Universal Design For Learning Implementation

Universal Design For Learning Implementation

Jumpstarting Today!

Beginning your journey into Universal Design for Learning can be both exciting and daunting. While Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is not a checklist, but rather both a framework and a philosophy for designing learning environments, there are a few strategies that you can begin immediately. Simple changes incorporated into your learning environment can begin to add layers of scaffolding and support while simultaneously moving students into more active participants in the learning process.

Here are 4 suggestions to jump start your journey:

1) Posting the Goal

Students need the opportunity to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Posting the goal not only allows students to understand the "why" but also brings them explicitly into the learning process rather than implicitly. It is also very important to note that when students know and understand the goal they are "are more likely to stay focused, monitor themselves successfully, and derive satisfaction from their progress" (Rose & Meyer p. 88).

2) Closed Captioning

Closed captioning is a simple strategy you can literally add to your learning environment with a click of a button. Closed captioning attends to guidelines one (options to see, hear, and perceive information) and two (options to decode language...). "These supports can help boost foundational reading skills, such as phonics, word recognition, and fluency, for a number of students. Given the wide (and inexpensive) availability of captioned and subtitled media on broadcast television, on DVDs, and online, it can be a valuable addition to your teaching of diverse learners" (Brann 2011).

3) Visual Timers

Whether students are working independently, with partners, or in small groups, students need much scaffolding and support to aide in executive functioning. Timers provide students a very concrete and explicit support to assist with both task completion and transitioning. There is a multitude of visual timer options you can certainly purchase and many online timer options available for free as well with literally a click of a button.

4) Text to Speech

The benefits of text to speech should ironically "go without saying". However, much like closed captioning, it is very easy and often readily available but not often brought into the learning environment as a whole. We tend to offer to certain students rather than incorporating as an optional choice. This great tool should not be reserved for individual student devices either. Utilizing these great tools with LCD projection and audio support during large group instruction should be considered as well.

Remember also that technology is a support and enhancement but not the "be all" to implementing UDL. We certainly live in a tech-rich society and our students are digital natives. However, you can build in supports regardless of your readily available resources and tech "knowledgey". If you are using a video without a closed captioning option, a printed script can be a great support. If you do not have access to text to speech, you can simply provide a recording of yourself or a fellow student.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

Theodore Roosevelt

Brann, Alise. (2011). "Captioning to Support Literacy." Powerup What Works: Reading Rockets. Retrieved from: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/captioning-s...

Rose, H. D., Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age Universal Design for Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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It's Time To Admit 'Natural' Intelligence An Outdated Idea

It's not about how smart you are, but about how hard you work.

Elementary school was a weird time. MAP tests, AR reading comprehension, PACT and PASS and virtually any other acronym you can think of for the standardized tests that ultimately distinguished whether or not you were considered relatively gifted. And, while in theory, this may or may not have prepared students for the rigorous curriculum of more challenging courses, I still have to ask: Is this really necessary at age 8?

Don't get me wrong, preparing kids with the highest quality education is what I'm here for... but it's also relatively difficult to decide who's "gifted and talented" and who's not.

Maybe I'm wrong, but with the rise of the gifted and talented curriculum in the early 2000s, came the plateau of the "honors kid burnout" in the 2010s.

Similar to the stigma of the participation trophy in kids sports, the establishment of a "more advanced curriculum" for students as young as 7 or 8 (I put that in quotations because, realistically, these courses were not significantly more advanced), in my opinion, unintentionally reinforced the idealized form of "natural intelligence".

Natural intelligence ultimately presents the idea that "smart" individuals should be able to learn or even simply have the knowledge, without the need to practice, memorize, or really study anything. You weren't considered "intelligent" if it took you more time to learn something, or you had to ask for help. Facts and memorization, intellect and intuition, came naturally and you either had it or you didn't.

This is problematic on multiple fronts.

The process of reaffirming elementary school students (again, this comes from my own personal experience and observation of those with similar experiences), and reinforcing the idea that they are "naturally" smart, gifted, or talented is great in ego-boosting throughout public school.


Entering into an actually academically advanced environment, whether it be Advanced Placement courses, or Dual Enrollment, or even as far as into college, there becomes a problem.

Students that have been told throughout a vast majoring of their lives that they were naturally gifted with intelligence have very early in life placed a negative association with studying, working hard, or having difficulty with something.

Students that have gotten straight A's throughout middle and high school simply by glancing at notes before the exam or by using common sense are have already been conditioned to associate something as simple as making flashcards or asking a teacher for help with failure.

Natural intelligence, natural talent, and virtually any idea that individuals have to be born with a skill in order to be significantly gifted is more often than not, counterproductive.

