Anything that applies to all is Universal, right? So, when the term is applied to the learning space, it means learning is accessible and available to all. Universal Design for Learning is a reformative procedural framework that promotes changes in not only the classroom infrastructure but also in the attitude, delivery methods, and response management. We have covered the principles of UDL which comprise representation, action and expression, and engagement. How these principles can be put into action, let’s try to understand with the help of examples.
Why UDL is considered for improving learner experience
UDL offers the guidelines to bring added inclusion quotient to the classroom sessions. Several attempts have been made over the years to make education easier for all. The application of UDL is a conscious effort to achieve the same.
Education researchers confirmed the existence of learning difficulties that were not as evident as physical challenges. They proposed methods like using visual learning resources, active learning, use of manipulatives, and even, technological interventions to make learning a fun and relatable experience. UDL offers the complete framework to redefine the teaching methods, assessment methods, and modes of interaction to help learners of diversified nature stay on the same page as others.
A study explored the role of UDL and its use in developing blended learning curriculums. The use of e-learning solutions, restructuring of curriculum as per the learner’s requirements, and other experimental approaches yielded a better learner experience in this research. The learners gained autonomy in their way of learning and could participate better leading to better engagement as well as output.
Flexible seating, individualized ways of receiving and sharing information and delivering responses, and grouping of students that needed the same set of augmentative supports to create homogeneity of a unique kind in a classroom. The change in assessment procedures further helps the students gain confidence and be eligible for their intelligence-appropriate advanced courses.
Thus, better participation, enhanced recognition, individualized attention, appropriate learning outcomes, and a feeling of belongingness are some of the factors delivered by UDL that collectively enhance the learner experience.
Top examples and strategies to implement UDL
UDL implementation requires thorough introspection and testing before rolling it out on a full-fledged scale. Some of the practical examples of UDL in action are developed out of the in-depth evaluation of learning requirements, assessment of intellectual disabilities, and studying the scope for fitting in the diversified learners in a common place of interaction. These examples include:
- Modified seating arrangements: Applied at the infrastructural level, the UDL prompts introducing changes in seating arrangements. Including bean bags, floor mats, standing stools, etc. ensure that the students have a fluid environment at their disposal.
- Use of different instruction reception tools: Allowing students to learn using tablets, virtual and physical manipulatives, digital pens with recorders, text highlighters, etc. can make the learning environment friendlier for students with different LDs.
- Prompts and reminders: Posting lesson goals at the start of the class or sending reminders beforehand are some of the inputs from the teachers that induce zeal for better preparation. It is to be done gently to not make it feel stressful.
- Accommodations: Giving a mental nudge to students by providing them clues or asking them to make projects or giving oral assessments only instead of writing, or introducing games that apply the learning in the class are some ways to elicit responses. Sometimes, just reminding the students that the time for a particular problem is over and that they should ask for help if feeling stuck, can be an arrangement that puts learners at ease.
- Designing class routines: To help the students with issues like autism and similar difficulties, the teachers can design routines and try to blend them into the learning process. It becomes a definitive guide for the students who find it difficult to keep track of time, and helps them learn organization and regularity.
- Organizing activities: It is based on the UDL principle of engagement. The use of activities like role-playing, board games, time management activities, team-building activities, and other proponents of active learning exemplifies UDL.
- Teacher-parent meetings: Including parents in the concept-building process and organizing interactive sessions to share feedback and apply ideas for improving the learning ability through a better understanding of learning styles
- Designing a classroom for the multilingual audience: Using translators and digital directories to allow easier grasping is a UDL application example suitable for classes of students coming from diverse linguistic backgrounds.
- Using algorithms and graphical presentations: It is to help recognition of ideas learned and further infringement of possibilities to explore. The learners and teachers team together to chalk out the concepts and their applications. It can be applied to all branches of studies ranging from basic mathematical operations to learning the taxonomy of animals.
- Supply learning software and applications: Again useful for enhancing engagement and expression, students can be introduced to learning apps for maths, reading apps, etc. These divert the mind from difficulties and put it in constructive learning by offering the tools the students feel drawn to.
These are a few of the tried and tested examples of UDL implementation in class. With the help of an organized approach and active implementation strategy, the UDL can seep into the education sector and make it an enjoyable and learning-centric place for all.
Strategies that can help improve UDL implementation in class
Ideas like introducing active and visual learning provided the template and the UDL offered the solution. The only gap left is how to build the connection between the two. It is where the strategies come into the picture and fill all gaps. A few important strategies that have been studied for their effectiveness, as well, are:
- Starting a dialogue: A conversation between the teacher and student can fix many things. As a teacher, you will be able to understand the learning requirements and direct the students to use the options available.
- Modifying the classroom environment: With the help of initiators like anchor charts, flow charts, and artworks and by modifying the seating arrangement, the UDL implementation can be made more meaningful.
- Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of students: Observation and summative assessment but without putting the kid on spot is an active approach useful for implementing UDL in class.
- Mixed instruction methods: Providing a mix of visual, auditory, and textual inputs to accommodate the diverse learning difficulties of students.
- Collaborative learning approach: Learning by acting and involving the self and the students take away the hesitation and takes entities closer to successful UDL implementation.
- Continuous feedback and assessments: It is important to keep taking the feedback through tests, projects, quick quizzes, and assignments to check the learning progress. Provide them the tools through which they express themselves the best to get the information needed as is.
- Unwrap the standard: It is a process where the teacher differentiates clearly what is required of meeting the standard and how to help children meet that or be satisfactorily close to that.
- Motivation methods: By acknowledging the ideas and feedback, teachers add to the motivation towards learning. A conscious approach toward making kids aware of their capabilities helps them to try harder and stay glued to the path of learning.
- Redesigning Lesson Components: Defining clear goal statements, guiding on ‘how to’, applying tools to demonstrate and assessing the learning is applying UDL strategy to the way of teaching a new skill.
To sum up,
UDL is a guiding light and the solution as well to make classroom learning more inclusive. The three main principles to apply UDL are Recognition, Expression, and Engagement. Confirming to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this design philosophy can become easy to apply when the collaborative approach is applied to get better participation as well as feedback. By providing multiple formats to acquire knowledge, present ideas, and enhance motivation, the barriers to learning can be dissolved. It is precisely where the success of UDL lies.
- Scott, Laron & Thoma, Colleen & Bruno, Lauren & Temple, Peter & D’Aguilar, Allison. (2017). Implementing a UDL Framework: A Study of Current Personnel Preparation Practices. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 55. 25-36. 10.1352/1934-9556-55.1.25.
- La, H., Dyjur, P., & Bair , H. (2018). Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. Calgary: University of Calgary.
- Universal Design: Process, Principles, and Applications | DO-IT. (2020). Washington.Edu. https://www.washington.edu/doit/universal-design-process-principles-and-applications
- Rao K, Meo G. Using Universal Design for Learning to Design Standards-Based Lessons. SAGE Open. October 2016. doi:10.1177/2158244016680688
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- Know your students' strengths and weaknesses. ...
- Use digital materials when possible. ...
- Share content in a variety of ways. ...
- Offer choices for how students demonstrate their knowledge. ...
- Take advantage of software supports. ...
- Low and No Tech options do exist.
- Equitable Use. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. ...
- Flexibility in Use. ...
- Simple and Intuitive Use. ...
- Perceptible Information. ...
- Tolerance for Error. ...
- Low Physical Effort. ...
- Appropriate Size and Space for Approach and Use.