Universal Design for Learning Principle 2: Provide Multiple Means of Action & Expression

By Rhonda Gregory, Director of Distributed Education

Representation graphic: the HOW of learning
© CAST, 2015.

This principle helps us address variability in how learners express their knowledge and how they interact within the learning environment. Students will differ in their ability to navigate through their learning tasks based on a number of issues, such as language barriers, cultural interpretation, physical impairments, varying organizational skills and abilities, etc. By providing optiosn for action and expression, we remove barriers to student learning.

Guideline 4: Provide options for physical action

This guideline addresses variability in students’ ability to physically interact with their learning materials and within the learning environment, whether online or in a traditional classroom. 

Examples of Implementation:

  • Allow students to interact with hand-written materials in an electronic document or orally. 
  • Only use software or websites that work well with “keyboard only” commands (i.e. that can be used without a mouse).
  • Provide useful instructions for any technology tools required, including accessibility information for students who may use assistive technologies.

Guideline 5: Provide options for expression and communication

Guideline 5 deals with the various media that learners may use to communicate and express their knowledge. Unless the media itself is part of a critical learning outcome (e.g. learning to handwrite with calligraphy), limiting students to a single medium is not usually appropriate. Not all media are equal in terms of usability for all learners. Allowing for use of multiple tools for learner construction and composition is one way to reduce learning barriers to foster development of creative expression. Finally, providing students with various levels of support as they move towards independence or mastery within a subject is important.

Examples of Implementation:

  • Allow students to choose between giving a presentation and writing an essay response.
  • Share news and announcements in multiple formats, such as email (written) and a video posting (audio/visual).
  •  Give students options in how they communicate with you during office hours (e.g. in person, on the phone, or through online conferencing).
  • Allow students to use and access various tools, e.g. calculators, citation generators, concept maps, or 3D generated manipulatives. 
  • Provide models that use varying approaches that reach the same objectives.
  • Provide specific and individualized feedback to learners.

Guideline 6: Provide options for executive functions

Executive functions are what we, as humans, use to help us set and manage our long-term goals and strategies. “Executive functions have very limited capacity due to working memory…The UDL framework typically involves efforts to expand executive capacity in two ways: 1) by scaffolding lower level skills so that they require less executive processing; and 2) by scaffolding higher level executive skills and strategies so that they are more effective and developed.  Previous guidelines have addressed lower level scaffolding, this guideline addresses ways to provide scaffolding for executive functions themselves” (CAST, 2011, p. 25).

Examples of Implementation:

  • Guide students in their process of goal-setting by providing examples, guides, or checklists.
  • Put unit objectives and schedules in an easy to find location.
  • During instruction, include prompts and time for students to stop, think, and/or explain their work.
  • Model decision making by doing a “think-aloud.”
  • Provide graphic organizers and templates for students to use.
  • Provide structured notes or checklists during lecture.


CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author. Retrieved from UDL Center.org (new window).