Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is defined as “a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn” (National Center on Universal Design for Learning, http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl). UDL is broken down to three main learning networks:
- Affective Networks (engagement)
- Recognition Networks (perception/understanding)
- Strategic Networks (output/expression)
All three networks work together to help us learn. The purpose of UDL is to design curriculum and instruction in a way that allows for multiple means of engagement with the subject matter, multiple modes of engagement and multiple ways to express mastery of content.
Emotions–such as fear, anxiety and joy–effect our mind’s engagement in the learning process. Some people might be motivated to learn from the fear of failure; others from the enjoyment the subject matter brings. Without proper motivation or engagement, learning becomes next to impossible. UDL is designed to target multiple means of engagement to help all students learn the knowledge and skills associated with curriculum.
Most of us recognize stimuli through five senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing & taste. Recognizing and processing information happens through different senses for different people depending on what is being learned. Some people will learn information better from direct instruction; others from graphic organizers or other visual representations; others recognize information by a combination of stimuli. UDL takes multiple means of recognition into account when designing and implementing curricula.
Strategy in this contexts refers to the brain’s ability to plan and execute tasks. Some people demonstrate content knowledge and mastery through writing; others through oral presentations; and others in visual representations, 3-D models, or a combination of ways. Some students preform best on tests with only multiple choice answers; other students preform best with essay questions; and some students preform best with a mixed method for answering questions. UDL allows individuals to express mastery of curriculum content through ways their brain can execute best.