Making the goal of public education something as one dimensional as letter grades, and conditioning students to view them as more of a ranking system than as a showcase of hard work, does more than just discourage morale. It encourages efficiency. It encourages academic dishonesty. It encourages getting an A by any means necessary because, for someone who has been defined as "naturally intelligent" most of their life, they have no room for disappointment.

Children, especially in this day and age, need to be conditioned to view hard work as honorable, as respectable, and in no way a weakness, or something to be ashamed of. There are no "August Rush's" in this reality, but there are more than enough "Rudy."

Teaching kids that it was their hard work and their dedication that really got them that grade, alter how they view more than just grades. Encouraging hard work, diligence, dedication, and even something as simple as effort goes farther than just academics. Kids that are more encouraged to take risks and think creatively become kids that are more willing to try, regardless of the outcome.

Because life isn't really a grading system, but a test of skills and attitude.

It's not how smart you are, but how hard you work.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Steve Carell, Send Elisabeth to UMich, Not UW-Madison Because They Don't Know What It's Like To Be The Best

Why would you want your mascot to be a badger?

Steve Carell,

Thank you for blessing the University of Michigan campus with your presence on Tuesday.

Of course, our university's greatness speaks for itself, but in case you need more convincing that this is the best school for your daughter, here are six reasons we're better than UW-Madison (and every other school that wants to recruit Elisabeth).

1. How could UW-Madison have the craziest game days when we have the craziest game days?

Perhaps you've heard of The Big House. The University of Michigan is home to the biggest stadium in the United States (and second largest in the world), and every single game day it's filled with students, alumni, and die-hard Michigan fans who bleed maize and blue. Come sing “The Victors" and "Mr. Brightside" with us, and listen to James Earl Jones narrate the most hype pregame video before we chant “Go Blue!" Have I mentioned that we also have Harbaugh? UW-Madison just has a badger. 'Nuff said.

2. UW-Madison doesn't have the largest living alumni body of any university in the worldwe do

The Leaders and Best are everywhere. You could yell “Go Blue!" in the middle of a forest and I can almost guarantee someone will chant it back. The Michigan name is well-respected, and Elisabeth is guaranteed a vast network in any given field because once a Wolverine, always a Wolverine.

3. Our State Street is better than UW-Madison's State Street

Watch the streetlamps and State Theater sign light up S. State as you visit the M-Den for all of your Michigan gear needs. And don't forget to dip into Piada, Sava's, or Totoro for some delicious eats. Ann Arbor wasn't rated the best college town in the U.S. for nothing (sorry, not sorry, UW-Madison).

4. Wanna talk views? Try the Arb

Nichols Arboretum isn't part of our campus tours, but in this hidden gem, you'll find all of nature's best right on campus. Walk through miles of beautiful woods and go tubing down the Huron River in the summer. Come winter, though, find us sledding down some hills on dining hall trays.

Or the Diag

What is Bascom Hill compared to our glorious Diag? The crisscrossing diagonal walkways that give it its memorable name are always bustling with activity, from student activist groups to performers to dogs! You can't forget the dogs. I've walked out of Hatcher many, many times blown away by the sheer beauty of this school and its amazing students. Elisabeth will, too.

5. UW-Madison traditions got nothin' on ours

Being a Wolverine is walking through the fountain in Ingall's Mall at orientation and then again in the opposite direction once you graduate. It's happily waking up at 7 AM to tailgate your way to the Big House. Being a Wolverine is screaming "Mr. Brightside" at the top of your lungs at every game and party. It's never stepping on the M in the Diag, even when it's completely covered in snow, and painting the Rock on Hill Street in the pitch black, freezing cold. Being a Wolverine is spinning the Cube on your first visit to campus. But most importantly, it's the irresistible urge to shout "HAIL!" and "GO BLUE!"

6. No one, literally no one, beats the Michigan icons

President Schlissel is our king, Reggie the Campus Corgi is our wholesome teddy bear, Harbaugh is the crowning jewel, Tom Brady is the GOAT, and Billy Magic? Well, you'll just have to come to Michigan to learn about the utter brilliance of Billy Magic.

The University of Michigan is one of the leading universities in the world. Our students fight for real change on campus and in the world. They are incredibly talented and multi-faceted; Elisabeth will always have something new to learn from everyone she meets. Our campus will give her all the tools to become the next best Carell.

Steve Carell, make the right choice and send Elisabeth to the only school that will make her a Leader and the Best.


The entire UMich student body (but especially your biggest fans, Jessica Jung and Riya Gupta)

Cover Image Credit: Instagram | uofmichigan

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