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Would You Recognize Universal Design for Learning if You Saw it? Ten Propositions for New Directions for the Second Decade of UDL


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As I read the latest issue of the Learning Disability Quarterly, I was appreciative of the essay by King-Sears (2009) highlighting the value of universal design for learning (UDL) to the learning disability community. The allure of UDL has captured the imagination of many educators and policy makers. The recent reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–315, Section 202, I, A), for example, requires colleges of education that receive federal funding for teacher quality partnership grants to report on the outcomes of UDL training within their preservice preparation programs. King-Sears' efforts to encourage the learning disability community to dialogue about UDL are noteworthy and timely. Given that the King-Sears piece was featured as a “Commentary” article designed to spark conversation about contemporary topics, I would like to take this opportunity to extend the conversation and highlight nuances associated with translating UDL theory into practice. As someone who has been involved in helping individual teachers as well as schools, states, provinces, and policy makers translate UDL theory into practice, I am concerned about the ability of the profession to implement a construct that it cannot define.
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Dave L. Edyburn
Abstract. As I read the latest issue of the Learning Disability
Quarterly, I was appreciative of the essay by King-Sears (2009) high-
lighting the value of universal design for learning (UDL) to the
learning disability community. The allure of UDL has captured the
imagination of many educators and policy makers. The recent reau-
thorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008
(Public Law 110-315, Section 202, I, A), for example, requires col-
leges of education that receive federal funding for teacher quality
partnership grants to report on the outcomes of UDL training
within their preservice preparation programs. King-Sears’ efforts to
encourage the learning disability community to dialogue about
UDL are noteworthy and timely.
Given that the King-Sears piece was featured as a “Commen-
tary” article designed to spark conversation about contemporary
topics, I would like to take this opportunity to extend the conver-
sation and highlight nuances associated with translating UDL the-
ory into practice. As someone who has been involved in helping
individual teachers as well as schools, states, provinces, and policy
makers translate UDL theory into practice, I am concerned about
the ability of the profession to implement a construct that it can-
not define.
DAVE L. EDYBURN, Ph.D., Department of Exceptional Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
As King-Sears (2009) noted, the origin of the term
universal design for learning is generally attributed to
David Rose, Anne Meyer, and colleagues at the Center
for Applied Special Technology (CAST). However, a fact
that is often overlooked is that the principles of UDL
were developed following the 1997 reauthorization of
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Some readers will recall that during the late 1990s
there was considerable interest in the United States in
the issue of inclusion. While students with disabilities
had gained physical access to the general education
classroom, concerns were being raised about how these
students would gain access to the “general curriculum.”
The issues associated with access to the curriculum were
at the forefront of CAST’s work, and in 1999 federal
grant monies were awarded to establish the National
Center on Accessing the General Curriculum, which
became instrumental in garnering national attention
for the potential of UDL.
Volume 33, Winter 2010 33
As CAST’s insights about UDL were taking shape,
CAST staff presented their work at the annual Office of
Special Education (OSEP) Project Directors’ conference
during the late 1990s. The work was extremely well
received by the research community and led to the pub-
lication of an interpretive document (Orkwis & McLane,
1998) that was disseminated extensively and served to
generate the first wave of national attention to the con-
struct. CAST used additional publication outlets to
describe their ideas about how universal design could be
applied within education (Meyer & Rose, 2000; Rose &
Meyer, 2000).
The second wave of widespread attention to UDL
came in 2002, when Rose and Meyer published a book
that has become the definitive work on UDL (available
tes/). They elaborated on the conceptual framework of
UDL and how it is grounded in emerging insights about
brain development, learning, and digital media. They
also pointed to the disconnect between an increasingly
diverse student population and a “one-size-fits-all” cur-
riculum, arguing that this would not produce the aca-
demic achievement gains expected of 21st-century
global citizens. Challenging educators to think of the
curriculum as disabled, rather than students, their
insights in translating principles of universal design,
which originated in architecture, to education are com-
mensurate with advances characterized as a major para-
digm shift (Edyburn & Gardner, 2009).
In the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term universal
design was officially defined within U.S. federal law (20
U.S.C. § 1401) governing special education: “The term
universal design has the meaning given the term in sec-
tion 3 of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998” (U.S.C.
§ 3002).
Following the backward chain of legal reference, the
definition of universal design as it was included in the
Assistive Technology Act of 1998 is as follows:
The term “universal design” means a concept or
philosophy for designing and delivering products
and services that are usable by people with the
widest possible range of functional capabilities,
which include products and services that are
directly usable (without requiring assistive tech-
nologies) and products and services that are made
usable with assistive technologies. (U.S.C. § 3002)
Next, consider how the terms are defined in the
Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (Public
Law 110-315, Section 103, a):
(23) UNIVERSAL DESIGN. – The term ‘universal
design’ as the meaning given the term in section 3
of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. (29 U.S.C.
term universal design for learning means a scientif-
ically valid framework for guiding educational
practice that –
(A) provides flexibility in the ways information is
presented, in the ways students respond or demon-
strate knowledge and skills, and in the ways stu-
dents are engaged; and
(B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appro-
priate accommodations, supports, and challenges,
and maintains high achievement expectations for
all students, including students with disabilities
and students who are limited English proficient.
