Universal Design for Learning:
An Introduction
PowerPoint Slides
to be used in conjunction
with the
Facilitator’s Guide
Copyright © 2011, East Carolina University.
Recommended citation:
Metcalf, D. (2011). Universal design for learning: An
introduction – A PowerPoint presentation for professional
development. Modules Addressing Special Education and
Teacher Education (MAST). Greenville, NC: East Carolina
This resource includes contributions from the module
developer and MAST Module Project colleagues (in
alphabetical order) Kelly Henderson (Facilitator Guide Editor),
Tanner Jones (Web Designer), Diane Kester (Editor), Sue
Byrd Steinweg (Project Director), Bradley Baggett (Graduate
Assistant), and Sandra Hopfengardner Warren (Principal
Session Agenda
Session Goal and Objectives
Background on Universal Design
Seven Principles of Universal Design
Introduction to Universal Design for
Learning (UDL)
Session Agenda, continued
Brain-Based systems and UDL
3 Principles of UDL
UDL and Technology Tools
UDL and Differentiated Instruction
“We are no longer in Kansas, Toto…”
-Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
• Play the video at
media/faces.html .
Introduction, continued
The Problem
• If a teacher who retired even thirty years
ago stepped into today’s public school
classroom, he or she would be amazed
by the student diversity.
• Today’s 21st century classroom may be
similar to the one described by Ms.
Jones’--it is more likely the norm rather
than the exception.
Introduction, continued
• Students come to school with a variety of
abilities and disabilities, cultural customs
and beliefs, & learning preferences.
– Collectively, students speak more than 100
– Family, economic, and home situations vary
Introduction, continued
• Our beliefs about the appreciation and
value of individual differences in our
country, which are reflected in legislative
mandates, tell us that all students must
have access to the general curriculum.
Introduction, continued
• This diversity highlights the need for the
implementation of curricular frameworks
in today’s schools that foster
inclusionary instructional practices to
reach and teach every student.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
offers such a promising structure.
Session Goal and Objectives
• The goal of this session is to look at how
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) offers
a promising framework for teachers
planning for 21st century learners.
• It will explain for UDL has evolved, what it
is, and how it can be used to create
positive, flexible options for students.
Session Objectives, continued
Session Objectives:
1. Define the term UDL and trace its origins.
2. Describe the three basic principles of UDL
and give classroom examples of each.
3. Explain how technology tools increase
flexibility in a UDL environment.
4. Compare the principles of UDL and
differentiated instruction.
5. List the benefits of providing flexible options
for students.
Background on Universal Design
• “About twenty years ago, I remember
teaching students over the noise of
construction in my school. Construction
workers were ‘retrofitting’ our elementary
school. They were lowering the water
fountains so students in wheelchairs
could access them. Doorways to
restrooms were also being enlarged and
wheelchair ramps put in place. (continued)
Background on Universal Design,
This was a direct result of Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) that had recently
been signed. This important civil rights
legislation significantly helped people with
disabilities access public buildings,
transportation, communication,
employment, and more.” (Debbie Metcalf, 2010)
Background on Universal Design,
• You may remember these changes
• If not, you see examples of this type of
accessible design every day.
• Perhaps you take them for granted?
Background on Universal Design,
• Think about curb cuts for wheelchairs,
switches that are pressed to open
doors, and speakerphones.
• These physical changes benefitted a
wide variety of users, including people
with disabilities.
Background on Universal Design.
• The term universal design:
– Was coined in architecture and product
development by Ron Mace, an architect
who happened to have a physical
impairment, at the Center for Universal
Design in Raleigh, NC; and
– Was created to advocate for ‘up front’
planning that would allow accessibility for all
to buildings, work, and products.
Background on Universal Design,
• Mace recognized that even though the
initial costs may be higher, money and
time would be saved in the long run
because structures/products/spaces would
not need to be retrofitted.
Background on Universal Design,
• Curb cuts, closed captioned television,
and other physical/product adaptations
were designed up front to help people
with disabilities, many other people
have also benefitted.
• UDL asks that we apply similar
principles to learning in our schools.
Activity- Background on
Universal Design
• Watch the video at
b/media/field_trip.html of a student-led
field trip around the education building
at our university; pay attention to the
examples of universal design.
7 Principles of Universal Design
The 7 principles of universal design apply
across settings. Examples of the principles
as they apply to classrooms and other
learning environments are noted:
7 Principles of Universal Design,
1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and
marketable to people with diverse abilities.
An example of equitable use is a classroom
website that can be accessed at home, in a
hospital, or another location for students
who can’t be in class. Also, if speech-totext capabilities are added, students with
low vision or reading difficulties can access
the information auditorly.
