What is UDL: Seeing the full tapestry

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) feels so familiar yet so complex. That's because it weaves together a multitude of separate threads into a rich tapestry that envelops and supports all learners. To understand how the tapestry of UDL should impact your design, mouse over the content of the UDL Guidelines at the top, the constructs and concepts of UDL on the sides, and processes and practices of UDL at the bottom.

The UDL Guidelines
The brain networks of UDL
Expert learners
The lesson goal
Backward Design
Design Thinking
Flexible materials
Bloom's Taxonomy
The curriculum
Student choice and voice
Subject knowledge
Systemic variability
Zone of Proximal Development

The UDL Guidelines This graphic, found at https://udlguidelines.cast.org, shares information to help educators design lessons and learning environments and offer learners opportunities to build skills toward becoming expert learners.

The brain networks of UDL CAST* chose to focus on the three brain models of the affective networks, the recognition networks and the strategic networks. They are listed across the top of the UDL Guidelines. These networks communicate how the brain takes in stimulus, processes information, and how we articulate our emotions and knowledge (*the creators of UDL).

Principles These three columns align with the three brain networks but are named using language that is more relatable (e.g., engagement, representation, action & expression).

Guidelines These nine areas are organized to help educators provide options for lessons and environments that move our students toward becoming Expert Learners. The top row focuses on actions that provide learners with initial access to these skills. The second row, build, suggests actions that provide learners the ability to build on the access skills. The third row, internalize, suggests actions to offer learners opportunities to gain heightened levels of autonomy and self directing skills.

Checkpoints These phrases under the guidelines house more specific information about how we can support all learners to engage with learning, understand what is being taught, express their understanding, and function across a variety of contexts.

Expert learners These terms describe behaviors that position all students to fully realize and own their learning. These behaviors include being purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal-directed. Every student learns to adopt these behaviors through UDL-designed lessons and learning environments.

The lesson goal Also known as a lesson objective in some areas, the goal of a lesson must provide clear guidance to the learners of what they will learn, include a measurement metric, be attainable, student-focused (e.g., "I will," or "I will be able to" statements) and say when the goal should be met.

Backward Design Established by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, this process asks the teacher to author the goal/objective and then envision what final products or demonstrations will show that the students have met the lesson goal. From there, the teacher identifies what methods and materials will be needed by learners to achieve the goal. In a UDL-driven lesson, a variety of methods and materials are used to meet the anticipated variable needs and a variety of assessment options and opportunities allow learners to fully express their knowledge or skills. (https://learning-theories.com/backward-design.html)

Design Thinking Students learn by working through the design process which begins with using empathy to understand the end- users' needs, wants, and objectives and then setting a goal. Students use no-tech methods and materials (i.e., like string, sticky notes, markers, water bottles, etc.) to reach their goal. The process allows teachers to see what students understand and do not understand about the process to the solution. (see https://www.designorate.com/can-we-apply-design-thinking-in-education/)

Flexible materials When the student is able to use the material in a way that suits their learning needs. If digital materials are used, seek tools that provide students with multiple options to achieve the goal. For example, a digital math tool that reads aloud the math equation, allows students to move representations around the screen (i.e., digital manipulatives), and provides image representations of the word problem. Non-digital materials can be partnered with methods like investigation so students can identify how the resource might support their learning.

Including When all students are given the time, space, and support to engage with their peers and they experience fully equitable social and academic learning in the general education setting.

Scaffolding When concepts, skills, and content are broken apart using analogies, identified components, smaller steps or different representations.

Access This is empowered when methods and materials are selected and used to ensure every student can learn and understand the information, skill, or task. In a UDL-designed environment, multiple methods and materials are used to ensure the emotional, learning, and understanding needs of all learners are met.

Barriers These are deconstructed when the selected methods, materials or prevailing attitudes prevent even one student from learning and understanding the information, skill or task. No single method or material can meet the learning needs of every learner.

Bloom's Taxonomy This set of behaviors is associated with thinking and learning. The behaviors are ordered from simple to complex as well as concrete to abstract: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create.

Context Learning is directly affected by what is present in the environment. Context includes the relationship students have with themselves and the educators present, the emotions students bring to and experience while learning, the resources and materials made available to students when learning, and how students experience learning through their 5 senses.

Equity When the same learning experience is offered to each student, this is equality. When the learning experience is designed to meet the individual needs of all learners, this is equity.

Intentionality Designing and implementing UDL requires the educator to actively connect to and use the content within the UDL Guidelines and to implement that content via an understanding of the constructs and concepts, processes and practices, and the content included in this infographic.

The curriculum This term, as defined by CAST*, includes four components: the goal, methods, materials and assessments. The goal defines what the students will learn. Methods include practices and strategies used. The materials include the resources and tools used. The assessments are the formative and summative assessments that directly align with the lesson goal. (*the creators of UDL; see www.cast.org)

VariabilityThe concept that every person not only learns differently, but how each individual experiences the context directly impacts how each person learns.

Student choice and voice To build self-determination, learners must have opportunities to make choices that impact their learning and then process whether those choices were advantageous or not. They must also have a leading voice in determining their academic and behavioral goals.

Subject knowledgeAn educator should have specific knowledge about the related concepts, constructs, and skills of the subject(s) to be taught.

Systemic variability Recognizing that there are patterns of variability in each learning environment. For example, there will always be students who need time to learn initial tasks, those who pick up terms quickly, those who struggle applying the information, those who become easily frustrated, etc. Understanding that these patterns exist, the teacher automatically addresses those barriers when planning lessons and environments.

Zone of Proximal DevelopmentA construct from Lev Vygotsky which suggests providing instruction that lessens the gap between the student’s actual developmental level and the student's potential development. The construct is typically represented by fluid movement across three regions: beyond current abilities, able to learn through the support of others, learning on one's own.

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