Universal Design for Learning and Differentiated Instruction: Compatible Approaches
How do Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Differentiated Instruction (DI) complement each other? How do they differ? These questions are commonly heard at UDL Institutes.
In fact, the two approaches are very compatible and share the same essential goal of helping all students, including those with disabilities, learn to high standards. They emphasize many of the same practical aims (Hall, Strangman, & Meyer, 2003), such as:
- Meet individual needs rather than force students to bend to an inflexible curriculum;
- Give all students access to the same high-quality content and instruction;
- Create highly supported, engaging learning environments where knowledge and skills are taught slightly in advance of learners’ current level of mastery (i.e., Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development);
- Provide learners with multiple ways to develop and express knowledge and skills;
- Emphasize critical thinking and strategic learning rather than just facts and figures;
- Assess student progress during learning to enable appropriate instructional adjustments.
Still, there are a few significant differences in UDL and DI, mostly regarding when and how to address learner diversity. Differentiated Instruction suggests a framework for modifying or adapting curriculum in response to learner needs or preferences as they are identified during instruction. By contrast, a UDL curriculum:
- Addresses learner diversity at the point of curriculum design—including curricular goals, methods, materials, and assessments—to anticipate the great variety of learner needs, preferences, and styles found in today’s classrooms;
- Builds the tools and methods of differentiation right into the curriculum, giving teachers “on demand” access to such resources and options rather than requiring their development during instruction;
- Provides learners with the tools to become more self-aware and in charge of their learning rather than having to rely exclusively on teachers to make modifications.
We know that individual learners have diverse needs, styles, and preferences. Why not design a curriculum from the outset that celebrates that diversity and optimizes learning for all?
Hall, T., Strangman, N., & Meyer, A. (2003). Differentiated instruction and implications for UDL implementation. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. Retrieved August 22, 2007 from the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A., (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal Design for Learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Tomlinson, C. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Author: CAST, Inc. Copyright 2007. Used with permission.
Universal Design for Learning Basics (UDL)
Success for All Learners: Principles of Universal Design for Learning
a four-part series by Carol Seibert
Carol defines Universal Design for Learning and describes what it looks like in the classroom. Includes many resources for further study and implementation. To see examples of these principles in practice, go to the Lessons below. Then evaluate and adapt your own lessons to create success for ALL learners!