7 Principles of Universal Design,
2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates
a wide range of individual preferences and
In a classroom, there might be scissors for both
left- and right-handed students and choices in
writing instruments. If taking a field trip to a
museum, students can click a switch to hear or
see an explanation of an exhibit. Sometimes
they can even manipulate the display.
7 Principles of Universal Design,
3. Simple and Intuitive Use: Use of the design
is easy to understand, regardless of the
user's experience, knowledge, language
skills, or current concentration level.
In a classroom, items might be labeled with
pictures/symbols/words for access. A
computer program that adjusts for ability
levels is another example.
7 Principles of Universal Design,
4. Perceptible Information: The design
communicates necessary information
effectively to the user, regardless of ambient
conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
Examples are adding closed caption to a video
or having step by step activity directions
recorded on an MP3 player to go along with
the written directions on a card or chart.
7 Principles of Universal Design,
5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes
hazards and the adverse consequences of
accidental or unintended actions. An
example is computer software that guides the
user when they make an incorrect response.
It might even provide some review or
background information on the material
presented if needed.
7 Principles of Universal Design,
6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used
efficiently, comfortably, and with a minimum of
fatigue. A portable or enlarged computer
keyboard might help someone with fine motor
difficulty express an answer more efficiently
and comfortably.
7 Principles of Universal Design,
7. Size and Space for Approach and Use:
Appropriate size and space is provided for
approach, reach, manipulation, and use
regardless of user's body size, posture, or
mobility. All students can all reach necessary
materials and tools. Table and chair heights
may be adjusted. There is enough room for a
wheelchair to navigate in the classroom if
Introduction to Universal Design
for Learning
• Beginning in 1984, researchers at the
Center for Applied Special Technology
(CAST) have led to the development of
the blueprint for Universal Design for
Learning (UDL).
• CAST has applied the principles of
universal design to learning for
individuals who learn differently with the
goal of increasing opportunities for all
students in today’s schools.
Universal Design for Learning,
• This work has benefited many more
learners than just those with disabilities.
• The ongoing work of this nonprofit
organization impacts staff development,
educational products, legislative policies,
and more. Funded in part by the U.S.
Office of Special Education Programs.
• CAST’s website: http://www.cast.org/
Brain-based Systems and UDL
• UDL reflects and supports findings from
neurological research
• Principles are based on a three-part
framework of brain systems, each of which
represents different functions and spatiality
in the brain.
– Recognition system- gathers and receives
information (the what of learning). Can occur
through sight, sound, touch, and/or movement.
Requires attention, memory and perception.
Brain-based Systems and UDL,
– Strategic system- organizes this information
and plans how to use or express it to express
our own ideas; the how of learning.
– Affective system- considers how emotional
reactions to experiences affect learning;
sometimes referred to as the social side of
learning. Research suggests this system drives
the learner’s attention and, therefore, memory
and meaning. It is the motivation or the why of
Activity- Brain-based Systems & UDL
• Learn more about these three brain-based
learning systems. Watch David Rose,
Chief Scientist at the Center for Applied
Special Technology (CAST), a nonprofit
research and development organization for
UDL applications to expand learning
opportunities for individuals, at
3 Principles of Universal Designs
for Learning
3 principles correlate to the brain systems:
Principle 1. Multiple means of
representation is the what of teaching
and learning. It refers to activating the
recognition system in the brain by giving
learners various ways of gaining
information and knowledge.
3 Principles of UDL, continued
Principle 2: Multiple means of
expression is the how of learning. The
activation of the strategic system of the
brain allows students to organize and
utilize information they have received to
show what they know.
3 Principles of UDL, continued
Principle 3: Multiple means of
engagement is the why of teaching and
learning. This utilizes the affective brain
system by tapping into learners’
interests, challenging them appropriately,
and motivating them to learn.
Activity- 3 Principles of UDL
Let’s break the
principles down further.
Watch the video at
entation.html about Multiple
Means of Representation,
which gives learners
various ways of acquiring
information and knowledge.
Activity- 3 principles, continued
Watch the video at
ment.html about Multiple
Means of Engagement,
which taps into learners'
interests, challenges them
appropriately, and motivates
them to learn.
Activity- 3 principles, continued
Watch the video at
sion.html about Multiple
Means of Expression, which
provides learners
alternatives for
demonstrating what they
UDL and Technology Tools
Technology tools:
• can increase the flexibility of UDL
environments as teachers strive to adjust
learning to meet the needs of diverse
• can help all learners access the curriculum
by doing this;
Technology Tools, continued
• Can be ‘high-tech‘ or ‘low-tech’:
– A ‘high-tech’ solution typically involves a
computer or has computer parts.
