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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Implementation
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UDL 101: How do I lower barriers?

Two important points before we get into the how:

  1. Instruction happens everywhere. It is not limited to the K-12 environment.
  2. Every single learner experiences barriers. Barriers are something we all experience. They are not within us, they are within the environment.

To lower a barrier, you must know the goal of your instruction. What specific skill or knowledge are the learners supposed to gain during a certain amount of time?

Now, what is in the environment that might prevent any learner from gaining that skill or knowledge? What resources, physical structures, delivery methods, relationships, beliefs or attitudes might get in the way? You also must question your assumptions about your design.

  • Is the instructional resource only available in an audio format? Does your design assume everyone would find audio the most engaging and accessible way to learn? Instead, provide a parallel resource in text format or video with text. (to expand on this idea, see the guideline of Perception:

  • Does the physical environment design prevent some learners from moving around the room without assistance? Is the design of your space based on look and not physical accessibility? Brainstorm on your own, with colleagues, (or even better) with your learners to identify another arrangement. (to expand on this idea, see the guideline of Self Regulation:

  • Are learners expected to only work in groups during a project? Does your design automatically associate project work with group work? Disentangle the two and provide learners the opportunity to determine the design that will help them accomplish the project (to expand on this idea, see the guideline of Sustaining Effort and Persistence:

  • Do your learners struggle to complete tasks? Does your design always provide a timeline? Engage your learners in backward design to create their own timeline and to establish their own markers for accomplishment. (to expand on this idea, see the guideline of Executive Functions:

Always investigate your reasons, question them, and then use the Guidelines to enhance your design.

Continue this pattern to identify the potential barriers your learners might face. You are not changing the goal. You are removing environmental barriers that would keep the learner from gaining the identified knowledge or skill.

Need examples?