Here at Teesside University we now have a set of inclusivity principles to assist Schools, Departments and the University to plan for diversity across all aspects of the student experience. The adoption of a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach will support the creation of flexible ways of learning that also empower learners to develop both inside and outside the classroom.  The UDL principles are in alignment with FFL curriculum development and can be used to support thinking on embedding inclusive practices.

What is Universal Design for Learning?

“UDL puts the tag ‘disabled’ where it belongs—on the curriculum, not the learner”. 
(David Rose CEO and founder of CAST)

The UDL framework was first designed by David Rose at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). The approach is to optimise learning by adjusting the curriculum to enable all learners.

Why Universal?

Universal means that provisions are designed to be inclusive to everyone it is a wider concept than making one time changes for those with specific needs. UDL provides a framework to think about embedding long term changes across the curriculum so that all people no matter their backgrounds can engage and access learning.

Why Design For Learning?

UDL approach places the learner and their learning at the centre of each learning design and makes us think about how learning interactions can run more efficiently. The curriculum should enable learners to reach their potential.

The UDL framework:

The UDL framework is based upon three principles aligned with research on neuroscience of learning:

  • Providing multiple means of engagement: the why of learning.
  • Providing multiple means of representation: the what of learning.
  • Providing multiple means of action and expression: the how of learning.
Universal Design for Learning Guidelines
Universal Design for Learning Guidelines – Click to view more information

In practice the UDL framework is about providing options for learning interactions to students on how learning resources can be accessed, how learning objectives can be reached and how they can demonstrate their learning. The UDL framework can be used to address any challenges by breaking down learner interactions into manageable pieces.

So what can I do now?

Planning for diversity needs to be considered holistically in the context of the curriculum. The UDL framework provides three central principles with which to ask questions about how the curriculum is enabling learning for everyone.  Applying UDL thinking at a programme level is a practical way to move toward co-ordinated inclusive provision. Building in more options and flexibility will reduce the need for individual accommodations.

In practice this could include:

  • Offering students different ways to complete their assessed work and demonstrate learning.
  • Allowing the use of different formats, including digital for presenting ideas.
  • Providing another means for students to interact with each other.
  • Setting goals to provide clear expectations.
  • Utilising flexible learning environments.

In moving forward with UDL initially it can be as simple as looking at providing one more means of interacting with a learning scenario. These additions embedded across the curriculum will empower students to choose how they are going to learn, present their ideas and demonstrate their learning.

Principles of Inclusivity

The principles of inclusivity give further context to applying UDL and links to examples on how UDL can be enabled at Teesside University.

For further advice please contact LTE@tees.ac.uk

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