Universal Design for Learning: Culturally Responsive UDL in Teacher Education

Universal Design for Learning: Culturally Responsive UDL in Teacher Education

James Cressey
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1770-3.ch008
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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for curriculum and instructional planning through which educators can maximize accessibility and minimize barriers that are often experienced by learners. Culturally responsive practices strengthen and complement UDL by framing accessibility as an equity goal and prompting educators to examine ableism, racism, and other structural inequities. Teacher educators are in a unique position to introduce UDL to future elementary teachers and support them in developing inclusive pedagogical methods early on in their careers. Education technology tools are used within UDL to make curriculum materials more accessible and engaging. In this chapter, the UDL framework will be described along with culturally responsive applications within elementary teacher education.
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What is universal design for learning, and how did it originate? Prior to their application in the field of education, universal design principles were developed in the 1970s and 1980s to improve accessibility and accommodations for persons with disabilities in a wide range of contexts, the most well-known being in architecture. Instead of adding a ramp for wheelchair users, a new building might be constructed with a wide, smooth, ground-level entryway that accommodates people walking, using a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, or using a scooter. Universal design for learning was developed in order to expand these concepts and practices of accessibility into classroom and learning applications. At the start of the 21st century, a set of principles and guidelines for UDL was introduced by the Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST) and the National Center for Universal Design for Learning (Rose, Meyer, Strangman, & Rappolt, 2002). With input from researchers and K-12 educators, the UDL guidelines are intended to be applied with all students, including those with and without disabilities. The most recently updated version of the UDL guidelines (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014) is organized around three core principles, with nine numbered guidelines, and thirty-one specific checkpoints, as listed below:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Personal Learning Network (PLN): An informal system of connectivity to other people, through social and technological means, designed and curated for the purposes of learning and sharing information.

Multiple Means for Engagement: Providing options for how learners can be motivated to learn and engage with learning experiences (the “why” of learning).

Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA): Current federal special education law ensuring accommodations and services for children with disabilities in the United States.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS): Framework of supports for academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs of all students, with increasing levels of individualization and intensity based on student needs.

Multiple Means for Action and Expression: Providing options for how learners navigate a learning environment and express what they know (the “how” of learning).

Assistive Technology: Technology tools designed to help individuals with disabilities to learn, communicate, and perform other important life functions with greater independence.

Multiple Means of Representation: Providing options for learners to perceive and comprehend information (the “what” of learning).

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL): The attainment of knowledge and skills related to emotional awareness and regulation, empathy, relationships, and decision-making.

Individualized Education Program (IEP): Document prepared yearly by multi-disciplinary team for a student with a disability, stating present levels of functioning, accommodations, modifications, goals, objectives, special education and related services, and other required components.

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