Applying Universal Design for Learning Principles and Guidelines for Lesson Design

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Issuing Organization: Division of Elementary and Secondary Education

Estimated Time to Complete: 6 hours

Competency: Earner applies the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines to design instruction to optimize teaching and learning during lesson implementation for improved student outcomes.

Key Method: The educator develops learner profiles using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines, analyzes methods, materials, and data sources for learning barriers, and evaluates and revises current learning design for the critical elements of UDL.

Learn, Reflect and Practice

The Method Components section of the micro-credential provides an opportunity to gain a basic understanding of the content knowledge needed to complete the submission tasks. You can personalize your learning experience by delving as deeply as needed into the Research and Resources block to the left. As you interact with the learning materials, take time to reflect on your current instructional methods and practice the new methods and strategies you will use to demonstrate the competency.

Method Components (Click to view)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based instructional approach rooted in neuroscience of learning.  The goal of UDL is to identify and remove barriers to learning and provide options for the diversity of learners in classrooms today.

UDL practices are organized around three core principles that engage the cognitive networks involved in learning. Cognitive networks are neurological processes that support how we acquire information, maintain motivation and engagement, and express understanding. The three UDL principles consider and support these research-based networks.  When UDL principles are incorporated into learning design and implementation, barriers to learning are lessened or removed, allowing all learners to access and participate in meaningful and challenging learning opportunities. 

Three Key UDL Principles

The aligned networks and principles address the “why,” “what,” and “how” of learning for all students. In a classroom implementing UDL principles of instruction and design, education professionals implement the following three key principles:

Affective Networks: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

Affective networks control the elements of emotional involvement in learning, such as motivation and the ability to focus and remain engaged with a task. When students feel safe, respected, and valued, they are more likely to persist with tasks, take learning risks, and accept challenges. Education professionals support the affective network by

  • offering options that teach students self-regulation to support independent learning.
  • facilitating engagement by recruiting students’ interests and encouraging them to share their interests as they relate to content.
  • motivating students to sustain learning efforts by explicitly stating learning goals and providing time for students to independently reflect on their progress toward goal achievement.

Recognition Networks: Provide Multiple Means of Representation

Recognition networks are responsible for receiving and analyzing information gathered through the senses. In addition, recognition networks link new information to prior knowledge and support concept development. Education professionals support the recognition network by

  • providing multiple resources, materials, and ways of presentation to support students as they learn and build their understanding of content.
  • presenting students with choices by offering multiple tools, supports, and media to access content.

Strategic Networks: Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
Strategic networks are responsible for planning, performing, and monitoring actions. Education professionals support students’ strategic networks by offering flexibility and options in how students demonstrate their understanding. Educators can provide multiple means of action and expression by

  • varying methods of response when checking students’ understanding (e.g., group and individual verbal, auditory, and written responses).
  • evaluating student mastery of skills or objectives through a variety of means (e.g., verbal, auditory, and written expression options).

(From Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2 [CAST, 2018], additional resources provided in Research and Resources sections.)


Method Components
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Method Components
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CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Courey, S. J., Tappe, P., Siker, J., & LePage, P. (2012). Improved lesson planning with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children. doi:10.1177/0888406412446178

Hall, T., Vue, G., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2004). Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum.

Lohmann, Marla & Hovey, Katrina & Gauvreau, Ariane. (2018). Using a Universal Design for Learning Framework to Enhance Engagement in the Early Childhood Classroom. Journal of Special Education Apprenticeship. 7.

McGhie-Richmond, Donna; Sung, Andrew N. (2013). Applying Universal Design for Learning to Instructional Lesson Planning. International Journal of Whole Schooling, v9 n1 p43-59.

Nelson, L.L. & Basham, J.D. (2014). A blueprint for UDL: Considering the design of implementation. Lawrence, KS: UDL-IRN. Retrieved from https://udl-irn.org.

UDL at a Glance. This resource (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDvKnY0g6e4) is a four-minute video developed by CAST to provide a brief overview of UDL. 

The Universal Design for Learning – Implementation and Research Network. This collection of resources (https://udl-irn.org/home/udl-resources/) provide guidance and examples on how to integrate the UDL framework into your instruction planning, implementation, and evaluation.

UDL and the Learning Brain. This resource (https://bit.ly/3wpmDCn) explores the concept of neuro-variability and reminds us that learners do not have an isolated learning “style,” but instead rely on many parts of the brain working together to function within a given context.

The Myth of Average. In this 18-minute TEDx Talks video, Todd Rose, a high school dropout turned Harvard faculty, shares a simple new way of thinking that helps nurture individual potential. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4)

UDL Principle Profile Characteristics. Adapted from CAST UDL class learning profile templates, this resource outlines common strengths and challenges or barriers for students, with consideration for each of the three UDL Principles and aligned networks. (https://bit.ly/3wXrgE6)

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. The National Center on Assessible Educational Materials for Learning at CAST provides technical assistance, coaching, and resources to increase the availability and use of accessible educational materials and technologies for learners with disabilities across the lifespan. (https://aem.cast.org/)

Submission Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria

This micro-credential is divided into three areas: Overview, Artifacts and Evidence, and Reflection. These areas are broken down further into tasks that are aligned with UDL principles.

Tasks 1-5: You will need to review the information provided and create the appropriate assignment. Click on the green ‘Mark Complete’ button after you finish each task. (This will give you a checkmark on the micro-credential’s main page.)

Task 6: You will upload an assignment for each of the previous tasks. You will be able to upload a maximum of 5 files, one for each task. To replace a file, just delete the previously uploaded file. (You will not receive a checkmark on the micro-credential’s main page until the assignments have been graded and approved.)

Task 7: Once you have completed Tasks 1-6, you will need to submit the assignments for grading. (This will give you a checkmark on the micro-credential’s main page.)

To earn this micro-credential, you must receive ‘Passing’ on the assignments for Task 1 and Task 5, and ‘Demonstrated’ on all criteria in the assignments for Tasks 2-4. Once this achieved, you will receive a checkmark on Task 6.