Universal Design for Learning
I often get asked, when out on my travels, what can be done to educational documents from the beginning, when they are written, that means they will work for more learners from the start. The answer to this is that you need to sign up to embracing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. UDL is a teaching and learning approach which minimises barriers from the outset, giving all students an equal opportunity to succeed and ensures learning is accessible. It offers flexibility in the way which students access and engage with material. This flexibility is especially helpful for those 14.9% of children with special educational needs (SEN).
You’ve already experienced Universal Design
Universal design can be seen throughout our lives; whether this is subtitles on a TV program or dropped kerbs on the pavement, universal design helps people with disabilities. Those without disabilities also benefit from these design elements. For example, dropped kerbs assist those with pushchairs and bikes as well as those in wheelchairs. I know from my days of a double pushchair with my twins the difficulties there were when the kerb wasn’t dropped. I also know that when I am travelling it is really helpful sometimes to be able to use speech software to prep for meetings while on the move. UDL uses the same flexibility in learning. By applying UDL principles teachers can teach effectively to a diverse group of learners.
The three main principles of UDL are:
- Representation: offering information in more than one format. For example, providing information through text and videos along with hands on experience
- Action and expression: interacting with material in more than one way. For example, writing a blog or giving a presentation
- Engagement: encouraging motivation through multiple channels. For example, giving students choices makes them feel involved.
Whilst UDL helps all students, it can be especially helpful for those with special educational needs. For instance:
- It makes learning more accessible
- It presents information that is adapted to the learner, instead of asking the learner to adapt to the information
- Students have a variety of ways they can interact with material, finding the one that meets their strengths.
Accessible Formats help everyone
Much of the above can be achieved by designing an accessible base document so that it can be converted into different formats. I will share some of this expertise in future blogs – drop me a message in the comments if you would like me to send this to you directly. Don’t forget to check out our other blogs for helpful tips also.