Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is the design of activities and environments to be accessible and usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The four fundamental shifts in teaching and learning with UDL are as follows:

  • students with disabilities fall along a continuum of learner differences, rather than constituting a separate category
  • teacher adjustments for learner differences should occur for all students, no just those with disabilities
  • curriculum materials should be varied and diverse, including digital and online resources, rather than centering on a single textbook
  • instead of remediating students so that they can learn from a set curriculum, curriculum should be made flexible to accommodate learner differences.

The "universal" in UDL does not imply one optimal solution for everyone. Rather, it reflects an awareness of the unique nature of each learner and the need to accommodate differences, creating a variety of learning experiences that allow the learner to select those that are the best fit and which maximize his or her ability to progress. 

The nine principles of UDL are as follows: 

  • Principle 1: Equitable Use: Instruction is designed to be useful to and accessible by people with diverse abilities.
  • Principle 2: Flexibility in Use: Instruction is designed to accommodate a wide range of individual abilities.
  • Principal 3: Simple and Intuitive: Instruction is designed in a straightforward and predictable manner, regardless of the student's experience, knowledge, language, skills, or current concentration level.
  • Principle 4: Perceptible Information: Instruction is designed so that necessary information is communicated effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
  • Principle 5: Tolerance for Error: Instruction anticipates variation in individual student learning pace and prerequisite skills.
  • Principle 6: Low Physical Effort: Instruction is designed to minimize nonessential physical effort in order to allow maximum attention to learning. NOTE: This principle does not apply when physical effort is integral to essential requirements of a course.
  • Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use: Instruction is designed with consideration for appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulations, and use regardless of a student's body size, posture, mobility, and communication needs.
  • Principle 8: A Community of Learners: The instructional environment promotes interaction and communication between students and faculty.
  • Principle 9: Instructional Climate: Instruction is designed to be welcoming and inclusive. High expectations are espoused for all students. 

At Indian River, we strive to design and deliver instruction with all nine of these principles or tenets in mind, with particular attention given to principles 8 and 9 through our Building Professional Learning Communities initiative.

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