Notice how the definition of UD evolved from a con-
cept or philosophy in 1998 to a scientifically validated
framework in 2008. Of concern is the fact that to date,
there has been little research on UDL although there is
a significant body of work on universally designed
assessment (e.g., Ketterlin-Geller, 2005; Russell,
Hoffman, & Higgins, 2009; Thompson, Johnstone, &
Thurlow, 2002). Without an adequate base of primary
research, an analysis of research evidence that estab-
lishes UDL as a scientifically validated intervention is
not possible (Edyburn, in press). Evidently, the work
CAST compiled to support various components of UDL
design principles (
UDLguidelines/index.html) was mischaracterized by
lobbyists and written into federal law. The claim that
UDL has been scientifically validated through research
cannot be substantiated at this time.
Within a period of 10 years, UDL has captured the
imagination of policy makers, researchers, administra-
tors, and teachers. The mantra that evolved from our
understanding of the value of curb cuts and the like,
“good design for people with disabilities benefits
everyone,” provides a powerful rationale for exploring
the large-scale application of UDL in education – the
lack of a credible research base notwithstanding.
The transition from inaccessible design to universally
accessible design will involve awareness training, new
technical development, and time. Consequently, the
vision of universal accessibility will not be attained
quickly. The A3 Model (Schwanke, Smith, & Edyburn,
2001) illustrates the ebb and flow of concurrent inter-
actions between advocacy, accommodation, and acces-
sibility across a three-phase developmental cycle
required to achieve universal accessibility (see Figure 1).
Advocacy efforts raise awareness of inequity and high-
light the need for system change to respond to the
Learning Disability Quarterly 34
needs of individuals with disabilities. Accommodations
are the typical response to advocacy. Inaccessible envi-
ronments and materials are modified and made avail-
able. Typically, accommodations are provided upon
request. While this represents a significant improve-
ment over situations found in the earlier phase, accom-
modations tend to maintain inequality since (a) there
may be a delay (e.g., time needed to convert a handout
from print to Braille); (b) it may require special effort to
obtain (e.g., call ahead to schedule); or (c) it may
require going to a special location (e.g., the only com-
puter with text enlargement software is in the library).
Accessibility describes an environment where access is
equitably provided to everyone at the same time. Often
this is accomplished through outstanding design (e.g.,
ergonomic furniture, software with accessibility and
performance supports built in). All three factors are
present in each phase. However, the differential impact
of the three components in terms of time, effort, and
focus is illustrated by the waves across phases.
The A3 Model illustrates the UDL change process
experienced by individuals and organizations. CAST’s
work on UDL paints a vision of the world in which
instructional environments, materials, and strategies
are universally designed (as in the Accessibility Phase).
They have created an outstanding series of products
(i.e., WiggleWorks, 1994; Thinking Reader, 2004; UDL
Editions by CAST, 2008; CAST UDL Book Builder,
2009a; CAST Science Writer, 2009b) that provide expe-
riential evidence of what UDL principles could look
like in practice.
In the first 10 years of UDL implementation, we have
shared the message of UDL with substantial numbers of
educators (Advocacy Phase). However, the reality is
that once we understand the principles of UDL, we
move from Advocacy to Accommodations. This means
Volume 33, Winter 2010 35
Figure 1. The A3 Model illustrates the dynamic nature of advocacy, accommodations, and
accessibility in three developmental phases. The differential impact of the three components in
terms of time, effort, and focus is illustrated by the waves across phases.
Copyright© 2000, 2001 by Schwanke, Smith, and Edyburn. Used with permission.
Learning Disability Quarterly 36
that while we are awaiting widespread availability of
the promise of UDL (Accessibility Phase), we are left
to our own devices to try to apply the UDL principles
to create more accessible accommodations (e.g., “Since
the web page does not feature audio, let me show
you how to copy the text and paste it into a text to
speech tool.”). The A3 Model illustrates why many
early disciples of UDL find themselves struggling to
achieve the potential of UDL within the current limi-
tations of instructional design and product develop-
Just as cooperative learning is not defined as when-
ever two students talk with each other, and co-teaching
is not defined as whenever two teachers share the same
classroom, we must be able to operationalize the con-
struct of UDL. As UDL is disseminated to broader audi-
ences, I am concerned about the fundamental problem:
Will we recognize UDL if we see it? Unfortunately, I
have been in many situations where educators, admin-
istrators, researchers, or product developers were mak-
ing claims that their instructional practices are based
on UDL principles, but I simply was not able to see the
As UDL enters its second decade, the profession must
begin to address some developmental milestones. As
every parent knows, the transition from child to ado-
lescent can be turbulent and challenging at times.
