Universal Design of Learning revolves around the concept that we design our learning environment to be accessible by all students. UDL stems from agricultural term, Universal Design in which architects had to structure buildings so that they were accessible by all people. Educators must also structure their curricula so that it is accessible by all students.
- As we continue exploring how we can teach complex topics, we're going to focus our attention on the concepts known as Universal Design for Learning, also known as UDL. Have you ever struggled with the fact that after teaching a lesson you realize that some students totally understand the concepts, but then others are completely lost? Why does this happen? Many educators are challenged with large class sizes and student populations of mixed cultures and backgrounds. Not to mention that all of our students have different learning styles and varying personal interests.
So, how can we meet the needs of every student in our class when faced with these barriers? Well, there are many different programs or pedagogues, but the one that I find to be most effective is Universal Design for Learning. UDL revolves around the concept that we design our learning environment to be accessible by all students, hence, the universal part of UDL. UDL has a unique history that actually stems from an architectural term called Universal Design. This concept originated in the 1970s by an architect named Ron Mace.
During this time, architects were beginning to realize that some structures were not accessible to all people. For example, the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. If you wanted to go inside of the Capitol from the main entrance, you need to climb stairs; access is difficult for anyone in a wheelchair or on crutches. Access is also difficult for parents of small children in strollers or elderly people who are simply not comfortable walking a steep set of stairs. This structure is simply not designed to be easily used by all people.
Since then, architects have added separate entrance ways, ramps and elevators to the U.S. Capitol Building. However, when this is done after the fact, it can be a very costly upgrade. It can also make people with physical disabilities feel as if they are out of the norm, having to use a separate entrance that was only added as an afterthought. Ron Mace was inspired to propose the idea of Universal Design, whose main principle was that architects should design buildings from the beginning that would work for everyone.
For example, these two structures were designed with ramps in mind from the beginning. The structures are accessible for all people. So, how does Universal Design apply to teaching and lesson plans? Well, architectural Universal Design eventually led to Universal Design for Learning, which sets guidelines to help teachers plan lessons that meet the needs of all students in our classrooms. This is another step in planning for lessons that contain complex topics, which we'll explore in the rest of this chapter.
Karin Hutchinson is an experienced teacher who now helps other educators find new ways to teach. She starts off this course with a quick overview of learning theory, focusing on how students gain new knowledge. These theories set the stage for Karin's framework for making learning accessible to a variety of learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), making lessons engaging with gamification and choice, and scaffolding instruction to help guide learners who need extra help. Watch to explore strategies for planning instruction, how to respond to learners, and get resources you can put into action in the classroom today.
- Understanding what makes a topic complex
- Using a unit planner
- Writing essential questions
- Identifying what students must do
- Anticipating potential problems
- Creating assessments
- Lesson planning via UDL
- Representing information in different ways
- Engaging students
- Having students act on and express their knowledge