Part 2: Try it

Now that you have built some background implement an idea in your work. Record what you observe in student learning in Your UDL Journal. Share ideas with colleagues.

Option 1:

If your goal is to improve classroom instruction: Focus on one UDL Guideline .

  • Choose one UDL Guideline. On your own or with a colleague, define the meaning of that UDL Guideline in your own words or images .
  • Identify examples of tools and resources you use or could incorporate in your instruction that align with that UDL Guideline.

Start to add one of the tools or resources into a lesson this week. Note how that option impacts student learning.

Option 2:

To support adults as they collaborate: Focus on the accessibility of your coaching or professional development materials.

  • Use one of the accessibility tools to model UDL implementation by making one of your documents or videos more accessible for professionals.

Start to observe how your colleagues respond to more options in their learning materials.

Part 3: Reflect and Connect

Document what you tried using an option that is best for you (i.e., using video, text, or audio options). Share with a collaborative partner: what did you learn, and how did your Try It impact student learning, especially for a student with significant cognitive disabilities? 

Reflect on what you learned: What key concept or resource most resonated with your practice as a teacher to support each and every learner, including students with significant cognitive disabilities?

Recognize and consider equity: What barriers were there in the instruction or curriculum (goals, assessments, methods, materials)? What are some systemic barriers to learning that are present in your context?  How does designing for one student provide the opportunity to benefit all students?

Part 4: Dive deeper

For the Record

ParDo you need to share how you spent your time? Here is a Self-check sheet with space to document and share your time and your learning.

The information in this module is not an endorsement of any identified products. Products identified in this module are shared solely as examples to help communicate information about ways to reach the desired goals for students.

All rights reserved.

TIES Center is the national technical assistance center on inclusive practices and policies. Its purpose is to create sustainable changes in kindergarten-grade 8 school and district educational systems so that students with significant cognitive disabilities can fully engage in the same instructional and non-instructional activities as their general education peers, while being instructed in a way that meets individual learning needs. TIES Center is led by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, and includes the following additional collaborating partners: Arizona Department of Education, CAST, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, and University of North Carolina – Greensboro.

TIES Center is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326Y170004) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Project Officer: Susan Weigert

TIES Center

University of Minnesota

Institute on Community Integration

2025 East River Parkway

Minneapolis, MN 55414

Phone: 612-626-1530

This document is available in alternate formats upon request.

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer and educator.

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