Universal Design For Learning: Taking A Deeper Dive
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Universal Design For Learning: Taking A Deeper Dive

Deconstructing the guidelines and principles of universal design for learning one guideline at at a time.

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Universal Design For Learning: Taking A Deeper Dive
Aurora Burst

Let's take a deeper dive into Universal Design for Learning and deconstructing it! Starting with the base knowledge that Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing and delivering instruction based on the three networks of the brain, we can now begin to dissect it by principle and guideline.

Brief Review: The three networks of the brain associated with learning are:

1. The Recognition Network

2. The Strategic Network

3. The Affective Network

The framework of UDL is comprised of three principles based on the networks of the brain associated with learning: representation or the what of learning, action and expression or the how of learning and engagement or the why of learning (CAST 2012). There are nine subsequent guidelines containing check points (diagram below) organized around the three principles of UDL: (I) Provide multiple means of representation; (II) provide multiple means of action and expression; and (III) provide multiple means of engagement” (Rose & Meyer, 2002).

As you can observe from the diagram above, the UDL framework is comprised of three principles: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression and multiple means of engagement. Each principle contains within it three guidelines. We are going to put the principle of representation and the first guideline, options for perception under the magnifying glass.

The principle of multiple means of representation means more that just giving students "examples of the lesson topic in a lot of different ways (Lord Nelson, 2014, p. 61). Lord Nelson (2014) explains that it is "really about providing students different experiences to receive the information (p. 61). Those experiences in turn provide students with deeper levels on understanding and comprehension.

Now let's zero in on options for perception.

Options for perception could also be defined as options to see, hear, and perceive information. We are going to deconstruct this guideline more acutely by the what, the how, and the why:What: Perception or options to see, hear, and perceive information would generally refer to (but certainly not limited to) the display of: print materials, digital materials, audio materials, authentic objects and spatial models. Within the context of the learning environment barriers can exist in any of these mediums. Examples could be that the text is too small, to difficult to decode, presents challenges to comprehension, demands more background knowledge, etc.How: One can provide these options by employing the checkpoints listed below the guideline. This is done by: customizing the display of information, providing alternatives for auditory information, and alternatives for visual information. According to Novak, these check points, one way we could translate them is to, "provide digital copies for all class materials so students can access and personalize them. Don't just lecture to students. Provide visuals and hard copies so all students can access at least one of the mediums. Don't just have students read. also provide audio, visuals, and things for them to manipulate" (p. 22).Why: The reason we want to design instruction and learning environments is so that we can minimize the barriers to learning that exist in the curriculum and learning environment. As educators, we want the information and the skills we desire our students to acquire to be accessible and flexible regardless of the variability they present in the learning environment. We need to evaluate the learning environment for disabling barriers to learning and remove them so students can access skill and content.

There is no "one size fits all" in running shoes, ice cream flavors or television stations! So why should there be a "one size fits all" learning experience for students? Fair isn't everybody getting the same thing the same way. Fair is everybody getting what they need to be successful!


CAST, Inc. (2012) Retrieved from: http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl

Meyer, A., Rose, H. D., Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning, theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.

Lord Nelson, Loui. (2014) Design and Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using Universal Design for Learning. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

Novak, Katie. (2014)) UDL Now. Wakefield, MA: CAST Publishing.

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