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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Implementation
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UDL in 15 Minutes with Tracy Dabbs

How UDL Transformed My Professional Learning Design

During episode 117, Tracy Dabbs starts with her Universal Design for Learning (UDL) back story and it is one that is familiar to many who apply UDL – Tracy wanted a checklist. She read about UDL, she talked about UDL, but she wanted a checklist to help her get started with UDL. “Show me the checklist. Show me what this looks like!” It wasn’t until she took intentional steps with the framework that she realized UDL is not a checklist.

What Tracy shared during this episode is one of the biggest barriers to UDL. Instructional leaders (teachers, administrators, coaches, or anyone designing instruction) initially are seeking ease. That is an honest request and an honest need! The danger is when the professional development (PD) approach narrows UDL instead of sharing the depth and breadth of UDL. In the rush to get people started, they stay away from sharing the big picture. They focus on strategies and maybe some methods. I get it. UDL can be overwhelming, but the alternative is a poor path.

When we only teach strategies and methods that stand alone it is like tossing glass ornaments into the air. They drop and shatter. They are forgotten or swept under a convenient carpet.

When those glass ornaments are connected to a framework, they become part of a beautiful mural that holds all of those strategies and methods together. The ornaments can be changed out at any time, but they all hang together. People need to see why those glass ornaments hang together and how they create a powerful collection. They need to see that this collective is what lowers barriers and creates inclusive lessons and environments.

For over 17 years, I have made constant attempts to scaffold the “largeness” of UDL. The trick is meeting the user where they are and communicating that big picture so the learner can either find their own way in or travel a given path with an understanding of the end goal.

My latest product to help achieve my goal is a free digital book titled, UDL is Like…Using analogies to activate understanding. It is designed to be accessible to cultures around the world, can be read with your eyes or ears (or both), speaks to the largeness of UDL, and helps provide the user with an understanding of that big picture. Oh, and it will only take 10 minutes or less to read. Bonus!

We, in the UDL world, consistently share that applying the UDL framework can transform any instruction. We are relentless with this message. Hopefully, this tiny product communicates to you the premise and promise of UDL and helps you discover your way into the framework so you, too, can support the development of expert learners.