#63 – Accelerate Learning With Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning

Unpacking Education October 27, 2021 28 min

As we face increasing disruption to our routines of living and learning, the conversation about access to learning has become more prominent across the US. In today’s episode, we explore how educators can provide inclusive and innovative solutions to help students navigate their personal pathways to learning.

We begin by addressing the following question: How can we provide students with multiple means of engagement? We discuss a common lesson design issue where teachers are instructed to create lessons for the average student. But does the average student really exist? Join us as we answer this question and explore Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

For the purpose of this conversation around UDL, we reference the definition from CAST, whose mission is to transform education design and practice until learning has no limits: “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning…” The goal is to make learning accessible to all students by offering multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. It’s important to note that CAST is in the process of updating their guidelines through an initiative called “Rising to Equity.” This is an effort to continue using research to help design and implement inclusive learning environments.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

…The most common approach to curriculum design is to address the needs of the so-called ‘average student.’ Of course this average student is a myth, a statistical artifact not corresponding to any actual individual. But because so much of the curriculum and teaching methods employed in most schools are based on the needs of this mythical average student, they are also laden with inadvertent and unnecessary barriers to learning.

Anne Meyer, David H. Rose, and David Gordon, authors of Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Incorporating UDL in Your Lesson Development

UDL provides a framework to help educators create content and materials that work for all learners. When designing a lesson, you need to include instructions, materials, and resources that are absolutely essential for some students, beneficial to some students, and not detrimental to any students. For example, closed captions may be necessary for some students, might benefit others, and are not detrimental to any.

In our conversation today, we look at three main components of UDL:

  • Provide multiple means of engagement—the Why of Learning.
  • Provide multiple means of representation—the What of Learning.
  • Provide multiple means of action and expression—the How of Learning.

Join us as we explore the following questions to share practical strategies and tools that you can use to provide your students with multiple on-ramps to access their learning:

  • How can we provide students with multiple means of engagement?
  • How do we offer customized and varied ways of presenting content to students?
  • How do we help develop vocabulary and promote understanding across languages?
  • How do we improve comprehension by activating background knowledge, providing strategies, and maximizing transfer?
  • How do we offer students multiple ways to express themselves and communicate?
  • How do we help students manage their learning through goal setting, managing materials, and monitoring progress?

Extend Your Learning