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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Implementation
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UDL in 15 Minutes with Alaa Zaza

Helping Educators Implement UDL

I had the honor of interviewing Alaa Zaza for this podcast. Zaza works for the Manahel-Syria Education Programme which is helping educators reach and teach children all over northeast Syria, even during the war. You can read more about the programme here (and you will want to).

A theme that emerged from our conversation was: “How do you get started with UDL?” It is a question I am asked during or after every workshop and in response to my podcast. It’s a universal question. To me, there are two contexts: one is when an individual is starting and the other is when a leader is hoping to help a group of teachers move into the framework.

When individuals begin exploring the UDL framework, it’s typically in their own time and follows their own passion. They are intrinsically motivated and have their own purpose for investigating. They can move through resources and build their own knowledge. They might not have an overt plan, but they can set their own goals and can determine their own strategies. What I’ve just described are individuals using their skills as expert learners. But what about educators who work in an organization that has chosen to investigate or adopt UDL? How are they supported?

Just as Zaza and I discussed during the podcast, educators need to be brought into UDL in a way that allows them to practice being expert learners. We need to bring educator in using the UDL guidelines.

Below, I’ve offered ideas that are aligned with each of the checkpoints. These ideas are to get your started. Build on them. And when you do, share them with others and me! Finally, know that there will be systematic variability. What patterns can you identify ahead of your workshops, PLCs, and discussions? For example, time is always identified as a barrier. How can you help minimize that barrier for the educators with whom you are working?


Recruiting interest

  • Allow educators to choose the avenue into UDL that makes sense to them (principle, guideline, checkpoint, goal-writing, choice, etc.).
  • Provide time for guided reflection so educators can identify any examples of relevance, value or authenticity in this work.
  • Provide space for educators to discuss their reservations and fears about UDL and address them as a group.

Sustaining Effort & Persistence

  • Articulate the goal for the session or the goal around implementation. Better yet, construct the goal collaboratively.
  • Provide specific and logical connections to resources rather than simply providing lists. Ensure the resources vary in level of information (e.g., beginner, practiced, and expert knowledge about UDL).
  • Encourage educators to partner with others, but provide protocols or guiding frameworks they can use to support their collaboration.
  • You have to be comfortable with the framework so you can provide specific and supportive feedback to your educators as they grow with the framework.

Self Regulation

  • Returning the (collaboratively created) goal, establish growth markers so educators can identify their own growth.
  • Provide ideas for coping skills as educators try new things in their environments. Not every day will go well and everyone will need some support.
  • Take time to co-create a rubric with your educators so they can self-assess their own movement within the framework.




  • Provide specific support and professional development to your entire staff on tools that support the customizing the display of information, alternatives for auditory information, and alternatives for visual information. Ensure that this professional development provides ample time for practice and ownership.

Language & Symbols

  • Ensure educators are comfortable with the language of UDL (principles, guidelines, checkpoints, learner variability, flexibility, choice, etc.).
  • Ensure educators understand the organization of the UDL Guidelines.
  • Ensure educators have access to tools that support decoding UDL.
  • Design conversations and professional development that support educators to see connections between other initiatives and UDL.
  • Use multiple media to share UDL.


  • Guide educators to connect what they are doing to pieces and parts of UDL while helping them see the bigger picture of the framework.
  • Provide supports (reflection tools, protocols, etc.) that support educators to see patterns that support or patterns that create barriers for their learners.
  • As educators are learning about UDL, provide activities and opportunities for them to share their processing and how they visualize the implementation of UDL.
  • Clarify how UDL can be utilized across the curriculum.


Action & Expression
  • Provide specific support and professional development to your entire staff on tools that support response and navigation as well as assistive technologies that are used and others that are available. Ensure that this professional development provides ample time for practice and ownership.
  • Model your use of multiple media when providing information about UDL.
  • Provide access to different tools and resources so educators can practice using different tools during their implementation of UDL.
  • Encourage educators’ UDL fluency by inviting them to share their experiences with each other and using language associated with the framework.

Executive Functions

  • Work with your educators as they set their own goals around UDL implementation.
  • Provide planning tools and strategizing aids to educators as they plot out their use of the UDL framework.
  • Offer an organized space to hold resources, but encourage educators to personalize that organization to meet their individual needs.
  • Encourage educators to adopt their own tools and resources that help them monitor their own progress in UDL implementation.

As stated above, these are starter ideas, but they are ideas that are completely aligned with the UDL checkpoints. I invite you to think through them to see how they can work in your environment. And, let me know how it goes! It is my quest to help every learner experience what it means to be an expert learner, whether that learner is a child or an adult.