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Universal Design for Learning

Overview

Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is a set of principles for curriculum development that gives all students an equal opportunity to learn. It provides a blueprint for creating flexible instruction that can be customized to meet individual needs.

Key Issues

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are critical members of the school community and provide a variety of services within the school. Knowledge of UDL principals and application should be foundational to how SLPs conduct evaluations and assessments as well as interventions.

The principles of Universal Design propose adapting instruction to individual student needs through multiple means of:

  • presentation of information to students (e.g., digital text, audio, video, still photos, images and all in captions as appropriate);
  • expression by students (e.g., writing, speaking, drawing, video-recording, assistive technology);
  • engagement for students (e.g., choice of tools, adjustable levels of challenge, cognitive supports, novelty or varied grouping).

Curriculum, as defined in the UDL literature, has four parts:

  1. instructional goals
  2. methods
  3. materials
  4. assessments

UDL is intended to enhance access to learning by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers and other obstacles to learning. UDL principles also lend themselves to the implementation of inclusionary practices in the classroom.

Universal Design for Learning is referred to by name in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 (Public Law 110-315). UDL is also mentioned in the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Questions About Universal Design for Learning

Is UDL just for students with disabilities?

UDL benefits are specifically geared to students with disabilities; however, all students may benefit from the types of supports UDL provides. For example, video captioning is of great help to students with hearing impairments because captioning gives them a visual representation of speech. However, this support may also be beneficial to English language learners, struggling readers, and even students working in a noisy classroom. See National Center on Universal Design for Learning's website for more information.

Is UDL included in the Common Core State Standards?

UDL is included in the section of the Common Core State Standards called "application to students with disabilities" [PDF]. In this section, the authors referred to the definition laid out in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (PL 110-135). The reference to UDL in this section may give the impression that UDL is just for students with disabilities. However, UDL applies to not only students with disabilities, but also to those with no impairment. Hence, UDL should be used within general education environments. Although this is the only specific mention of UDL in the Common Core State Standards, there are many concepts embedded throughout the standards that are aligned with the UDL framework. See National Center on Universal Design for Learning's website for more information.

Resources

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