Universal Design for Learning
in Maryland

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

          First articulated by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the early 1990s, UDL mirrors the universal design movement in architecture and product development, which calls for designs that from the outset, consider the needs of the greatest number of possible users, eliminating the need for costly, inconvenient, and unattractive adaptations later. 

          UDL is a scientifically based educational framework with a set of principles and guidelines to improve curriculum design; including goals, instructional materials, teaching methods and assessments.

          A universally designed curriculum is developed from the start to be accessible (both physically and cognitively), as well as challenging, for ALL students.

UDL has its basis in neuroscience; the three principles correlate with the three networks in the brain which must be simultaneously engaged for optimal learning to occur.

Recognition networks
Gathering facts. How we identify and categorize what we see, hear, and read. Identifying letters, words, or an author's style are recognition tasks—the "what" of learning. 
Examples: Use videos, audio books, graphic novels, software with built-in comprehension supports, interactive white boards, digital text, etc., provide vocabulary support and background knowledge and highlight critical features and main ideas of lesson

Strategic networks
Planning and performing tasks. How we organize and express our ideas. Writing an essay or solving a math problem are strategic tasks—the "how" of learning.   Examples: Let students show what they know with voice recording, graphic displays, performance, written tests with built in options etc. and offer supports such as graphic organizers and outlines when appropriate.

Affective networks
How students are engaged and motivated. How they are challenged, excited, or interested. These are affective dimensions—the "why" of learning.  Examples: Vary levels of challenge and support to prevent frustration or boredom, tie work to real-world examples, teach self-assessment and reflection and where possible, give choices.

UDL principles help educators customize their teaching for individual differences in each of these three brain networks. A universally-designed curriculum offers the following:

Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge

Multiple means of action and expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and

Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn

More details and additional information regarding these principles can be found at www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines and www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/.

Classroom Scenarios and examples of UDL in action can be found at www.advocacyinstitute.org/UDL/classroom_scenarios.


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