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Centre for Teaching & Learning

Centre for Teaching & Learning

Universal Design for Learning


Universal Design for Learning: Framework to Broaden Access to Education for ALL Learners 

Providing high quality education is a matter of social justice, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an innovative framework that supports all learners – regardless of socioeconomic, cultural, gender, language, cognitive, physical, and emotional background – by providing exceptional, rigorous learning opportunities. UDL proactively infuses opportunities for learners to overcome barriers and ensure that learning has no limits.

Connecting UDL and Social Justice 

  • Universal Design for Learning looks to make the learning environment as flexible and accommodating as possible for ALL learners. 
  • Appropriate supports and services look at the specific barriers an individual learner may face in whatever environments they find themselves. 
  • Together they provide a means to insure the access, participation & progress of ALL learners

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to curriculum and teaching that provides equal opportunities for learning to all students. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 includes a concise definition of UDL that emphasizes reducing barriers while providing appropriate supports without compromising rigor.

The term ‘Universal Design for Learning’ represents an empirically supported framework for guiding educational practice that:

  1. Provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and
  2. Reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for ALL students, not only students with disabilities. 

The National Center on Universal Design for Learning (2018) presents UDL as an educational approach with three primary principles:

  1. Multiple means of engagement, Affective Networks: The WHY of learning
  2. Multiple means of representation, Recognition Networks: The WHAT of learning
  3. Multiple means of action and expression, Strategic Networks: The HOW of learning

These guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.

Universal Design for Learning and Good Practices in Education 

UDL can help facilitate the inclusion of Chickering and Gamson’s principles for good practices in education.

Good practice in undergraduate education:

  1. Encourages contacts between students and faculty.
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
  3. Uses active learning techniques.
  4. Gives prompt feedback.
  5. Emphasizes time on task.
  6. Communicates high expectations.
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.


Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, March, 1987. 3-7. 
National Center on Universal Design for Learning (2014). What is Universal Design for Learning? Retrieved from: http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl


Robyne Hanley-Dafoe