Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that aims to support students of all levels of ability with effectively learning curriculum material.

This framework can be implemented into learning institutions of all kinds and its efficacy revolves around three principles. It is important because it aims to remove barriers to education for all students in order for all students to be successful in a learning institution.

UDL Guidelines (developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology)

  1. Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge
  2. Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternative ways to demonstrate what they know
  3. Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately and motivate them to learn

Strategies to Implement Universal Design

Syllabi contain important information such as exam and assignment deadlines, learning objectives, grade calculations, attendance, participation and course expectations. These allow students to have and know the expectations for their course. Syllabi can also include an accessibility statement, with resources to access the Disability Services Office. This encourages students to make an appointment with their professors to discuss accommodations they may need.

The Center for Teaching Excellence encourages one to put this statement on one’s syllabus:

Students with documented disabilities and learning differences who are registered with Disability Services are required to present their accommodation letter to the instructor at the beginning of each semester, or as soon as possible thereafter. Students are encouraged to contact or meet with the instructor to discuss how accommodations can support them in meeting the course learning objectives. Any student who has, or thinks they may have, a physical, learning, or psychological disability may contact Disability Services at accessibility@oxy.edu to learn about available services and support. More information is available at /disability-services.

Having clear objectives for homework, readings, class meetings, or other study materials allows students to effectively prepare for class, to take notes, and to organize their ideas. While this is important for everyone, it is especially important for students with learning differences that make traditional note-taking difficult.

For a reading:

A template that identifies the main ideas and takeaways along with important vocabulary. It may also include a section to put evidence and analysis in the students' own words. These templates can then be used in class when debriefing the reading. For example:

  • Identify definitions for each of the three central concepts (X, Y, Z)
  • Explain in your own words the argument made on page X

For homework/problem sets:

In directions about homework/problem sets, remind students of main concepts that the problems relate to by indicating the class the notes were taken in and the section of the textbook the problems relate to. For example:

  • Focus on the application of the process studied in class on DATE
  • Take notes on section X and do problems from section X

Class meetings:

An agenda on the board for each class meeting that indicates the main points and important takeaways or topics covered can help students organize their notes and understand how the material fits together. For example:

  1. Recap from last time: CONTENT
  2. Understanding stigma
  3. Applying X’s theory of stigma to Y.
  4. Assignment for next time

Feedback is provided to students when professors grade and comment on their work. These comments should increase students confidence and encourage their work ethic. Giving growth mindset feedback will motivate students to develop their skills and work.

Tips on how to word feedback:

  • As a professor, try and relate back to your college experience and share your growth story: your own struggles and how you overcame them.
  • Give students the opportunity to self reflect on their work and learning.
  • Praise quality of work but also work ethic, attitude and effort
  • Use “yet” to state that students have do not have the skills but they are able to attain them
  • Give a positive reflection of a student’s work, followed by ways to improve.
  • Ask your students questions that allows them to reflect on their work.

Examples of feedback:

  • “What is something you can improve on next time?”
  • “How can you improve the accuracy of X, Y, Z…?”
  • “You can be more specific about X, Y, Z, here…”
  • “What is the aim of this paragraph?”
  • “You should expand on X, Y, Z”

Find additional reading on growth mindset.

Students’ performance on assessments like tests, papers, and other assignments, and direct forms of feedback like course evaluations and mid-semester feedback, can provide valuable information on how to better support their success.

Tips on how to use student feedback:

  • If the majority of a class gets test questions wrong, it is advised to throw out that question or reflect on how you can better teach that topic.
  • At the middle and end of the course, provide an anonymous survey of questions about what was beneficial in the class and what was not.
  • Use feedback to change your class or teaching styles to better help your students learn in future classes.

Tincani, Matt. “Improving Outcomes for College Students with Disabilities: Ten Strategies for Instructors.” College Teaching 52, no. 4 (2004): 128–32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27559200.

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Spring 2024 Office Hours

Mondays: 2-3pm
Thursdays: 2-3pm
Michelle Obergfoll
Director of Disability Services & Student Support