Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Giant Step Forward?

It continues to confound me how few educators have heard of Universal Design of Learning (UDL) principles which promote student success and competence. Even earlier today, Lisa Parisi and I were discussing the lack of UDL awareness in education circles and how surprised we both are by this fact. Sometimes I wonder if it's because the term is typically (and erroneously) connected to special education and assistive technology. If it is connected to special education, do general educators believe it's an educational concept they do not need to understand? If that is the case, we need to correct the misconception.

And then I read this....

"A Monumental Step Towards Promoting UDL for All" (via the Assistive Technology Blog)

The post described what feels like a watershed moment, a recent event at the National Education Association's main headquarters. The NEA sponsored a symposium entitled Universal Design for Learning and Inclusive Practices with over 200 participants in attendance.
Symposium participants heard from experts who presented information on best practices and highlighted the most recent developments in UDL theory and implementation. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage with those on the leading edge of research and program development. In addition to gaining a greater understanding of how to create inclusive schools, participants walked away with a framework for promoting UDL and developing policies in their own organizations at the national, state and local levels. They also screened the award winning documentary, Including Samuel, which examines the educational and social inclusion of youth with disabilities.
Is this the breakthrough that we have been waiting for? Looking at the list of sponsors (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Federation of Teachers, The ARC, CAST, Council of Chief State School Officers, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, IDEA Partnership, Institute for Educational Leadership, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Down Syndrome Society, and the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Center at George Mason University), I am hopeful.

UDL principles are not an afterthought. When curriculum is designed well, multiple methods of presentation, engagement and expression are embedded throughout the instruction and learning. UDL reinforces the fact that one size does not fit all. I do believe many educators acknowledge that reality. It's the application that remains challenging.

If that is the case, excellent resources are available here, here, here, here, and here.

Be a part of what Lily Eskelsen, VP of the NEA calls "a deliberate design for success."


assistivetek said...

Hi Karen

Lets hope that there is a movement to understand the importance of UDL in the classroom so that each and every child can be successful in school

Thanks for raising our consciousness abut UDL


Cynthia Overton said...

Great post! I'm hopeful that educators are becoming more familiar with UDL and beginning to implement UDL principles into instruction. Here is another link on UDL guidelines to add to your great list of resources:

Also, reference to UDL was added to the reauthorization of Higher Education Opportunity Act last year, so hopefully, more pre-service teachers will learn about UDL in their training.

Keep spreading the word Karen, and I'll do the same!


Deloris said...

Hello Karen,
I am a former special education teacher and now I am a Technology Resource Teacher. I am sharing the information regarding UDL with my all of the teachers in my district.
I am also going to share information about UDL at the Virginia Educational Technology Conference.
I will do my best to inform the administrators and teachers about UDL and make them aware that it is for all students.

Thanks for the AWESOME post!

Karen Janowski said...


Fantastic that there are more and more of us preaching the news about UDL. I hope your presentation goes well.
Please share the Free UDL Tech Toolkit wiki as a resource they can draw from. (
Thank you for your comments!

Anonymous said...

I am desperately looking to attend a worthwhile conference around UDL this year - or at least one with some of the focus in this area. Anyone have any suggestions? Attending in Canada or the US would be fine...