What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

By Amanda Morin

At a glance

  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) gives all students an equal opportunity to succeed.

  • This approach to teaching and learning offers flexibility in the ways students access material and show what they know.

  • UDL also looks for different ways to keep students motivated.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to teaching and learning that gives all students equal opportunity to succeed.

To understand what UDL is, it helps to understand what it’s not. The word universal may throw you off. It may sound like UDL is about finding one way to teach all students. But UDL actually takes the opposite approach.

The goal of UDL is to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning. It’s about building in flexibility that can be adjusted for every person’s strengths and needs. That’s why UDL benefits all learners.

This approach to teaching or to workplace training doesn’t specifically target people who learn and think differently. But it can be especially helpful for the 1 in 5 kids and adults with these challenges — including those who have not been formally diagnosed. It can also be very helpful for English language learners.

Watch this video to see what UDL looks like in a fifth-grade classroom.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ace Parsi, MPP is the personalized learning partnership manager at NCLD.