Similarly, as UDL enters its second decade, I believe it
is important to foreshadow some nuances about UDL
that have caused minor outbursts in recent years and
are likely to explode into typical teenage angst in the
years ahead.
In the following analysis, I advance 10 propositions
that the profession should consider in order to clearly
discern what UDL is and how we might go about
implementing the construct with fidelity to properly
measure the effects of UDL.
Proposition #1: Universal Design in Education Is
Fundamentally Different from Universal Design in
the Built Environment.
Observation. As King-Sears (2009) noted, the field of
UDL has its genesis in the original construct of univer-
sal design as it was developed in architecture. However,
in my opinion the seven principles of universal design
(Center for Universal Design, 1997) offer little insight
into how to design instruction to ensure that diverse
learners are successful. For example, the interactions
between individuals and the built environment (e.g.,
stairs, doorways, countertops) are static and limited. In
contrast, the interaction between a reader and a text
involves complex physical, cognitive, and social inter-
actions to make sense of the information.
New directions. In order to achieve the promise of
UDL, I believe the profession must recognize that the
essence of UDL lies in the field of instructional design
rather than architecture. UDL helps us understand the
value of technology for providing access and engage-
ment in learning – prerequisites for learning outcomes.
However, much more attention must be devoted to the
complex interactions between learning objectives,
learner characteristics, performance support strategies,
technology, and outcome. Reference to the seven prin-
ciples of universal design serves only as a distraction.
Proposition #2: UDL Is Fundamentally About
Proactively Valuing Diversity.
Observation. King-Sears (2009) observed that there is
considerable confusion about the roles of technology
and UDL. I agree. I have often observed situations where
teachers, administrators, and publishers claim they are
implementing UDL simply because they are using mul-
timedia or Web 2.0 tools. I disagree. I believe that there
must be a priori evidence that the instructional designer
understands academic diversity and is proactively build-
ing supports that will ensure that individual differences
do not mitigate access and engagement. Otherwise, the
result is simply a happy coincidence between the use of
technology and new tools that students enjoy. UDL is
more than simply integrating the latest technology
tools into the curriculum.
New directions. I fear that the promise of UDL will
not be achieved unless we begin to focus on developing
diversity blueprints. I am inspired by the work of sev-
eral authors (Burke, Hagan, & Grossen, 1998; Coyne,
Kameenui, & Simmons, 2004; McLeskey & Waldon,
2007; Tomlinson, 2004) who seek to understand the
impact of various instructional designs on the success
of diverse learners. Likewise, I am cognizant of research
by Molenbroek and de Bruin (2006) that reveals that
designers’ assumptions about diversity directly impact
the accessibility and usability of their product design.
That is, when designers assume that everyone is like
them (e.g., tall, short, average weight, able to read at
grade level), the product they create will meet the
needs of a narrow range of users.
Consider the recent fiasco with the Amazon Kindle,
where designers failed to recognize that blind readers
would want to use a hand-held reading device and that
they would need voiced navigational menus – a design
decision that was reversed in December 2009 after six
months of complaints and disability advocacy
(, 2009).
Without a diversity blueprint, it is unlikely that UDL
designers will be able to design products that meet the
accessibility and usability needs of all individuals,
because they do not understand the special needs of
some individuals. Clearly, there is much more to learn
about how to meet the instructional needs of diverse
individuals. However, until we begin describing the
salient nature of those differences in ways that inform
design, it is unlikely that we will design products that
meet the needs of all learners.
Proposition #3: UDL Is Ultimately About Design.
Observation. UDL is about design. Design is funda-
mentally about problem solving. Instructional design is
about the efficacy of learning. Central to all of these
constructs is evidence of intentionality and how prob-
lems can be resolved through innovative design.
Technology is simply the delivery system.
New directions. A fundamental question that has yet
to be addressed is whether or not the demands of daily
instruction will allow teachers to function effectively as
instructional designers. That is, are teachers the princi-
pal stakeholders as they design and deliver instruction
in accordance with UDL principles? Or, is UDL a task for
developers who make instructional products?
Given the difficulties I have observed in trying to
scale UDL implementation beyond single classrooms, I
believe it may be necessary to rethink UDL as a product
Volume 33, Winter 2010 37
Figure 2. A representation of the achievement gap illustrates typical development by the diagonal
line where students gain one unit of achievement for each year they are in school. Underachievement
results in students falling further and further behind and represents a performance gap that is
exceedingly difficult to close. Over 50 years of educational research documents the presence of
achievement gaps for several groups of students: students with disabilities, students of color,
students of poverty, and English language learners.
