December 5, 2017

Universal Design in Instruction

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) is an educational, not-for-profit organization that uses technology to expand opportunities for all people, especially those with disabilities. One of their initiative is to promote the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

This is a paradigm for teaching, learning, and assessment, drawing on brain research and new media technologies to respond to individual learner differences. Universal design for instruction and learning embraces three general principles.

These are:

  1. To support recognition learning by providing multiple, flexible methods of presentation
  2. To support strategic learning by providing multiple, flexible methods of expression and apprenticeship
  3. To support affective learning by providing multiple, flexible options for engagement

These share one common recommendation: to provide students with a variety of options for accessingusing, and engaging with learning materials. Like universal design in architecture, these alternatives reduce barriers for individuals with disabilities but also enhance opportunities for every student.

On campus, the CSU Accessibility by design website provides additional resources for faculty who wish to implement Universal Design into their courses.

Principles of Universal Design

The following Principles of Universal Design for Instruction have been developed by individuals from the University of Connecticut (by Sally S. Scott, Joan McGuire, Stan Shaw, and Teresa Foley) from the basic principles of Universal Design developed by North Carolina State University.

Principle 1: Equitable Use

Definition: Instruction is designed to be useful to and accessible by people with diverse abilities. Provide the same means of use for all students; identical whenever possible, equivalent when not.

Examples: Web-based courseware products (i.e., notes, syllabus, office hours, chat rooms) and links to online support and resources are accessible to all students (Contact the Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) for more information about web-based accessible instruction methods.)

Principle 2: Flexibility in Use

Definition: Instruction is designed to accommodate a wide range of individual abilities. Provide choice in methods of use.

Examples: Choice of assessment methods (i.e., taking an exam, writing a paper, conducting an online project)

Principle 3: Simple and intuitive

Definition: Instruction is designed in a straightforward and predictable manner, regardless of the student’s experience, knowledge, langauge skills, or current concentration level. Eliminate unnecessary complexity.

Examples: Straightforward and predictable manner in delivery; selection of course related material (i.e., well-organized text with study questions; chapter outlines; key vocabulary); grading rubric, clearly lays out expectations; syllabus is comprehensive and accurate; handbook guiding students through difficult homework assignments.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information

Definition: Instruction is designed so that necessary information is communicated effectively to the student, regardless of ambient conditions or the student’s sensory abilities.

Examples: Hard copy and alternative format copies (e.g., digital); multiple modes of instruction.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error

Definition: Instruction anticipates variation in individual student learning pace and prerequisite skills.

Examples: Additional instructional resources for skill building; extra practice (e.g., on-line), specific steps for completing course project, with options of turning in an assignment in segments for feedback.

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort

Definition: Instruction is designed to minimize the nonessential physical effort in order to allow maximum attention to learning. NOTE: This principle does not apply when physical effort is integral to essential requirements or fundamental nature of the course.

Examples: Use of word processor for exams; text in an accessible format (e.g., digital or auditory).

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Definition: Instruction is designed with consideration for appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulations use regardless of a student’s body size, posture, mobility, and communication needs.

Examples: Arrange chairs in circles; adjustable equipment (i.e., lab tools, tables, work surfaces, handles on doors and cabinets); physical layout.

Principle 8: A Community of Learners

Definition: The instructional environment promotes interaction and communication among student and between students and faculty.

Examples: Promotes interaction and communication (i.e., office hours on-line and in person), one-on-one meetings, learning student names, recognize excellent performance, deliberate approach to foster communication (i.e., collaborative groups, discussion groups, e-mail lists, discussion boards).

Principle 9: Instructional Climate

Definition: Instruction is designed to be welcoming and inclusive. High expectations are espoused for all students.

Examples: Create a welcoming and inclusive environment with respect for diversity, modeled by the faculty; syllabus statement; communication of high expectations for achievement (i.e., contact students when there are excessive absences or low test scores).