How UDL can lift learning for every student
- Universal design for learning, or UDL, is an approach to curriculum planning that ensures lessons and learning spaces work for all students based on their specific needs. Materials, and the way they are taught, focus on the space and not the student, says an article in Education Week.
- Shifts in adopting this style of learning can be small at the beginning, but they need to work for all children. Kyle Redford found that adding an amplification system in her 5th grade classroom at Marin Country Day School, helped a student who was hearing-disabled as well as students with normal hearing. She also provides reading material in digital text, which can be manipulated to make fonts larger and read aloud by a computer system.
- Educators who are not experts in UDL can still put changes into effect by finding resources online and tapping into other colleagues in their community.
Equity is an issue not only in the classroom, but also in curriculum design. When planning lessons, it’s crucial to ensure they work for all students. To make resources work for every child, whatever their learning needs, many are adopting a Universal Design for Learning approach.
UDL may sound daunting at first. How does one know that materials designed for vision-impaired students also work for those who are color-blind? Or assignments designed for students with dysgraphia also work for those with an auditory processing disorder? But curriculum designers do not need to be experts in UDL to begin implementing these options.
Putting one or two methods into play can still be impactful, notes the University of Cincinnati in its UDL vs Accessibility online guide, and integration is best considered during the planning stages, notes a 2016 study from researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Giving teachers options so they can adapt lessons to their classrooms in a way that works for them is key to giving every student the possibility “…to reach the same high standards,” notes researchers.
The crucial lesson? Start small rather than not at all.