Achievement in Grade Levels
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Grade in School
Performance Gap
Learning Disability Quarterly 38
development intervention. Perhaps the teacher’s role is
more appropriately associated with implementing prin-
ciples of differentiated instruction (which may include
some products that have been universally designed).
Proposition #4: Universal Design for Learning Is Not
Just Good Teaching.
Observation. Another means of understanding UDL
is to clarify what it is not. Unfortunately, statements
like the following are found in the literature: “universal
design for learning is just good teaching” or “it is like
what you have always done” (Castellani, Mason, &
Orkwis, 2005; Orkwis & McLane, 1998).
I believe these statements reflect a fundamental mis-
understanding of the functions of design, proactively
valuing diversity, and intentionality. What we have
always done is known as the achievement gap (see
Figure 2). Educational research illustrates that margin-
alized students such as students with disabilities, cul-
turally and linguistically diverse students, students
from low socio-economic backgrounds, and English
language learners experience chronic school failure;
hence the focus on calculating adequate yearly progress
(AYP) within the No Child Left Behind legislation. This
pattern of performance is not evidence that existing
instructional practices are effective for all students.
New directions. UDL represents a 21st-century inter-
vention that seeks to use emerging insights gained from
research in diverse fields such as brain imaging, learning
sciences, instructional design, and technology. Good
teaching has never been able to address the full range of
diversity found in a classroom.
To allow this type of language to continue in UDL
discussions renders the construct meaningless. More
important, statements such as “UDL is just good teach-
ing” serve to preserve the status quo, which marginal-
izes low-performing students. We must find ways to
define and measure implementation of UDL in order to
discern when it is being implemented and when it is
Proposition #5: Universal Design for Learning Does
Not Occur Naturally.
Observation. On more than one occasion, I have
heard the statement, “Many teachers are already doing
UDL; they just don’t know that’s what it is called.” This
is a corollary to the previous proposition. Since UDL is
the convergence of multiple disciplines, I reject the
notion that there is a natural trait within effective
teachers that allows them to implement UDL without
knowing that they are doing so. I do not believe that
UDL occurs naturally. In some respects, this issue may
simply be a permutation of the timeless argument about
whether teaching is an art or a science (Dewey, 1929;
Gage, 1978; Skinner, 1954).
New directions. Much like any other integrative cog-
nitive skill, UDL must be recognized as a learned skill,
one that is refined over time, to produce high levels of
performance. One way of advancing this issue would be
to host a national design competition where contest-
ants were challenged to solve an instructional problem
by creating an innovative universally designed instruc-
tional product. It may also be appropriately to design
studies to empirically test this proposition. We must
refocus our efforts to train the key stakeholders in UDL
principles that make meaningful differences in student
engagement and learning.
Proposition #6: Technology Is Essential for
Implementing UDL.
Observation. King-Sears (2009) addresses the issue of
whether or not UDL can be implemented without tech-
nology. Others have suggested that UDL is just like
assistive technology, such that it can be implemented as
no-tech, low-tech, or high-tech. I reject these notions.
The reason why UDL is possible today as opposed to the
1950s or 1970s is that digital technology provides a
high degree of flexibility. Paper-based instructional
technologies (e.g., worksheets, textbooks) commit infor-
mation to fixed formats and cannot match the array
and flexibility of supports provided in a digital environ-
ment (e.g., alter the font size, color contrast, text to
speech, hyperlinks for explanatory aids, agents that
offer strategy suggestions, movies that supplement
text). An example of this point is the subject of a recent
YouTube video where a high schooler struggles to
navigate his traditional textbook since it fails to provide
the digital supports he is grown accustom to (Joe’s Non-
New directions. Why is computer technology essen-
tial for a majority of 21st-century activities outside of
school but optional for helping students achieve high
standards within school? When will a computer be con-
sidered essential for all students so that they can access
and engage in a curriculum that is appropriate for their
learning needs? To suggest that the potential of UDL
can be achieved without technology is simply another
way to maintain the status quo. Fortunately, the current
price trends for Netbooks (they are becoming more and
more affordable) may render this discussion moot
within a few years.
Proposition #7: UDL Is Not Assistive Technology.
Observation. The relationship between UDL and
assistive technology has been a point of confusion for
many educators (Rose, Hasselbring, Stahl, & Zabala,
2005). If, for example, a building has an electronic door
sensor to open the front door automatically, is it rea-
sonable to conclude that wheelchairs will no longer be
needed? Assistive technology devices and services are
delivered reactively after a referral and evaluation of an
individual student. UDL is given to everyone with the
understanding that those who need specialized support
will use the tools when they need them (i.e., embedded,
just-in-time supports).
