Universal Design for Learning Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Part 1 – UDL Background

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a concept that refers to a series of principles for curriculum development that are used to give people equal opportunities for learning. Through its set of principle, UDL provides guidelines for the development of inclusive classroom instruction and access to relevant learning materials (ACCESS Project, 2011). As part of promoting the creation of inclusive classroom instruction, UDL results in the development of a teaching approach that accommodates the abilities and needs of all learners. This teaching approach also helps to remove unnecessary obstacles in the learning process. Universal Design for Learning was developed in the 1990s during the Universal Design (UD) movement. Since then, it has developed to become an important component in the modern learning environment with respect to creation of inclusive classroom instruction and settings.

The main philosophy behind the concept of Universal Design for Learning is creation of a flexible learning environment. This concept is embedded on the belief that students have different learning needs and abilities, which necessitate a flexible learning environment to meet their needs. Through such a learning environment, teachers present information to students in numerous ways and enable students to learn in various ways. Additionally, a flexible learning environment under the concept of UDL helps to ensure students are offered different alternatives when demonstrating learning. UDL provides a framework for creation of instructional goals, assessments, materials, and methods that work for all individuals in the classroom. Flexible approaches that are customized and modified depending on individual needs are created under UDL instead of a single, one-size-fits-all approach. Teachers who adopt a UDL mindset expect students to have a wide range of learning interests, needs, capabilities and styles, which necessitates a flexible learning approach and environment (Burton et al., 2010).

There are three major principles of Universal Design for Learning including multiple representation methods through which learners are given numerous ways for acquiring information and developing knowledge (ACCESS Project, 2011). Since learners access information differently, this principles entails providing options for perception. An example of this principle is the use of AIM Explorer, which is a free simulation that incorporates grade-leveled digital text with common access features to many text readers including students. When using this software, students will explore their preferences for different options in speech-to-text. AIM Explorer provides different options for perception in relation to speech-to-text feature such as speed, text highlighting, and human and synthetic voice (National Center on Accessible Educational Materials, n.d.).

The second principle of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is multiple student action and expression methods or providing options for expression. Under this principle, students are allowed to express their knowledge and skills through different means since they differ in their learning abilities. For example, Animoto can be used in the classroom setting for students to express their ideas through creative ways like combining a series of images and audio relating to the learning material.

The third principle of the UDL concept is multiple means of student engagement or providing different options for comprehension. This is an important principle of UDL because students are motivated to learn differently and differ in terms of learning tasks/activities that keep them involved in the learning process. Therefore, students should be provided with varying ways of engaging in learning tasks or course activities. For example, teachers can use the Student Mentors Teach Game Design in which students act as mentors to their peers, which generates individualized coaching and help mentor students to reinforce their skills and confidence.

Part 2 – Using UDL to Lessen Cultural and/or Linguistic Barriers

One of the potential cultural barriers that I may encounter in the classroom is probable prejudice towards students from a different cultural background. Since most classrooms in today’s learning environment comprises students from different cultural backgrounds, prejudice is one of the potential cultural barriers in the classroom. Secondly, the lack of a multilingual curriculum is also a potential cultural barrier I may encounter in the classroom. Most of the learning materials in the modern classroom environment are designed in the English language. This could be a major barrier to some students, particularly English as a Second Language (ESL) students, who are disadvantaged since they may not understand English. Therefore, these students face significant challenges in attempting to master the English language and the learning material simultaneously.

These potential cultural barriers in the classroom can be prevented and/or addressed using Universal Design for Learning. Prejudice can be addressed using UDL providing students numerous opportunities to learn about and understand different cultures. Culture plays an essential role in literacy and language learning, especially in relation to instructional design (Rogers, Graham & Mayes, 2007). Students are more likely to discriminate their peers from other cultural backgrounds because of lack of understanding of different cultures. Therefore, learning about and improving understanding of different cultures is essential to deal with prejudice. Secondly, the development of a multicultural curriculum would help to address potential cultural barriers in the classroom. Using UDL, a multicultural curriculum can be created through providing different options for comprehension and engagement. This would involve incorporating the home cultures of diverse families in the school curriculum by giving students homework assignments that require them to engage their family members.

Part 3 - Reflection

As shown in the previous section, cultural competence and a multicultural curriculum is essential toward addressing some of the cultural barriers that are likely to occur in the classroom setting. Rogers, Graham & Mayes (2007) state that cultural competence is essential in the modern learning environment, especially in the field of instructional design. As evident in the explanations on how to reduce or eliminate cultural barriers using UDL, develop of a multicultural instructional approach is essential. My approaches towards addressing cultural barriers through UDL will entail using a multicultural teaching approach that not only seeks to enhance students’ cultural competence, but also focus on enabling students to embrace cultural diversity during learning.

With regards to potential cultural prejudice in the classroom, I will provide students multicultural literature that provide precise and insightful descriptions and illustrations of other cultures. Authentic multicultural literature involves the use of books and other visual teaching tools to enhance students’ knowledge about culture. In this case, I will address one of the major root causes of cultural prejudice in the classroom i.e. lack of knowledge about different cultures. The use of a multicultural literature in the classroom is consistent with the principle of providing opportunities for comprehension in Universal Design for Learning. Secondly, I will provide opportunities for comprehension by engaging students’ families in the process of creating a multicultural instructional approach and curriculum. Giving students homework assignments that require the participation of their family members provides families with different ways for getting involved in their children’s education. I will also request families from different cultures to visit the classroom and share their knowledge in relation to the learning content, particularly on issues relating to community experiences.

Part 4 – Creating a Colleague Plan

1. Summarize UDL for someone who has little to know background knowledge of UDL.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a concept that refers to a set of principles for curriculum development that are geared towards giving people equal opportunities for learning. This concept lessens barriers to learning through given all students opportunities to access, engage in, and progress in general education learning curriculum. Universal Design for Learning was developed to help ensure equity and fairness in the educational environment through meeting the needs of all students by incorporating them in the learning process regardless of their individual differences. The origin of this…

Sources Used in Document:


ACCESS Project. (2011). Universal Design for Learning: A Concise Introduction. Retrieved from Colorado State University website: http://accessproject.colostate.edu/udl/modules/udl_introduction/udl_concise_intro.pdf

Burton et al. (2010). Universal Design for Learning in BC. Retrieved April 24, 2018, from http://www.setbc.org/Download/LearningCentre/Access/bcudl_review6_small.pdf

Jimenez, T.C., Graf, V.L. & Rose, E. (2007). Gaining Access to General Education: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning. Issues in Teacher Education, 16(2), 41-54.

National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. (n.d.). AIM Explorer. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from http://aem.cast.org/navigating/aim-explorer.html#.WunMGtNuaYU

Rogers, P.C., Graham, C.R. & Mayes, C.T. (2007, March 9). Cultural Competence and Instructional Design: Exploration Research into the Delivery of Online Instruction Cross-culturally. Education Technology Research Development, 55, 197-217.

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