Universal Design for Learning in the University Classroom

Patricia Kohler-Evans, Chayla D. Rutledge, Candice Dowd Barnes


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is based on the architecture and industrial design paradigm, universal design. The UDL framework provides guidelines for teachers when they create, instruct, and assess the delivery of content. Based on three underlying principles: multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement, UDL targets the needs of every learner in the classroom. Although much has been written about UDL in the K-12 classroom, the principles apply equally to higher education. Most faculty are well versed in the delivery of content through a traditional lecture format, yet few consider applying UDL principles. It is not enough that an instructor provide knowledge. He or she must also ensure that critical content is accessible to all students entering the university classroom. Faculty members recognized for their excellence in teaching include teaching strategies that are aligned to UDL principles. These strategies include creation of positive learning environments, use of humor, active engagement vs passive engagement, and explicit structure. The primary purpose of the article is threefold: to discuss the importance of using a UDL approach in higher education, to help faculty begin using a UDL approach through professional development, and sharing strategies for students in the higher education classroom.  Recommendations are made for providing professional development to faculty to increase their use of universal design for learning principles with questions for consideration. Additional recommendations are made for teaching students through the UDL lens. By using a UDL framework, all students have access to curriculum in ways meaningful to each individual.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/irhe.v4n1p38


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