by Rynette R. Kjesbo, M.S., CCC-SLP
When someone gives you directions to the nearest grocery
store, do you understand the directions best when they tell
you how to get there, draw you a map, or show you how to
get there by driving you? Learning styles vary from person
to person. Using flexible materials and teaching strategies
customized and adapted to the needs of individual students
can give all individuals (regardless of their abilities,
backgrounds, and motivations) opportunities to learn.
In the 1990s, researchers defined a set of principles for
developing curriculum to accommodate differences in
the way that individuals learn. This set of principles called
“Universal Design for Learning” (UDL) gives all individuals
equal access to learning. There are three main principles of UDL:
We must provide learners with various ways to gain information and knowledge.
In the example above about getting directions to the grocery store, some people
learn best when they hear information, while others learn best when they see new
things or do new things. Present concepts and ideas in different ways. Try
using role plays, videos, charts, hands-on activities, manipulatives, multimedia
presentations, visual aids, music, apps, educational software, etc.
We must provide learners with various ways to demonstrate their knowledge.
Not everyone is able to pass a written test with flying colors. Instead of always
giving written assessments, allow students to demonstrate their knowledge
in different ways. Try using oral exams, presentations, charts, work portfolios,
peer reviews, rubrics, etc.
We must provide various ways to engage, challenge, and motivate students to learn.
If students are bored or not interested in the information being
presented, or if they are not motivated to learn, then they are less likely to learn.
Likewise, when students love learning, they are less likely to give up when
challenges arise. Try using different rewards. Allow students to make choices
about what and how they learn as well as set goals for themselves.
Learning is not a “one-size-fits-all” activity. Even for the “average” student, learning can
sometimes be a challenge. By taking into consideration the three principles of UDL when
working with students, learning can become less stressful and more enjoyable.
National Center on Universal Design for Learning, http://www.udlcenter.org/