Remote/Digital Learning · UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Redefining “Barriers” with Attention to Intention

markus-winkler-LNzuOK1GxRU-unsplash.jpgDr. Katie Novak has always reminded us that Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is about “firm goals, flexible means.”  When we combine that with the content standards, we begin to see how we can provide choice that does not disintegrate into chaos, choice where we spend a lot of time worrying about whether all choices are “equal” or not, because all choices are flexible on the means, but firm on the goals.

A teacher in one of my graduate classes wrote the following reflection, where I believe he captures some of the most critical questions to consider in choice and in UDL:

I feel that UDL is a great lens to look through. Now, when I am designing a project or an activity, I think about:

  • Is this assignment accessible to all of my students?

  • Should I use a hyperdoc, with links that provide them with all of the resources they need?

  • How could I make this assignment more accessible to students? Have I given them choices in how they are going to respond?

  • Have I really thought this through? What is the optimum way that I can put some of these new resources into play, to provide a meaningful experience for students?

  • What is my plan for providing feedback, and how can I involve students in the process of learning and monitoring their own learning?


We also talk a lot in UDL about barriers–identifying, removing, eliminating barriers.  I was brought up short when one of my “god-sisters” (the wife of one of my godparents’ daughters) shared the following on Facebook:


This is something we will need to be aware of, as educators thinking carefully about how to use our power and roles to identify and dismantle barriers.  One of those barriers is implicit bias, which exists also in the learning experiences many students had during distance learning.  We must challenge ourselves to think beyond the barriers of struggles with reading, with text decoding, with attention, with numeracy, with self-confidence.  We are both blessed and challenged to live in a time where we can take on barriers beyond the academics.


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