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California Technical Assistance and Training

Universal Design For Learning

December 2015

Compiled by: Kevin Schaefer and Debra Herburger


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum and instruction development that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn, provides flexible learning approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs, with the mindset of creating instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that work for varied learners. UDL is based on the premise that proactive planning to decrease barriers lessens the need for retrofitting, therefore enhancing the opportunities for positive student outcomes.


UDL principles provide a proactive lesson planning blueprint for creating instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs, including English Learners, advanced learners, students with disabilities (see Priority Area: Individualized Education Programs [IEP]), etc. to address the wide variability of learners in all classrooms. When UDL is applied at the foundational level of a tiered system of instruction (see Priority Areas: Multi-Tiered System of Supports [MTSS] and Response to Instruction and Intervention [RtI2]) all students can become engaged and learn regardless of content area, grade level, instructional paradigm program (see Priority Area: Collaborative Practices), or level of student proficiency.

Key Aspects:

As our classrooms become filled with greater student diversity and with increased emphasis on standards and accountability, educators face challenges to maximize learning for every student. UDL offers malleable methods and materials that support learner diversity as an integral component to improve and accelerate student learning.

The diversity of student learning can be addressed by utilizing the following central tenets of UDL to guide instruction:

  1. Multiple Means of Engagement – a variety of forms of the learning task are used to maintain student interest based on cultural and background knowledge, interests, skill level, and learning preferences.
  2. Multiple Means of Representation—materials are presented in a variety of formats with careful attention to ensure accessibility for all students.
  3. Multiple Means of Action and Expression—an array of modes are used to solicit and maintain students’ understanding of skills and content.


There are a multitude of resources and tools to deepen understanding and support the implementation of UDL principles in the classroom. The following is a list of Web sites that offer information and materials to get started.

  1. UDL Principles and Practice
    National Center on UDL Director David Rose explains how UDL helps meet the most pressing issues facing educators today. Drawing on brain research and the latest learning sciences, Dr. Rose describes the three UDL principles and what they mean for classroom practice.
  2. For more videos from the National Center on UDL, visit the Screening Room:

  3. Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) – The Web site includes a just released electronic book, Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice free with login and learning tools such as UDL Studio, UDL Exchange, UDL Book Builder, UDL Toolkit, and CAST Science Writer for students, teachers, and parents. In addition, the site houses videos to learn more about UDL and what it looks like in the classroom.
  4. Maryland Learning Links – Maryland Learning Links was developed and produced by Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education, Early Intervention Services in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, Center for Technology in Education.
  5. National Center on Universal Design for Learning – The Resource Library offers rich resources in a variety of media to improve understanding of UDL – the basics, advocacy, implementation, research, and community. The Center offers videos, articles, books, presentations, and links to promote its effective use.
  6. CAST and the National Center on AIM Videos – CAST and the National Center on AIM have posted a suite of videos to illustrate what UDL looks like in the classroom, recent updates, and changes in UDL guidelines.