Universal Design Learning or UDL is a thinking technique for teaching and learning. It ensures that all the students get equal opportunities to become successful. It is a flexible approach where students can opt for different ways of accessing study materials and portraying their knowledge of the subjects. This method is quite useful for kids who face difficulty in learning and paying attention to their studies.
The Goal of UDL
Universal Design Learning aims to use various approaches to teaching to eliminate the barriers in learning. The techniques are flexible enough to be adjusted to the strengths and requirements of students. Those learning the English language will also find it beneficial.
An example of UDL is closed captioning on television which is meant for the viewers having hearing impairments. But even the normal viewers benefit from it when the show is in some language that they do not understand, or there is a lot of background noise to hear everything clearly.
Universal Design Learning involves the development of lesson plans and assessments based on the following principles:
1.Representation of information in multiple formats:
An example of implementation of this principle is the books which just have visual format. But when the same information is represented through audio-visual format, students find it more interesting. It gives them a chance to go with the format that best fits their learning strengths.
2.Multiple ways of interacting with the study material:
Kids should be allowed to show what they have learned so far in the way they like. It can be through writing on paper in a test, giving a presentation, or through project work with a group. This enables them to show their understanding of a topic. Teachers can guide them on processing the information and visualization by highlighting the patterns, crucial ideas, and features. Vocabulary and symbols need to be clarified with proper syntax, supporting decoding texts and illustration through multiple media. This ensures ease of understanding.
3.Keeping the students motivated:
Teachers need to use different ways of keeping the students motivated by letting them make choices and providing them relevant assignments which they will find interesting. Asking them to complete an assignment by creating a video or a comic strip is one such example. Also, whenever they are made to learn a new skill, it can be done in ways that will make the students feel that it is a new game. This will increase their chances of moving around and staying active.
Role of UDL in Addressing Learning and Attention Issues
Though Universal Design Learning is beneficial for all students, here are specific ways in which it can be particularly advantageous for kids with learning and attention issues:
- Learning is made more accessible in the classroom where students spend maximum time of the day learning and might face attention issues.
- Information is presented to the students in ways in which these can adapt to the learners. Thus, students do not have to adapt to the information provided in the class. They get to interact in different ways with the study material in which they can make the best use of their strengths.
Universal Design Learning Examples for Classrooms
Catering to the needs of every student is the main aim of the UDL approach to teaching. Here are some examples of ways in which you can implement it in the classroom:
1.Setting goals for every lesson:
This helps the students to understand the cause of learning something. UDL classrooms can often be seen encouraging students to write the goals in their notebooks. Even the teacher throws some light on the goal and gives an overview before proceeding to the chapter.
2.Assigning interesting tasks for homework:
In conventional classrooms, students follow a monotonous mode of doing assignments. But in UDL classrooms, teachers encourage students to use other innovative ways of completing assignments to meet the lesson goals. This eliminates chances of boredom as well as making excuses to skip the homework.
3.Flexible learning environment:
The UDL classrooms have a flexible workspace. This supports students to work quietly individually or in small or larger groups. They can avoid noise interference by wearing headphones or independent work during individual work.
4.Feedback on performance:
Students get feedback on their performance regularly. This gives them a chance to understand the areas where they need to improve. They are encouraged to reflect on the choices to see if they are suitable for efficiently meeting the goals. In case they fail to perform well, they are guided to opt for ways that can help them to achieve their goals.
5.Different formats of study material to help students with disabilities:
A student needs to access the information in order to process it. Keeping this in mind, a UDL classroom makes the materials available in different forms, such as print, digital, audio, and text to speech formats. Students can enlarge the text and set the screen color and contrast, which is comfortable for reading. Similarly, the video materials have captions, and the audios have transcripts for better clarity.
Challenges of UDL
Educational institutions find it difficult to integrate UDL into their learning environment. The use of assistive technology implies changes in practices for the staff as the current methods need to be re-evaluated. Such technology can pressure the IT department due to the integration of the new technology with LMS and other hardware and software at the system level.
In certain cases, UDL can cause a chilling effect if the new software application can't be easily accessed by the students. Besides this, it is expensive for the complete campus to adopt UDL. In such a case, it is crucial for the supporters to clearly convey that UDL opens up new learning pathways for students to meet the current expectations.
Test, audio, and hands-on format are various ways of presenting information using the UDL approach. In educational environments, Universal Design Learning can be sustained by supporting the staff who intend to work towards the improvement of students through the development of materials and methods supporting UDL principles. Such staff should be offered opportunities for professional development to result in better outcomes.