Universal Design for Learning (UDL) – Anupam Sharma, Coordinator CAIE

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) — an incredible tool in the classroom

— Anupam Sharma, Coordinator CAIE,  Indirapuram Public School, Indirapuram

An environment that is universally designed for learning shows students there are multiple ways to be successful, multiple ways to solve problems and multiple ways to learn from mistakes.
— Whitny H. Rapp

As educators we face myriad challenges to create better learning moments for our learners. We work continuously to design and deliver curriculum for the learners with diverse needs. Each learner learns differently and can benefit from having a variety of learning formats to choose from, flexible assessments, and tools to help with organization of new information and skills.

Though we are somewhat successful in attaining the desired learning outcomes, yet there is a long way to go.

I think learning and exploring more about UDL that is Universal design for learning, will help us plan a variety of strategies and resources to meet diverse learning needs, improve accessibility to learning opportunities, and increase student success.

UDL is based on the principles to Present information and content in different ways, to Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know and Stimulate interest and motivation for learning.

Learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. There are a variety of sources that can influence individual variation including neurology, culture, personal relevance, subjectivity, and background knowledge, along with a variety of other factors. Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity while others are disengaged, even frightened, by those aspects, preferring strict and structured routine.

Some learners might like to work alone, while others prefer to work with their peers. The true picture is that, there is not one means of engagement that could be used for all learners in all contexts; it becomes more essential to provide multiple options for engagement.

Anupam Sharma is a passionate learner and a professional Teacher Trainer having trained more than 2000 teachers.
She is an Ambassador of the prestigious SDG CHOUPAL, Wakelet Ambassador and community leader, 3DBear Ambassador, Flipgrid Certified, Microsoft certified educator. She also works as SDG Coordinator for Indirapuram public school where she designs activities for students and conducts awareness workshops on the same.
She is an edupreneur as well, having designed a short course on Introducing Entrepreneurship to the school students.
She has more than 15 years of teaching experience, contributing towards 21st Century skills training, activity designing and designing science lessons on experiential learning.
She has contributed towards promoting SEL (socio-emotional learning) by writing article on a GLOBAL TEACHING COMMUNITY and moderated educhats on social media platform, Twitter. She was invited as an expert by Bodhi International School, Jodhpur to conduct sessions on Personality Development for students.
She firmly believes that education is a lifelong process that enables us to grow and helps to achieve the purpose of turning mirrors into windows.

So, how are we going to work on the same?

Firstly, it’s important for us to know the three principles of engagement, representation, expression shared through this graphic representation.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to teaching aimed at meeting the needs of every learner in classroom. It can be helpful for all types of learners, including learners with learning and attention issues. But UDL requires careful planning by teachers to make it feasible for everyone to use and follow. I am sharing a few examples of how UDL can work in a classroom.

Communication of clear Lesson Goals with the learners

The goals are always made apparent in a UDL classroom and communicating clearly to the learners  help them know what they’re working to achieve. One example of this is sharing goals for specific lessons in the classroom and encouraging learners to write them down in their notebooks. The teacher must refers to lesson goals during the lesson itself.

Myriad options to share learning

In a traditional classroom, there may be only one way for a learner to complete an assignment. This might be an essay or a worksheet. With UDL, there are multiple options. For instance, learners may be able to create a poster , mind map, comic strip, flipgrid video, use padlet or a video to show what they know. Here, I would love to share an example of using Choice Boards in the classrooms that offer flexibility to the learners to choose the way to share their learning.

There are innumerous possibilities for completing assignments/ tasks, as long as learners meet the lesson goals.

Flexible work stations

UDL promotes flexibility in the learning environment. A UDL classroom has flexible work spaces designed for learners. This includes spaces for quiet individual work, small and large group work, and group instruction. If learners need to tune out noise, they can choose to wear earbuds or headphones during independent work.

Regular constructive feedback

Feedback which is an important aspect of teaching- learning, is used in a very constructive manner in UDL. Learners get feedback — often every day — on how they’re doing.

Learners are encouraged to reflect on the choices they made in class and whether they met the goals. At the end of a lesson, teachers may talk with individual learners about lesson goals. If they didn’t meet the goals, they’re encouraged to think about what might have helped them do so.

Flexible means of accessing information

It’s a proven fact that if students can’t access information, they can’t learn it. UDL ensures that materials are accessible for all types of learners. Learners must have many options for reading, including print, digital, text-to-speech and audiobooks. For digital text, there are also options for text enlargement, along with choices for screen color and contrast. Videos have captions, and there are transcripts for audio.

Universal design for learning is an incredible tool in the classroom. This method will help all learners to learn in the way that is most suitable and works best for them, improving their knowledge of the subjects they’re learning.

UDL also helps teachers focus their efforts on the learners that need it most, while allowing all learners to thrive in an equalized classroom. In a classroom using universal design for learning, there are no learners with limitations, only learners who accomplish the same tasks and learn the same information with different methods.

Putting universal design for learning into practice in the schools will help learners grow beyond expectations.