This is a critical paradigm shift that fully acknowl-
edges the impact of peer pressure at the middle and sec-
ondary level. To meet the needs of some, UDL is
committed to giving the tools to everyone. Assistive
technology may be pre-empted by UDL interventions;
however, as the example above illustrates, assistive tech-
nology and UDL may also co-exist.
New directions. Academic performance problems are
not limited to students with disabilities. Therefore, why
should technologies that enhance academic perform-
ance be restricted to students with disabilities? When
new information is introduced in schools, learners per-
form as novices; that is, their performance is signifi-
cantly different than that of experts. However, with
proper instruction, the performance of a novice can be
enhanced to very high levels. Additional research and
development is needed in the area of cognitive prosthe-
ses (Edyburn, 2006) in order to clarify the benefit of
tools and strategies that serve as scaffolds (temporarily
needed and discarded) vs. tools that augment perform-
ance (always needed for acceptable performance).
Twenty-first-century instruction will likely need to
alter instructional practices in order to place students
in the role of Goldilocks – they try multiple options to
determine which option is “just right” for ensuring
their performance is acceptable to meet high standards.
Principles of fairness indicate that equity is achieved
when every student receives what he or she needs
(Welch, 2000).
Proposition #8: It Is Necessary to Measure the Prim-
ary and Secondary Impact of UDL.
Observation. As King-Sears (2009) pointed out, one of
the promises of UDL is that by focusing on the special
needs of students with disabilities we can design solu-
tions that positively impact other students. This princi-
ple can be illustrated by the example of the zero-entry
swimming pool. The original design problem focused
on how to enable people in wheelchairs to enter a pool.
Clearly, the needs of the primary audience have been
effectively met through this design. If the design inno-
vation only helps a disability group, the intervention is
simply an assistive technology. When the secondary
impact of the zero-entry pool is examined, we observe
that the majority of the users of the shallow end of the
pool are parents with young children, teenagers, and
senior citizens. This phenomenon illustrates an innova-
tive tactic for quantifying and evaluating UDL claims by
measuring and analyzing primary and secondary
In contrast, when word prediction software is given to
everyone, it is not a tool that continues to be used by
everyone because it often interferes with the keyboard-
ing performance of accomplished writers and typists.
Consequently, it must be considered assistive technol-
ogy, rather than UDL.
New directions. Instructional designers need to
explicitly describe the intended user of a product. When
the product is implemented within schools, appropriate
research methodologies must measure the impact of the
intervention on the primary audience as well as the rest
of the students in an inclusive classroom. Data analysis
should focus on discerning whether or not the product
successfully produced the desired gains in the targeted
audience. Secondary analysis should examine whether
there were additional effects within the inclusive class-
room such as are observed with the zero-entry swim-
ming pool or whether the effects were more like word
prediction software that offered benefits only to a small
group. Further development of research analyses of the
primary and secondary effect of UDL is essential for fos-
tering a new generation of data-based discussions about
UDL efficacy.
Proposition #9: Claims of UDL Must Be Evaluated
on the Basis of Enhanced Student Performance.
Observation. One of the significant flaws in a federal
law (Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008) that
states that UDL is a scientifically validated framework is
that CAST’s UDL framework does not feature a compo-
nent associated with the measurement of student learn-
ing outcomes. All three of the “multiple means”
statements by CAST focus on providing multiple con-
current interventions. As a result, within existing con-
ceptualizations of UDL, there is no clear way to measure
claims that UDL is effective for enhancing the academic
performance of diverse students. This is a significant
shortcoming for anyone trying to operationalize, imple-
ment, and evaluate a UDL program.
New directions. If UDL is nothing more than provid-
ing students with alternatives, it fails significantly as a
new paradigm for enhancing educational achievement,
as it is simply another futile attempt to argue that
schools needs more resources. I choose to believe the
critical focus of UDL is its emphasis on the variables that
can be manipulated to produce high performance. I am
inspired by Tomlinson’s (1999) conceptual work on the
design of equalizers that could be utilized to manipulate
key instructional variables to make curriculum accessi-
ble and engaging.
Research has demonstrated a relationship between
deep learning and high levels of performance and
Volume 33, Winter 2010 39
Learning Disability Quarterly 40
expertise (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Schlechty, 2002).
UDL outcome measurement needs to focus on the ben-
efits that result from access and sustained engagement:
Expertise and expert performance. That is, sustained
engagement in learning tasks, of increasing difficulty
and complexity, leads to high levels of learning and
performance. The notion of applying a computer inter-
face to a digital body of knowledge and then allowing
the student to manipulate the information in ways that
make it accessible (i.e., physical, sensory, and cogni-
tive), at a level of appropriate challenge, has everything
to do with the process of developing expertise.
