Critical Elements of UDL Instruction

 Universal Design for Learning (UDL) represents a paradigm shift in education that has the potential to improve outcomes for a broad range of learners. The UDL-IRN  working with the Michigan Integrated Technology Supports (MITS) and in collaboration with CAST has identified four critical elements intended to serve as a foundation for UDL implementation and research. Educators aligning instruction to UDL must minimally include each of the four critical elements shown below.

1.  Clear Goals 

  • Goals and desired outcomes of the lesson/unit are aligned to the established content standards. 
  • Goals are clearly defined and separate from means. They allow multiple paths/options for achievement. 
  • Teachers have a clear understanding of the goal(s) of the lesson and specific learner outcomes.
  • Goals address the needs of every learner, are communicated in ways that are understandable to each learner and can be expressed by them.

2.  Intentional Planning for Learner Variability

  • Intentional proactive planning that recognizes every learner is unique and that meeting the needs of learners in the margins - from challenged to most advanced - will likely benefit everyone.
  • Addressing learner strengths and weaknesses, considering variables such as perceptual ability, language ability, background knowledge, cognitive strategies and motivation.
  • Anticipates the need for options, methods, materials and other resources - including personnel - to provide adequate support and scaffolding. 
  • Maintains the rigor of the lesson - for all learners - by planning efforts (1) that embed necessary supports and (2) reduce unnecessary barriers.

3.  Flexible Methods & Materials

  • Teachers use a variety of media and methods to present information and content.
  • A variety of methods are used to engage learners (e.g., provide choice, address student interest) and promote their ability to monitor their own learning (e.g. goal setting, self-assessment and reflection). 
  • Learners use a variety of media and methods to demonstrate their knowledge.

4.  Timely Progress Monitoring

  • Formative assessments are frequent and timely enough to plan/redirect instruction and support intended outcomes.
  • A variety of formative and summative assessments (e.g. projects, oral tests, written tests) are used by the learner to demonstrate knowledge and skill. 
  • Frequent opportunities exist for teacher reflection and new understandings.

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