Idea in Practice

By Klotz, Mary Beth | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Idea in Practice


Klotz, Mary Beth, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Universal Design for Learning: A Framework for all Learners

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an innovative approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes research-based instructional practices that guide educators in using new technologies and wholeclassroom methods while personalizing each student's instruction. The use of UDL principles in general education classrooms makes curriculum and instruction accessible and engaging. Curriculum barriers are reduced; learning is supported; students gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning; andtheirlearningis assessed in a more valid way. The three pillars of UDL are multiple means of presentation; multiple means of expression; and multiple means of student engagement. At the federal level, policy makers have incorporated UDL into legislation and initiatives such as the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the National Education Technology Plan, the U.S. Department of Education's blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and the majority of the state ESEA flexibility waivers approved for this year. Similarly, NASP's 2011 comments on the reauthorization of ESEA included recommendations for language specifically addressing a definition of UDL and related general assurances and grants, research opportunities, educational technology, and provisions that reflect UDL principles in the four elements of curriculum (goals, instructional materials, teaching methods, and assessments). In recommending inclusion of response to instruction (RTI) in the ESEA reauthorization, NASP noted how RTI is complemented by UDL because it provides a framework to decrease barriers to learning while maintaining high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.

As a result of inclusion in federal legislation and initiatives, UDL is becoming a more common educational framework within the national policy landscape. States and districts are viewing UDL as a critical part of their reform efforts and incorporating UDL principles with Common Core State Standards into classrooms and schools. A recent two-part study conducted by the National Center on UDL at CAST, "Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Initiatives on the Move," examined UDL implementation at the state and local school district levels. The study included state-level analysis by interviewing state education leaders (typically, state directors of special education), and examined the use of federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funds in 14 states that had UDL in their RTTT applications. Part two ofthe study covered district-level analysis by surveying 134 local special education directors in districts that received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants. …

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