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

Module 4

Beyond the Lesson

Now that you’ve explored the vision of UDL, CAST’s UDL Guidelines, and worked to implement UDL using the UDL design process and the 5-15-45 collaboration tool in your lesson, it is time to think more broadly about UDL implementation. How can an individual or a small UDL team leverage these resources to support UDL implementation beyond a single lesson to include more classrooms and the overall school community? How might UDL connect with other initiatives at your school or district?

This module includes two key concepts to understand:

  • The UDL implementation process
  • UDL alignment to other frameworks to ensure that “all means all”

As you work through Module 4, please add to Your UDL Journal.

Video from the Web version of this publication:

UDL Module 4 - Beyond the UDL Guidelines:

Part 1: Build Background

UDL Implementation

UDL implementation often starts with a single lesson, but the framework can - and should - extend beyond a single lesson. You can use the UDL framework across multiple lessons, multiple classrooms, or across an entire school to support the inclusion of all students. When analyzing systems change at a school level, remember to frame barriers within the environment and not the student. 

Informed by implementation science (see Fixsen et al, 2005 ), CAST has identified five phases of UDL implementation. Full Implementation can take 3-5 years to achieve and is a continuous growth process. How do you begin? Implementation starts with an identified need for change in the classroom or school. For example, a team may determine their need for change may include: reducing the achievement gap, increasing inclusion of students who receive special education services in the general education curriculum, increasing inclusion inclusive of students with significant cognitive disabilities, or other needs for change.

Once a need for change has been identified, a team or an individual explores and learns about UDL, prepares and integrates UDL in practice, then scales and optimizes the changes and implementation strategies. The ultimate vision of UDL implementation is the development of expert learning for all in a community. An individual or a team may move between phases flexibly, as the circles in the UDL implementation diagram below indicate. UDL coaches can scaffold for colleagues, and others in the community can each contribute to and implement UDL in their context (such as administrators, paraprofessionals, and therapists). 

UDL Implementation Process

The UDL implementation phases can support any educator, administrator, or member of the community phases to apply UDL:

  • Explore: Learn about UDL by exploring a variety of resources or engaging in professional development. Use data and evidence to establish a baseline understanding of what is in place and how all students can access and engage in inclusive learning opportunities.
  • Prepare: Prepare to design a lesson, faculty meeting, or other learning experience. Work with a small team or with resources in these UDL Modules to develop a lesson with the UDL Guidelines.
  • Integrate: Try it! Deliver or facilitate a lesson, faculty meeting, or other learning experience. Reflect on how it supported student learning, especially related to your identified need for change and for each and every student. Keep returning to the data around learning and engagement in learning.
  • Scale: Share what you learned and tried related to UDL with a small cohort of colleagues. What changes did you see in student learning, especially that of a student with significant cognitive disabilities? What data did you collect? With your small team, share, build model examples, and show each other what you have tried.
  • Optimize: Fine-tune your UDL practice. Continue to grow and develop UDL beyond the classroom (professional development, school leadership and management, school climate and culture, and teaching and learning).

Explore these foundational slides about the UDL implementation (5 slides). Then, choose 2-3 options to build background about UDL implementation. 

As you build your background, demonstrate understanding: Where are you or your team in the phases of UDL implementation? How have you explored, prepared, and integrated UDL - and what can you share and improve on as you scale and optimize your processes? How can you begin to work with other educators on learning about and integrating UDL? 

UDL Alignment

UDL can serve as an umbrella that aligns many initiatives and value frameworks of a school. What is critical about UDL is the clear focus on goals and on the design of the learning environment using multiple means of Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression. UDL is for all, meaning that the learning environment is designed from the start to anticipate the full range of learners, including students with significant cognitive disabilities. With UDL, learners are empowered to set learning goals and to make learning choices based on what they need that day and in that context. The role of the teacher shifts to be more of a facilitator of learning, including goal-setting, strategy and tool use, reflection, and feedback. 

UDL is about proactive, intentional design and supports a school’s work with other frameworks, such as Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), Differentiated Instruction (DI), Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP), Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and more. UDL is not an initiative but is a framework to approach any of these initiatives to be goal-directed and flexible in a way that values the variability of the learners. Try making a Venn diagram of UDL and one of the other initiatives used in your site. Where is there alignment between UDL and the other initiatives or frameworks?

A venn diagram used to illustrate how UDL can align and be distinct from other frameworks

A venn diagram used to illustrate how UDL can align and be distinct from other frameworks

Explore this overview of UDL and Differentiated Instruction Then, choose 2-3 of these options to build background:

Part 2: Try It

Now that you have built some background implement implement an idea in your work. Observe evidence of student learning and share what you observed with colleagues.

Option 1: If your goal is to support adults as they collaborate to support r each and every learner: focus on UDL leadership and implementation.

  • Gather a small team who could become the “UDL team” in your school
  • Use the UDL Module Coaching Guide to support you to lead your team through the UDL Modules.

Need inspiration? In this video, Ashlynn OwenKachikis, Special Educator at Rockwell, describes her next steps with UDL implementation.

Video from the Web version of this publication:

UDL in Action 4: Ashlynn Owens-Kachikis 1:

Option 2: If your goal is to support adults as they collaborate to support each and every learner:Focus on aligning your current work to UDL.

  • Choose one of the frameworks from your school or district. Build a crosswalk between UDL and the other framework.
  • What is similar between them? What is different? What additional value does UDL bring?
  • In what ways do they work together to support the educational goals your school has for your students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities?

Need inspiration? Learn from 2nd-grade teacher Liz Finocchio at Rockwell Elementary as she talks through how UDL helped her bring together many different initiatives and approaches at her school district.

Video from the Web version of this publication:

UDL in Action 3: Liz Finocchio:

Option 3: If your goal is to focus on instruction to support each and every learner:Return to your initial reflection.

  • What was your vision of inclusion for “each and every learner” in your classroom? Who is included and who is not included?
  • Discuss with colleagues how your vision for inclusive practices has changed as you progressed through the modules.
  • Make a list of key takeaways or action steps from this learning experience.

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

Do you still want to learn more? Here are some suggestions:

Specially Designed Instruction: Blog Foster relationships and UDL (1 page).

For the Record

Do 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 links to external sites in these learning module are not an endorsement of any identified products or services. Links are shared solely to provide information related to the learning goals of the modules.

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