Ultimately, we need to understand how to measure the
contributions of UDL to sustained engagement and
development of expertise.
Proposition #10: UDL Is Much More Complex Than
We Originally Thought.
Observation. Understanding the potential of UDL is
seductively easy. Its exponential growth indicates that it
is the right idea at the right time. However, it has proven
far easier to help the various stakeholders understand
the potential of UDL than it has been to implement
UDL on a large scale. And now that more people are
“doing UDL,” it is not clear what the outcomes are.
New directions. As we head into the second decade of
“doing UDL,” it is time for a new generation of think-
ing about UDL. Defining UDL as a subfield within
instructional design will provide a knowledge base that
is more relevant than looking to architecture for insight.
Likewise, we must become serious about defining the
key variables that impact instructional achievement and
develop algorithms and tools that modularize the
design process so we can develop more UDL materials
more quickly and more cost effectively. We need to clar-
ify the core stakeholders (developers or teachers) who
will be trained to create UDL products. We need to
understand what it means to implement UDL. We need
to understand how to measure the outcomes of UDL.
And, finally, we need to renew our commitment to
equitably serving all students in the event that our UDL
efforts fall short.
As UDL is aligned with response-to-intervention ini-
tiatives, it is important for the learning disability com-
munity to engage in dialogue about the principles and
practices of UDL. Without a doubt, UDL holds consid-
erable promise. In this article I have offered an analysis
of the developmental progress of UDL and described 10
propositions that need to be addressed as we go forward.
Unless serious intellectual energy is devoted to address-
ing the current shortcomings of the UDL construct,
within the next 10 years we may be commemorating
the passing of another education fad.
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Volume 33, Winter 2010 41
... There are considerable differences between the courses proposed with accessibility for students with disability and those organized using the UDL framework. Edyburn (2010) suggests that the main distinction is in the initial design of the course projects. On courses with accessibility for the disabled student, the resource to be implemented is proposed based almost exclusively on the impairment, that is, the biological mark on the subject, for example, the option of audio description is provided when a blind person enrolls on the course, so the audio is intended for his/her use, among other situations. ...
... Many students have found in Distance Education a chance to access knowledge, however there is a need for a process that caters for people's different characteristics and abilities to learn. Going back to the article by Edyburn (2010), which led to this study, the promise of UDL is seductive and its growth indicates that it is an idea whose time has come. "However, it proved a lot easier helping the various interested parties to understand the potential of UDL than to implement it on a wide scale" (Edyburn, 2010, p. 40). ...
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Resumo: Práticas sensíveis e acolhedoras à variação humana são necessárias na educação. Neste estudo objetivou-se identificar se cursistas reconhecem a contribuição dos recursos disponibilizados e organizados a partir do framework do Desenho Universal para Aprendizagem em seus processos de participação com agência, permanência e engajamento em um curso de educação a distância. A perspectiva teórico-metodológica pautou-se nos Disability Studies e os dados foram coletados a partir de três técnicas: Diários Pessoais, Mapeamento Comportamental e Vestígios Ambientais, com posterior análise de conteúdo. Os resultados apontaram que, quando um curso é planejado com base no framework do DUA, muitas das necessidades dos estudantes com deficiência são contempladas e as barreiras restantes são comuns à maioria dos aprendizes.
... At the institutional level, introductory science courses often fail to support students who could succeed but have had fewer or poorer prior opportunities in the sciences (Seymour and Hewitt, 1997;Seymour and Hunter, 2019). Biology courses and degree programs could instead use inspiration from universal design (Scanlon et al., 2018;Edyburn, 2010) to develop courses and programs that support students with diverse interests, backgrounds, and identities to pursue and succeed in careers in the biological sciences. Educators can adopt reflective practices from curriculum designed to counter racism and sexism, such as the Underrep Curriculum (Underrep project, 2022;Doucette et al., 2021), to assist their students in reflecting on who gets to do biology and how that has or has not changed over time to take on the ideologies at the root of these results. ...
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We investigated the intersectional relationships between racism, sexism, and classism in inequities in student conceptual knowledge in introductory biology courses using a quantitative critical framework. Using Bayesian hierarchical linear models, we examined students' conceptual knowledge as measured by the Introductory Molecular and Cell Biology Assessment. The data came from the LASSO database and included 6,547 students from 87 introductory courses at 11 institutions. The model indicated that students with marginalized identities by race, gender, and class tended to start with lower scores than continuing-generation, White men. We conceptualized these differences as educational debts society owed these students due to racism, sexism, and classism. Instruction added to these educational debts for most marginalized groups, with the largest increases for students with multiple marginalized identities. After instruction, society owed Black and Hispanic, first-generation women an educational debt equal to 60-80% of the average learning in the courses. These courses almost all (85/87) used collaborative learning and half (45/87) supported instruction with learning assistants. While research shows collaborative learning better serves students than lecture-based instruction, these results indicate it does not repay educational debts due to racism, sexism, and classism.
