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Teaching Strategies that Employ the Universal Design for Learning

Janelle Cox

Making learning accessible for all students doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, using teaching strategies like the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a framework to help guide you, can be just the thing that can help you execute your goal of reaching all students. UDL for learning is an approach to curriculum that minimizes barriers so it can maximize learning for all students. The goal of UDL is for ALL students to be challenged regardless of their diversity. Here are a few suggestions on how you can incorporate UDL teaching strategies into your classroom to ensure you’re reaching all learners.

Teaching Strategies: What is UDL?

Before we can get to the teaching strategies, we must first take a look at what UDL is all about. While it may sound like it’s about teaching ALL kids (hence universal), it’s actually about removing any barriers that will give students equal opportunities to learn. For example, textbooks can be boring and not a great way to keep students engaged, so you’d give students more options to learn from than just a textbook. The UDL approach is also about having the ability to adjust to students’ strengths, as well as their needs. An example of this would be providing students with a variety of different option to learn from. UDL is essentially finding a variety of teaching strategies that will benefit your students.

Principles of UDL

According to research, there are three main principles of Universal Design for Learning: Representation, action and expression, and engagement.

  • Representation – Offering students access to material that is best suited for the way they learn.
  • Expression – Allowing students to choose materials to express what they’ve learned.
  • Engagement – Finding multiple ways to motivate students.

UDL Teaching Strategies

Here are a few Universal Design for Learning (UDL) teaching strategies to follow.

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Create Lesson Goals

In a UDL classroom, lesson goals are essential because it gives students a purpose on what they are working to achieve. Students should understand their goals before each lesson, as well as have the ability to refer to them throughout the lesson. Posting them somewhere in the classroom or on their desk or in a notebook is easy for students to refer to when needed.

Give Students Options

One of the principles of UDL is expression, which means giving students the option to show what they’ve learned. For example, instead of just writing an essay on what they’ve just learned, you can give the option to create a podcast, slideshow, or iMovie instead. As long as students are meeting the learning goals that are set, they can show what they know in the best way that plays to their strengths.

Create a Flexible Learning Space

Using the Universal Design for learning approach means that you need to have a flexible workspace for students. This can be anything from implementing flexible seating like standup tables, wobble chairs, and bean bags to designating a quite space in the room or allowing students to use headphones to help silence the noise. This falls under the UDL principle of representation where students have access to choose what is best suited for their needs.

Utilize Technology

Technology is great in a UDL classroom because it gives students more tools to choose from. For example, if a student learns best by listening to a passage while they read, then technology gives them the option to turn on the speech-to-text feature. If a student is struggling with something, technology has the ability to make it easier for them to understand. The goal in a UDL classroom is to use technology in an intentional way that can help a learner if they need it.

Give Student Feedback

Giving students regular feedback throughout and after the lesson is a good way for students to reflect on if they are meeting their goals or if they have yet to meet their lesson goals. If students have yet to meet their lesson goals, then they are encouraged to brainstorm the specific ways that they could’ve met their goals, as well as make a plan on how they will meet their goal.

Universal Design for Learning is not a checklist, it’s a framework to help guide you. You can read more about the principles and the framework guidelines in this fact sheet.

Do you follow the Universal Design for Learning approach in your classroom? If so, do you think the framework is effective? Please share your thoughts about these teaching strategies in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.