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Universal Design for Learning

When designing instruction, it is crucial to ensure that all learning environments, activities, and assessments are equitable and inclusive. Following Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, Acknowledging Student Identity and Experiences, and Incorporating Inclusive Teaching Strategies can help include all students in more equitable and inclusive learning environments and processes.

Following Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that encourages inclusive course design and teaching approaches that improve and optimize learning for all students. It focuses on accessible and inclusive teaching and design principles which consider diversity, equity, and inclusion as integral to creating effective learning environments, activities, and assessments. There are three main UDL principles:

  1. Provide Multiple Means of Engagement--this principle addresses the “WHY” of learning and focuses on providing students options for recruiting interest, sustaining effort and persistence, and helping students with self-regulation.
  2. Provide Multiple Means of Representation--this principle addresses the “WHAT” of learning and focuses on providing students options with regards to perception, language and symbols, and comprehension
  3. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression--this principle addresses the “HOW” of learning and focuses on providing students options for physical action, expression and communication, and executive functions. Having alternative assessments can be a good way to provide students agency and choice. 
The UDL design framework can be integrated with other instructional strategies and models such as--but not limited to--the ADDIE model. One important thing to always consider is that UDL strives to create equitable learning environments for all students

Acknowledging Student Identity and Experiences
Acknowledging and recognizing the diversity of student identities and experiences and what they bring to the learning environment is a foundational first step when it comes to engaging in UDL. Having a firm understanding of the wide range of student identities and experiences can also help identify barriers and challenges to learning so that they can be proactively mitigated and addressed in the design process. Even something as simple as Learning Student Names or Reducing Late Arrivals can make the classroom a much more welcoming place. The following resources provide information on how to design for different specific student populations. 

Incorporating Inclusive Teaching Strategies
Inclusive teaching strategies play an integral role in UDL. They recognize the many different facets of student identity and learning preferences to ensure that everyone has more agency and choice in learning processes. Under the UDL framework, these Strategies for Inclusive Teaching can be included in the course and instructional design process. One effective way to promote a more inclusive learning environment is to create diversity statements for the syllabus and to carefully review them with students. Diversity statements can help set a positive and inclusive tone from before the course even begins through to its completion. The following links provide more information on inclusive teaching. 

What is Inclusive Teaching?
Inclusive teaching relies on the Design of Inclusive Assessments and the Modeling of Inclusive Language. Carefully designed inclusive teaching approaches can help when it comes to teaching in challenging situations--such as Teaching in Times of Crisis, Teaching Race: Pedagogy and Practice, or engaging in Difficult Dialogues. It is always important to remember how to Handle Difficult Moments with Respect & Sensitivity and to Establish Guidelines for Interaction in class to ensure a healthy, welcoming, safe, and inclusive learning environment for all students.