... The funding of these initiatives was through the support of all the teachers in the visual art department who were determined to make an indelible mark in the making of the futures of these academically feeble students. From 2013 when we initiated these multiple strategies in the teaching and learning of the subject, the school has chalked consistent increase in students' performance in the subject with ninety to hundred percent of the students from 2013 to 2020 attaining grade A1 to B3. Self-sacrifice and desire to help all students, irrespective of their diverse learning backgrounds, intelligence quotient, and needs, which is the basis of the UDL framework (Edyburn, 2010), yielded great results. Many teachers in sister Senior High schools could not believe how we helped these young females in the school to excel in the General Knowledge in Art subject. ...
This letter discusses my personal experiences as a teacher from the basic to the tertiary levels of education within the Universal Design for Learning framework, a new concept I learned in a workshop I attended two weeks ago organized by the National Teaching Council in collaboration with UNICEF. It discusses how I have unconsciously applied the principles of UDL that advocate the multimodality of learning environments fuelled by multiple forms of representation, processing and motivation. It opens a dialogue on how the principles could be actualized in the classroom setting using my personal teaching experiences. Also, I share relevant tips from the UDL workshop that all teachers must know. I contend that the diversity of students-learning and thinking styles, etc. calls for plurality in the presentation and assessment of learned content to maximize their learning outcomes and general development.
... Additionally, Smith (2012) applied the UDL framework to a graduate research methods course and found a positive relationship between learner interest and engagement. However, while these studies all point to UDL implementation benefits, some faculty find the UDL principles and guidelines challenging to put into practice due to the complexity of the framework (Edyburn, 2010). There is a need for additional professional development opportunities and examples to understand the application of the framework. ...
This paper provides a brief overview of the history of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), its prominence in the literature, and its use within the educational community. It then provides a critical analysis of the literature base linked to UDL checkpoint 1.2 by examining the relevance to the current trends in education and technology and alignment with checkpoint 1.2 and/or UDL as a whole. Using these criteria, the paper reports how much of the literature base was out-of-date or disconnected to UDL. Given UDL’s prominent position in educational policy, further research into its effectiveness is necessary. Implications are discussed.
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Increased student diversity in classrooms and the need for equitable STEM opportunities for all, creates an impetus for educators to establish inclusive and equitable environments and use teaching practices that facilitate meaningful learning for all students in science education. This article offers a three-part framework for combining inclusive philosophy, the science and engineering practices, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The article is intended to help teachers and teacher educators universally design science education to level the science learning field through access and equity for all students, including students with disabilities. We advocate for the use of four practices: creating an inclusive community of science learners, planning for big ideas over time, engaging students in sense-making through model-based inquiry, and engaging students in cooperative learning and science talk. Science teachers can use these practices to universally design science education and enhance science learning and STEM interest for underrepresented students. In the article, we provide visuals and tools for teachers to support implementation of the universally designed science practices.
The number of students with disability enrolled in tertiary education has increased significantly in the last decade. This has prompted a move to make learning and teaching more accessible to all students. Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, can be used as a framework to guide tertiary educators in the planning and delivery of their courses. The effective implementation of UDL allows all students to access course materials, removing the need for some of them to actively seek support and disclose their disabilities. A rapid review was conducted to locate both theory and evidence to support the use of UDL at the tertiary level, as well as to seek guidance for its effective implementation. A total of 52 articles were included in the study and annotation was used for data extraction. Results indicated that UDL is well supported by theory, and studies revealed high satisfaction rates for UDL for both students and instructors. Implications for practice are suggested. As the current study was conducted at a university in Australia, the current research (which is largely from the United States) has been examined with the Australian university context in mind.
In 2018, more than 200,000 of the 21.1 million students enrolling in colleges and universities in the U.S. were on the autism spectrum, otherwise recognized as being neurodivergent. The awareness of neurodiversity is changing the approach of inclusive pedagogy on campuses and in classrooms, emphasizing the need for better understanding and more efficacious management of the particular challenges neurodivergent students face. Focused programs in a few insitutions that work directly with learning-impaired students exist, but liberal arts schools are feeling the growing pains of reimagining outdated pedagogy. I argue that peer support, a form of bridge program that enables positive learning to motivate success, is essential in assisting the neurodivergent student population. Led by members of the neurodiversity community, peer
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To encourage alaïo^te among professionals, this occasional feature is a fonirn for the opitiions, ideas, ami work of a variety of constituents concerneil about learning iHsabilitles. For criteria ami submission guidelines, please visit and select Publications.
