Universal Design for Learning

Making leaning accessible for all students!

What is UDL?

Universal Design for Learning is an approach to creating flexible curriculum (goals, methods, materials and assessments) that can meet the demands of teaching a diverse population in which all students do not learn the same. The concept was originally developed in the 1980's to create better educational experiences for students with disabilities, and that philosophy has now been expanded to include all learners. By removing barriers in the classroom, all students can access instruction and find success. Each brain works differently, but everybody can learn. In order to create UDL instruction for such unique learners, curriculum should contain three characteristics: multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression and multiple means of engagement.

Key terms

  • Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)- non profit organization focused on expanded learning for all people through Universal Design for Learning.
  • Recognition network processes the "what" of learning. Using this network we gather facts and categorize what we see, hear, and read. By providing information in varied means of representation, all students can access the information.
  • Strategic network is part of the "how" of learning. It is this network that is responsible for students taking the "what" and processing the information in order to show what they have learned. By providing multiple means of expressing that new knowledge, all students can show learning.
  • Affective network is what keeps learners engaged or the "why" of learning. The more students are interested and connected to the "what" and "how," the more motivated they will be.
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Key principles

  • Multiple means of presentation/representation: includes options for comprehension (ex. KWL chart, chunking reading, graphic organizers), options for language and symbols (ex. visual representations of new vocabulary) and provide options for perception (ex. using captions when watching a video)
  • Multiple means of action and expression: includes options for physical action (ex. students could stand or sit while reading), options for expressing skills and fluency (ex. allow students to hand-write, type or speak or draw essay responses) and provide options for executive functioning (ex. have students stop and jot while reading a text)
  • Multiple means of engagement: includes options for recruiting interest (ex. student choose who they want to write a biography on), options for persistence (ex. create groups with differentiated roles) and provide options for self regulation (ex. providing students a checklist during a research project)


National Center On Universal Design for Learning. (2012). Retrieved June 10, 2015, from http://www.udlcenter.org/

Until learning has no limits. (2015). Retrieved June 7, 2015, from http://www.cast.org/