Universal Design for Learning Literature Review


Where are we going? After a movitational set and introduction, I hope to convince you to implement Universal Design for Learning in your teaching.

The following Flipz character is an audio presentation of the text below.

Cancer has affected all of us.  It is one of the scariest words in our world.  If we had a choice between working with a doctor to prevent cancer and working with a doctor to cure cancer, I have no doubt in my mind that we would all gladly work for prevention.

Failure has also affected all of us.  For our learners, it is the scariest word in their world yet it is one of the most often used "motivators", if not consciously by their teachers, then unconsciously by themselves.  If they had a choice between working with a teacher to prevent failure and working with a teacher to cure failure, which do you think they would choose?  Universal Design for Learning works to prevent failure and is something all educators can do.  Sadly, Special Education works to cure failure, not to prevent it as learners must first fail.  We all have limited time and energy.  Where are you going to spend yours, on an agreeable prevention or a disagreeable cure?

From surveying the other literature reviews done, I am aware that my classmates are interested in a wide range of topics including ADHD, assistive technology, autism, FASD, inclusion, language acquisition, paraeducators, reading, and resiliency. Whatever your particular interest is, I hope that you will consider Universal Design for Learning because it is based in brain research and no matter who you are teaching, we all use our brains to learn and all our brains are capable of learning.

Three generations of learners; myself, my son, and my grandson.

My name is Nancy Carswell. As I have been learning my way towards a Special Education Certificate, I have become passionate about the potential of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Thomas Skrtc's video in EPSE 500, The History and Philosophy of Special Education, persuaded me that the education system could not be reformed as it is based in an Industrial Age mentality. Teachers are essentially workers on an assembly line organized by grade with the final product being a Grade 12 graduate.

From my experience on a real assembly line building electrical fans, I know that the uniformity of parts is essential. My air drill had a star shaped head. If I had been given square shaped screws, I could not do my job. This is Skrtc's argument. The teaching profession preservice is largely based on the "average" star shaped head. When we get into a classroom with diverse shapes, we cannot do our job because we do not have the right tools or skills. UDL gives us the right tools and skills to prepare for diversity in our classroom by radically using that very diversity as a design principle.

By consistenly striving to implement Universal Design for Learning, we not only grow to value diversity in our learners, we can also make schools happier places by expelling that scary word "failure".

My Lit Review was based on three questions:

  1. What has UDL learned from brain research and how does this apply to designing curricula to meet diverse learning needs?
  2. Is there any current evidence to suggest that instructional designers who deliberately or intuitively use UDL for their online course development meet diverse learning needs?
  3. Are there any opponents to UDL? If so, are their concerns legitimate or might they be motivated to maintain the status quo?

I have chosen asynchronous online delivery for this workshop. This removes the barriers of time and geography from your learning.

Path A
This workshop will lead you through a summary of these or you can click on this link.

  1. Brain Research and its Application for Designing Curricula
  2. Effectiveness of UDL in Online Learning Environments
  3. Opponents of UDL
  4. Reflection and References

Path B
Begin to read a key UDL resource, Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning. It is hosted by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and written by CAST co-founders David Rose and Anne Meyers. Or, if you prefer the book, it is for sale at amazon.ca.

Path C
Follow Path A then Path B, or, if you prefer, Path B then Path A.

Next Research

Overview | Research | Effectiveness | Proponents | Reflection