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Over the past decade, evolving technologies have revolutionized the way we do business, communicate, make war, farm, and provide medical treatment. New technologies are also transforming education, and in no domain more dramatically or successfully than in the education of students with disabilities. Although the existing benefits of technol-ogy for students with disabilities are already widely recognized (e.g., Edyburn, 2003; Hasselbring & Glaser, 2000; Raskind & Higgins 1995; Rose & Meyer, 2002), the potential ben-efits are likely to be even more profound and pervasive than present practices would sug-gest. To ensure full realization of technology's potential for students with disabilities, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has funded two national centers that have a strong focus on technology: the National Assistive Technology Research Institute (NATRI) at the University of Kentucky and The National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) at CAST. While both centers focus on the role of technology, their work is neither duplicative nor competitive. Rather, each is researching a distinct role for technology in improving edu-cation for students with disabilities, assistive technology (AT) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), respectively. The question of how these two approaches can enhance and even support one another for the further benefit of students with disabilities is funda-mentally important. We have engaged in early discussion of this issue with the National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Pip Campbell and Suzanne Milbourne at Tho-mas Jefferson University, organizations whose OSEP-supported work is also at the forefront of technology in special education. In this article we provide a framework for further discussion of this significant issue by articulat-ing the points of commonality and difference between AT and UDL. Some individuals may see AT and UDL as identical, or conversely, antithetical. We be-lieve that neither view is accurate but instead that AT and UDL, while different, are com-pletely complementary—much like two sides of the same coin. We believe that advances in one approach prompt advances in the other and that this reciprocity will evolve in ways that will maximize their mutual benefits, mak-ing it essential that both approaches are pur-sued vigorously and distinctively. Through a better understanding and melding of AT and UDL, we believe that the lives of individuals with disabilities will ultimately be improved.
This article addresses the need to make differences ordinary as inclusive school programs are developed and implemented. Qualities that are hallmarks of inclusive classrooms and that ensure that differences become an ordinary part of classroom practices are then addressed. These qualities ensure that supports provided in the inclusive classroom are as natural and unobtrusive as possible, arranging student schedules so that the rhythm of the day for students with disabilities is as typical as possible, and ensuring that students with disabilities are full participants in the learning and social communities of the classroom.
This publication addresses issues involved in universal design for learning as they relate to full access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities. It begins by discussing curriculum access and student engagement according to the federal mandates, which require students with disabilities to be given the opportunity to participate in the general education curriculum. Universal design for learning is described as providing flexible curricula materials and activities that offer alternatives for students with disparities in abilities and backgrounds. Charts illustrate how universal design for products and environments differs from universal design for learning, with its three essential curriculum qualities (representation, expression, and engagement). The publication closes with suggested first steps in implementing universal design for learning. An appendix provides a framework that summarizes the salient principles of universal design in a practical context to help teachers and other interested individuals consider how the tools employed in the classroom can realistically provide broader access to the curriculum for all students. It describes alternatives that reduce perceptual barriers, cognitive barriers, motor and cognitive barriers to expression, and describes alternative ways of encouraging engagement in the learning environment. (CR)
Describes six features of instruction that efficiently accommodate and accelerate learning of a diverse range of students in the general education classroom, including organizing instruction around big ideas, using conspicuous strategies, priming students with background knowledge, using mediated scaffolding, judiciously planning and organizing reviews, and using strategy integration. (CR)
The concept of fairness is discussed and suggestions provided for responding to concerns about fairness, including reflect back the students' feelings, listen for other meanings, respond consistently and without explanation, provide a procedure for registering complaints, develop a caring, cooperative classroom community, and make necessary accommodations for students with disabilities. (Contains references.) (CR)
For 12 years, the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) has researched use of technology to expand opportunities for diverse learners. Universal design principles drawn from architecture and product development are useful for developing effective educational tools that can accommodate students' varied recognition, strategic, and affective systems. (Contains 10 references.) (MLH)
This paper explores the development of universal design and considers its application to large-scale assessments. Universal design is a concept that originated in the field of architecture, but quickly expanded into environmental initiatives, recreation, the arts, health care, and now, education. In addition to the concept's application to instruction, the potential for dramatically affecting the design of large-scale assessments is great. A push to expand national and state testing has begun and at the same time to require that assessment systems include all students, which also means those with disabilities and limited English proficiency. Building on universal design principles presented by the Center for Universal Design, seven elements of universally designed assessments are identified and described in the report. The seven elements are: (1) inclusive assessment population; (2) precisely defined constructs; (3) assessable non-biased items; (4) amendable to accommodations; (5) simple, clear, and intuitive instructions and procedures; and (6) maximum legibility. Numerous resources relevant to each of the elements are identified, with specific suggestions for ways in which assessments can be designed from the beginning to meet the needs of the widest range of students possible. (Contains 77 references.) (Author/CR)