Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) layers brain-based, research-backed teaching and learning strategies onto the architectural principles of Universal Design (UD) to enable learners to reach their educational goals more efficiently and effectively, whether or not they need or officially request an accommodation.

Why UDL?

Students encounter a variety of barriers to achieving their educational goals. UDL enables us to identify and reduce many learning barriers, including physical, emotional, intellectual, and socio-economic challenges, as well as challenges caused by athletics or work schedules, family obligations, distance, learning a new language, lack of technology, or unreliable internet access. By proactively addressing the variability of our students’ diverse abilities, cultural expectations, and prior knowledge, UDL makes learning more accessible, thus creating a more equitable environment that is highly engaging and inherently inclusive. Therefore, it features prominently in the Schreyer Institute’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives.

UDL Framework

The UDL Framework, developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), proposes that we provide students with multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression. Each of these three UDL Principles corresponds to an area of the brain as identified by CAST’s cognitive neuroscientists.

UDL Principles aligned with areas of the brain. Engagement/Affective Networks. Representation/Recognition Networks. Action & Expression/Strategic Networks.Source: CAST https://udlguidelines.cast.org/more/about-graphic-organizer

The guidelines within the framework present specific, evidence-based teaching and learning strategies that activate those parts of the brain to foster deep learning. Implementing these strategies advances the goal of UDL, which is to enable students to become expert learners by providing them with multiple ways to become purposeful & motivated, resourceful & knowledgeable, and strategic & goal-directed learners (CAST 2018).

Learn More

UDL Team – Fall 2021

UDL at Penn State

In the spring of 2017, Schreyer Institute Faculty Consultant Dr. Mary Ann Tobin met with Keith Jervis, the former Executive Director of Student Disability Resources. Based on a shared interest in UDL, they brought together like-minded individuals to form the UDL Team. The goal of the UDL Team is to raise awareness of the framework, teach others about it, and increase its implementation in teaching and learning contexts across the university. The team created a Schreyer Institute short course on the topic, Teach to Reach: Maximizing Learning for All Students, which welcomed its inaugural participants in Fall 2018. This collaboration between the Schreyer Institute, Student Disability Resources, World Campus, and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), is a four-week, non-credit, limited-enrollment, online course that is open to faculty of any rank or status, teaching assistants, post-doctoral instructors, and members of the learning design community. Participants are invited to apply the UDL Framework to their teaching and learning context, with the option of submitting a project for review and feedback. The best of these projects are shared in future courses and workshops. Currently, we are designing on an introductory UDL course that is co-sponsored by the Schreyer Institute and World Campus Faculty Development.

Contact Us

To learn more about UDL, our courses, or to invite the UDL Team to present for your department or committee meeting, contact Mary Ann Tobin at matobin@psu.edu.