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Placing Universal Design for Learning at the Heart of Instructional Design

Author: Nicholas Jay Hoekstra

In the September 2021 CIDDL Research and Practice Brief, we interview Dr. Kavita Rao, who is a professor in the Department of special education at the University of Hawaii’s College of Education, about her work around the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and instructional design.

What is this brief about?

In this brief, Dr. Rao discusses the intentional application of the UDL framework as part of a design cycle. By starting with clear goals for each lesson, teachers can better identify the barriers that might arise for their students. Once these barriers are identified, the UDL framework can help teachers consider the methods and materials that will be used to ensure that all students reach their learning goals. Formative and summative assessments, when designed with the UDL framework in mind, can then offer opportunities for students to receive ongoing feedback that will promote their mastery of the content.

It’s not an add-on!

This iterative design cycle means that UDL isn’t an afterthought. Throughout her interview, Dr. Rao emphasizes a proactive approach toward educational design. She explains how UDL can be applied to the design of a standards-based lesson as well as during the implementation of evidence-based practices. In the case of an evidence-based practice, for example, the UDL framework can help a teacher consider how to make the practice more suitable for their environment.

Support rural and remote teachers!

Finally, Dr. Rao discusses how approaching teacher preparation through UDL can meet the needs of teachers in rural and remote settings, or from linguistically diverse backgrounds. It is important to begin by getting to know the unique context within which these teachers work, as the needs of teachers in rural or remote areas may be very distinct from the urban settings where many universities and teacher training programs are located. Then, both synchronous and asynchronous technologies can be applied to support preservice teachers by helping them develop their own learning communities, gaining access to resources, and offering materials in multimedia formats.

Check out this page to review this Brief or click here to download a PDF copy of the Brief. More CIDDL Briefs can be found on the CIDDL Research and Practice Briefs webpage. Please visit our website for more resources and sign up for the updates from CIDDL.