Differentiation Professional Learning Universal Design for Learning

What is Universal Design for Learning?

What is Universal Design for Learning?A few years ago we were approached by our principal to take “that” class. You know, the class that makes teachers retire? The deal was that we would take “that” class with some extra support from a consultant to teach us the ins and outs of Universal Design for Learning. We said the same thing you’re thinking. What is Universal Design for Learning?  In our heads we were thinking, We don’t have time to learn another thing. Neither do you. That’s why you need to learn about this.

What UDL isn’t.

It is not a program, a quick fix or a make-work-typical-professional-development curriculum that you have to learn and try to implement with little to no support.

What UDL is.

It is a set of guiding principals that will take what you already know about teaching and refine your skills to better proactively plan, teach and assess ALL your students. Universal Design for Learning is based in brain research. It looks at how the brain interacts with information.

Multiple means of representation: HOW you teach.

This is the recognition area of the brain or how a student takes in information.

Multiple means of action and expression: WHAT students have learned.

This is the strategic area of the brain.  This includes how a student organizes, synthesizes and shares what they have learned or can do.

Multiple means of engagement: WHY they will want and be able to learn.

This is the affective area of the brain or how they maintain engagement, emotionally regulate and endure through challenges.

Don’t worry, there is not going to be a quiz today.  This is just an introduction. So, how do you do this?  Well, that is the best part.  There is no hard and fast rule about what to do.  First you need to decide if UDL is right for you and your classroom by answering these questions:

  • Do you teach students?
  • Are your students individuals?
  • Do you want your students to be successful?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, UDL is for you. So, let us take you on a journey. We’re calling it the #UDLChallenge and don’t worry.  It is not going to make MORE work for you. We will post more information about UDL and give you a specific challenge to try in your classroom. All you have to do is give it a try and then comment about how it went.  You can use the hashtag on social media and invite your colleagues and teacher friends to join you.  You can do the challenges in any order you want and you can take as much time as you need.  We will be here to cheer you on and offer support in any way we can.

Here is the first #UDLchallenge:

Learn something new about UDL and then comment on this post to let us know what you learned. Let us know which WAY you learned about UDL.


You can read a book about it (or part of a book).  We recommend Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age by David H. Rose, Anne Meyer, Nicole Strangman and Gabrielle Rappolt or Teaching to Diversity by Jennifer Katz. If you want to continue on the journey, these are great investments.


You can watch a video about it.  Here are a few links to try:

Making Sense of Universal Design for Learning  (4 minutes)
UDL: Reducing Barriers  (3 minutes)
UDL at a Glance (About 5 minutes)
Westglen: K-6 Universal Design for Learning (About 20 minutes)


You can look at this visual representation.  Click on the link to go directly to it (it is copyrighted so we cannot post it directly on the page).

That’s it for now. Be patient. We will help you implement this into your classroom, but first you need just enough background information to be interested. As this series continues, we will be creating a UDL page which will link to all the posts and all the challenges. Don’t forget to write about your success in the comments below and good luck!

Love the Ninjas

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