Universal Design for Education (UDE)

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Universal Design for Education (UDE)

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The following guidelines are copied directly from Universal Design in Education (Dartmouth):

Culture, Context, and Connection

  • Identify your students’ needs. Any universally designed course is based on your present awareness of student needs. Provide a private way for students to express both their needs and underlying motivations for taking the course as you’re getting to know them.
  • Identify and remove barriers in your course. With student input, continually identify potential barriers to student learning within your course, and remediate as needed.
  • Create a community within your course. Create opportunities for both peer-peer and peer-teacher interactions within your course. By doing so, you allow students to create a success network in your class, support one another in their learning, and be exposed to multiple perspectives.

Course Design and Teaching

  • Design with a curiosity for differences in mind. Consider what individual differences exist among your students, and design your course with those differences in mind. Differences may be cultural, perceptive (e.g. reading, seeing, and hearing), or experience-based, among other categories.
  • Articulate learning outcomes for the course. Creating explicit learning outcomes can help to bridge potential achievement gaps among students, and help students guide their learning and measure their progress along the way.
  • Seek to organize and simplify your course. Both cognitive load and potential distractors within your course can serve as unintentional barriers to student learning.
  • Present information in multiple ways. For example, offer students a choice between an article, video, or podcast on a given topic. Consider issues related to the accessibility of your materials from the start.
  • Engage your students and their motivations in multiple ways. Motivation is a key component to all learning experiences, and what motivates students varies from one to the next. Consider ways to identify and engage this variety of student motivations within your course assignment and activities.
  • Assess students in multiple and varied ways. The form of assessments in your course shouldn’t prevent a student from demonstrating their understanding. Co-create assessment plans with your students to assess in both equitable and individualized ways.
  • Provide scaffolds throughout your course. Students will come into your course at different levels and with different needs. This will impact how they engage with an activity or assessment. Consider how you can anticipate a variety of student needs and levels within your course, and offer a variety of different pathways and supports for their learning.

Iteration and Improvement

  • Start with small changes toward more universal design, and iterate over time. Updating materials or a single activity is a great place to start. 
  • Ask for feedback from your students. It’s important to know whether your designs and interventions are helping your students in the ways that you intend, and ways that they find helpful.

UDE Pros:

  • Integrates elements of equity practice into the universal design model, through emphasizing culture and context.
  • Addresses the iterative nature of universal design and the need for continued evaluation through peer feedback.
  • Relatively simple model for guidance.

UDE Cons:

  • Lacks specific strategies for putting universal design into practice.

UDE Resources

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