What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL) ?

What is UDL?

What is UDL in education?


‘Universal Design for Learning’ (UDL) is a framework incorporating a checklist of principles to ensure that curriculum, lessons and classroom resources are designed to cater for the broadest range of learning styles/needs of students.

UDL now has momentum in mainstream education in Australia. It will most likely underpin and inform how curriculum writers write curriculum and how teachers plan for classroom teaching long into the future.



Minds Wide Open & UDL

1.       Our classroom resources – that is, the materials and media that the students will interact with – are based on the principles of Universal Design. Our innovative resources cover a large variety of mediums to make it possible for more students to access more of the learning and to engage more with the lessons. Therefore, our resources makes it easier for teachers to teach in the UDL way. (Communicating the link between MWO classroom resources and UDL criteria could be attractive for principals who are deciding which resources they want to spend their money on.)

2.       Implementing UDL in schools requires teachers to design or customise their own teaching programs so as to better meet their students’ unique learning styles and needs. To do this, teachers will not only need knowledge of the UDL framework and principles but the know-how to apply Design Thinking in their planning for teaching. To that end, teachers will need training and scaffolding in the design thinking process. Our professional learning courses help teachers to understand and apply the design thinking process - which they can then use as they create UDL-framed lessons, units and programs. A further benefit is that this knowledge of the design thinking process can then be passed onto their students to use in their own life and learning.

Principles of Universal Design as applied to the design of classroom resources

·         Design Principle 1: The content of the learning materials/ environments must be perceivable to all learners

·         Design Principle 2: The content of the learning materials / environments must be operable by all learners

·         Design Principle 3: The content of the learning materials / environments must be understandable to all learners

·         Design Principle 4: The content of the learning materials/ environments must be robust for all learners


The goal of education in the 21st century is not simply the mastery of content knowledge or use of new technologies. It is the mastery of the learning process. Education should help turn novice learners into expert learners—individuals who want to learn, who know how to learn strategically, and who, in their own highly individual and flexible ways, are well prepared for a lifetime of learning.


Every school in Australia has legal obligations and responsibilities under Federal legislation such as the Disability Standards for Education (2005) to ensure that all learners with or without a disability are able to participate in learning on the same basis. To ensure that all learners are able to participate in learning on the ‘same basis’may involve the school taking reasonable steps to ensure that any adjustments required are made within a reasonable time. It is important to note that making these reasonable adjustments should not be confused with differentiating the curriculum.

Since the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and the Disability Standards for Education (2005), the shape of what constitutes a modern classroom has changed and continues to evolve. While there is greater use of ICT in these evolving digital learning environments, the potential of ICT to support a broad range of learner needs, is unrealised in many cases due to low levels of understanding of the technology, how learners process and respond to information when they interact with technology, and what this means from a learning design perspective.

In light of these changes and the move towards a national implementation of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, the aim of this article is to examine:

  1. What does compliance with legislative requirements look like in a modern school where much of the learning occurs in a blended learning environment or even totally online?

  2. How do schools take proactive strategies rather than a reactive response approach to reasonable adjustment?

  3. How do proactive strategies model criteria of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers? In particular, Professional Standards: 2.2, 2.6, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 and 4.1.

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