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Learning Theories: Universal Design for Learning [UDL]

What is UDL?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences.[1]

Recognizing that the way individuals learn can be unique, the UDL framework, first defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology(CAST) in the 1990s,[2] calls for creating curriculum from the outset that provides:

  • Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
  • Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
  • Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.[3][4]

Curriculum, as defined in the UDL literature, has four parts: instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments.[5] UDL is intended to increase access to learning by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers to learning, as well as other obstacles. UDL principles also lend themselves to implementing inclusionary practices in the classroom.

[from Wikipedia – Click here to go to the Wikipedia page.]

Constructivist or Connectivist or what?

four learning types

I’m finding the UDL idea to fall much more with Cognitivist, even more than Constructivist. It is still relying on the teacher to form the learning artifacts – and it pushes teachers to think beyond the lecture and texts to more visual and even auditory methods.

Is there a place for it?

I do like UDL, and think that the theory and the activities of it are well placed to help very many institutions of learning move beyond Behaviourism. Keeping the learning artifacts and the methods of assessment diverse and able to cover the skills, background and interests of the learners is key.

Yes, I’m still in love with Connectivism and Networked Learning… but there is a strong place for UDL within institutes not wanting to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and not wanting to radically transform education on every level like the Connectivists.


UDL would be my recommendation to those looking to take a first step into newer levels of learning and engagement.


-~Authenticity, Creativity, Community~- - eLearning Consultant & Trainer & Superhero - User Interface & Course specialist for Moodle & Totara LMS - I also enjoy researching into the Humanities - esp Cultural Studies, the Arts&Crafts Movement, and Medieval Guilds - warning: my hair colour changes a lot -

3 thoughts on “Learning Theories: Universal Design for Learning [UDL]

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