Best Fit: 4 Reasons to Use Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

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Best Fit: 4 Reasons to Use Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

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Author :
Sarah Gretter
Best Fit: 4 Reasons to Use Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

SG Contact profile image
Author :
Sarah Gretter

1) UDL is research-based

The Universal Design for Learning framework was developed by CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) to guide the design of instructional goals, curriculum, and assessment that can be adjusted to each individual’s needs. UDL relies on what neuroscience research tells us about the way human beings learn. 


2) UDL is flexible

The UDL framework is not a cookie-cutter set of rigid rules, but rather a flexible approach to teaching that can be customized based on each teaching situation. It was initially designed as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 as a framework to guide educational practices in order to provide flexibility in how information was provided and to allow students to demonstrate their learning in various ways. This was intended to “reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and {maintain} high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient” (


3) UDL is about learners

UDL focuses on student learning through proactive curriculum creation. That is, you as the teacher are responsible for removing the possible barriers that could prevent students from learning your material. This involves four components: goals, methods, materials, and assessments.


For instance, when I create a lesson plan, I need to reflect on the following:

Goals: What are the learning expectations? How can my lesson turn my students into experts learners? Goals are the knowledge, concepts, and skills that all students should master. When I apply UDL, I need to make sure that I acknowledge learner variability and differentiate the goals from the means. I need to offer options or alternatives, along with a variety of tools, strategies, and scaffolds to help learners reach mastery.

Methods: What instructional approaches or decisions can I follow to enhance learning? UDL helps us focus on teaching methods based on learner variability. This happens both within the context of the specific task, and the individual learner’s social/emotional context, along with the classroom’s atmosphere. My methods need to be flexible and varied, and adjusted based on a continuous monitoring of learner progress.

Materials: What media can I use to present the content and what media can the learner use to demonstrate knowledge? With UDL, materials are variable and flexible. They should offer different pathways to similar outcomes while including choices for the learner where appropriate, multiple levels of support and challenge, and alternative options to create interest.

Assessments: Are my assessments accurate? Are they comprehensive and articulate enough to guide instruction for all learners? When using UDL, I need to ensure that I focus on the goal, and provide different supports or scaffolds; and that I accommodate learner variability by reducing barriers to measuring learner knowledge, skills, and engagement with the content.

All this should be done following UDL principles of multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement.


4) UDL is a rich community of practice

Whether you are just interested in learning more about UDL, or are ready to start implementing it in your classroom, UDL possesses an extensive community of practice that can support you every step of the way. Below are some resources, ranging from theoretical to practical applications of UDL:

Tutorials: the National Center on UDL offers online media presentations that help educators to build UDL understanding, along with other supporting material.

Videos: CAST also has a Youtube channel where you can find updates and material related to UDL.

Forum: UDL Exchange is a place to browse and share resources or lessons related to UDL.

Social media: Follow #UDL and #UDLchat on Twitter

Posted by:
Makena Neal Teaching Toolkit Tailgate