Friday, January 24, 2014

What is UDL?

As a teacher, it is necessary to understand the importance of teaching to each individual student, rather than teaching to the class as a whole.  Every student is different, which means they also have a variety of learning needs and the teacher is obligated to meet each of their learning levels.  Although I only have a few years experience, I know it is difficult to model various teaching techniques in the classroom; making the ability to reach each individual student difficult.  However, with the help of UDL, or Universal Design for Learning, students are offered "full and equal opportunities to learn" through three basic principles; providing multiple means of representation, providing multiple means of action and expression, and providing multiple means of engagement (Dell, Newton, Petroff, 2012).

According to, "UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one- size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs" (  To me, as I'm sure to many teachers, this seems like an obvious way of teaching your students.  Regardless of how obvious it seems, many teachers can not pull it off. It is important to know your students, how they learn, and the ways in which you can help them best understand the material being taught.

As mentioned earlier, every student is different in the way they think, learn, and process information.  The below diagram shows three different parts of the brain that help us with the learning process.  Each individuals "networks" vary, bringing a variety of needs, skills, and interests into the learning environment (

Universal Design for Learning

Recognition Networks

The "what" of learning
Image of a brain with recognition network shown in purple
How we gather facts and categorize what we see, hear, and read. Identifying letters, words, or an author's style are recognition tasks.
checkmarkPresent information and content in different ways

Strategic Networks

The "how" of learning
Image of a brain with strategic network shown in blue
Planning and performing tasks.How we organize and express our ideas. Writing an essay or solving a math problem are strategic tasks.
checkmarkDifferentiate the ways that students can express what they know

Affective Networks

The "why" of learning
Image of a brain with affective network shown in green
How learners get engaged and stay motivated. How they are challenged, excited, or interested.These are affective dimensions.

With the help of UDL, every teacher has the ability to take a students learning process into consideration. With that in mind, it is evident that the teacher needs to bring a variety of teaching tools and learning strategies into the classroom environment and help each student become successful.

If you are anything like me and need more than words to help explain a specific topic, then you will find the video below helpful.  "UDL At A Glance" helps educators understand the basics of the Universal Design for Learning, while using pictures, graphs, and scenarios.  Using a video to help explain a topic is a great way for a teacher to reach out to some of their learners!


Dell, A.G., Newton, D.A., Petroff, J.G. (2012).  Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities. Pearson Education Inc.

About UDL: What is Universal Design for Learning?

1 comment:

  1. Lauren, I agree that a teacher cannot think of a class as a whole. Each student is different and has specific needs. I really enjoyed reading your blog!