Universal Design for Learning

Special Guest Blogger Leah Frauendienst, Instructor of Mathematics


Students are highly variable in their learning needs and response to instruction.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to curriculum development that aids in meeting the diverse learning needs of a student population and provide equal opportunities for all learners.

A Brief History of Universal Design for Learning

In the early 1980’s David Rose and Anne Meyer grew frustrated with writing individual support plans for students with disabilities that seemed to have little overall impact.  After learning about the Universal Design movement in architecture, Rose, Meyer and their fellow colleagues at CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) established the idea of Universal Design for Learning.  UDL considers a flexible curriculum rather than a one size fits all approach.  The UDL principles and guidelines were based on relevant research and were created to make UDL into an actionable construct.

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines

On the highest level, UDL consists of three main principles:

Principle 1:  Provide Multiple Means of Representation

Principle 2:  Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

Principle 3:  Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

A total of nine guidelines are divided evenly among these principles.  The UDL guidelines are intended to help educators address the predictable variability within a student population.

UDL Guidelines from CAST

These guidelines are by no means a prescription for curriculum development, but they help to put research into practice.  In fact, a series of checkpoints are provided for each guideline to aid in implementation.  These checkpoints offer possible practices and are not intended to be comprehensive.

Implementation of UDL

Implementation of UDL is a dynamic process and does not need to be implemented at a course-wide level.  The guidelines can be utilized for specific assignments or scenarios.  It is helpful to consider the checkpoints, but again the checkpoints are not intended to be exhaustive.  Using this gradual approach to UDL will create a more universally designed course over time.


Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education 

Gabrielle Rappolt-Schlichtmann, Samantha G. Daley, and L. Todd Rose.  A Research Reader in Universal Design for Learning.  2012.

David H. Rose and Anne Meyer.  A Practical Reader in Universal Design for Learning.  2006

Anne Meyer, David H. Rose, and David Gordon.  Universal Design for Learning – Theory and Practice. 2014

Special Thanks

I’d like to thank Leah for writing this introductory post on UDL. In the next three blog posts, we will take a closer look at each of the UDL principles and consider how they can be applied to your courses. You are also invited to attend a one-hour professional development session on Friday, March 31st at 2:00 p.m. to learn more about UDL. We hope to see you there! 

Best regards, 

Rhonda Gregory, Director
Distributed Education