• For reading- a digital recording of a textbook or a
worksheet scanned and read aloud by a computer.
• For writing, a talking word processor, word prediction
software, talking dictionary, and/or modified keyboard
– ‘Low-tech’ solutions use simpler technology.
• Slanted writing boards, adapted pencil grips, specialized
lined paper, tape recorders, and/or printed labels with
essential vocabulary.
Technology Tools, continued
• Technology increases the flexibility
across the three principles.
Technology Tools, continued
• In small groups, review websites about
assistive technologies. Explore the sites
and report back to the large group at least
two resources and identify their low- or
high-technology features:
• http://www.abilityhub.com/
• http://www.disabilityresources.org/AT.html
• http://www.assistivetechnologies.com/
UDL & Differentiated Instruction
• UDL and differentiated instruction
support each other.
• Planning begins with the learner in mind.
• Both approaches assess individual
learner strengths and needs up front
when charting instruction.
UDL & Differentiated Instruction,
• Prior knowledge, abilities, interests, and
learner preferences are used to plan
lessons that can be flexible enough to
challenge each learner.
• Instructional time is maximized for each
UDL Principles
Differentiated Instruction
Multiple Means of Representation
Presenting, receiving, interpreting
information/concepts; adapting for
learner needs. The what of learning.
Content – What the teacher plans
to teach.
Multiple Means of Engagement
Increasing participation, adjusting for
student interests and cultural
backgrounds, adjusting the
environment to allow for flexible
grouping and access to materials/
technology. The why of learning.
Process – Why the teacher
chooses a particular method,
strategy, or approach to teach
content/skills to a given set of
learners. (How students will
participate and how all are
Multiple Means of Expression
How students respond to information
presented and express what they
know. The how of learning.
Product – How the students will be
Adapted from: Gargiulo, R. and Metcalf, D. (2010). Teaching in today’s classrooms: A universal design for
learning approach. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Activity- Differentiated Instruction
• Hold small group/table discussions on
portions of the article:
– Stanford, B. & Reeves, S. (2008). Making it
happen: Using differentiated instruction,
retrofit framework and universal design for
learning, Teaching Exceptional Children,
5(6), 1-9.
• Just as Universal Design in architecture
has benefited all people with access to
public buildings and products, Universal
Design for Learning makes learning
accessible to all by applying similar basic
Summary, continued
• UDL takes the best practices of
teaching, including differentiated
instruction, and offers a framework that
can help teachers plan more effectively
from the start so they don’t have to
“retrofit” their lessons after a problem
Summary, continued
• In UDL settings, teachers assess their
individual learners to determine
strengths, interests, and needs. This
information is then used to consider
multiple ways of presenting content,
engaging learners, and giving
responses/showing what they know.
• The infusion of technology tools and
collaboration increases this flexibility.
Summary, continued
• This module has provided a basic
introduction to UDL concepts and
application in the classroom.
• Three additional modules in this series
go into more depth to support planning
and delivery of instruction to students
with a wide range of learning styles –
including those with significant cognitive
disabilities in the adapted curriculum.
Application and Extension Activities
This reflective activity may help to extend
information and you to think about
application of principles of UDL by
considering their own strengths and
Application and Extension
Activities, continued
• Step 1: Complete the Brain systems
activity at:
Application and Extension
Activities, continued
• Step 2: Take a multiple intelligences
quiz (based on Howard Gardner’s work)
such as the one provided at:
Application and Extension
Activities, continued
• Step 3: Reflect on the findings and
decide if you agree or disagree with
what these activities suggest. If you
agree, how might this tool be useful in
designing learning for students?
Application and Extension
Activities, continued
• Step 4: Think about your own learning.
Using the three essential qualities of
Universal Design for Learning, what
modes of representation, engagement,
and expression have worked best for
you? Think of at least one example for
each quality.
Focus and Reflection Questions
1. Interview someone who was working in a
public building before 1990. What
changes have they seen over the years?
If they do not immediately respond with
changes related to the Americans with
Disabilities Act and universal design, you
may need to ask more specific questions
about how people get into the building
and use the facilities within the building.
Focus and Reflection Questions,
2. Find examples of universal design in your
own environment. Consider one or more
of the work, daily activity, or home
environments and find examples of
universal design within the environment.
How do these architectural and product
adaptations, that were designed to meet
the needs of individuals with disabilities,
benefit others?
• A self-assessment with response feedback
is available at
• Participants may take this assessment
online to evaluate their learning about
content presented in this module.
Session Evaluation
• A form for participants to evaluate the
session is available or in the Facilitator’s

UDL intro module Metcalf - East Carolina University