Case Study of a UDL Revision: Study Guides for Math Assessments

What does it look like when you bring the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines to bear on your work?  Here’s a case study from my own practice.

Revision of Study Guides

My colleague and I have been providing study guides for all students for our major assessments for a few years now.  We have revised the format a little each year, such as adding the checkboxes for the 2016-2017 school year, but we knew they needed more work.  Here is an example of a “Before” version:

The Before:  EE CSA Study Guide Level Two

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 1.41.53 PMWhat’s good here?  To begin with, it’s a good thing that we have a study guide at all and that we offer it to all students, without exception or labeling!

Within the study guide, we offer a list of topics to help students identify the areas of need (3.2 Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships).  We offer options for students to work through the different choices (7.1 Optimize choice and autonomy).  We give this a week in advance and assign it for homework and give an in-class review day (6.1 Guide appropriate goal-setting; 6.2 Support planning and strategy development).

So, it’s not all bad, but this particular structure is not great either.  What could we do better?

The After:  EE Module Assessment #1 Study Guide

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 1.43.49 PM

Here is the new and improved, about-to-be-rolled-out-in-2017-2018 version.  The content of the study guide has stayed the same.  The fact that we give it to all students as a resource has stayed the same.  The checkboxes are still there.  But the changes are clear.

We started by making the visual organization far more varied and appealing (1.1 Offer ways of customizing the display of information), while also using the icons on the side as a way to highlight the purpose of each section of the study guide–topics, work to complete, etc. (3.3 Guide information processing, visualization, and manipulation; 6.3 Facilitate managing information and resources).

We included an explicit reflection option–while we had always felt that we were implying that the students should be reflecting on their progress towards being fully prepared for their major Assessments, we hadn’t actually stated that as part of our study guide (6.4 Enhance capacity for monitoring progress; 9.3 Develop self-assessment and reflection).

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 1.44.01 PM

Finally, we added an “Extend” section with options for extension work in addition to or in lieu of the core work (5.3 Build fluencies with graduated levels of support for practice; 7.2 Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity; 8.2 Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge; 9.1 Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation).  The Extend option is available to all students, as is the study guide itself–our work as teachers in a Universally Designed classroom is to make choices available to all students and to support them in choosing and reflecting on their choices, not choosing for them.


It can be overwhelming to learn about Universal Design for Learning…..sometimes, it feels like we have to throw away everything we have done before and start from scratch.  I present this “Case Study” as evidence of the fact that you can often use what you already have and you can revise it, rather than throwing it all out.  Once you revise the study guide for one Module or Unit, you can use the same format for your other Modules, creating a ripple effect that builds a foundation of UDL practice with only a few, simple changes.




  • As always, my thanks to Irene Witt, colleague extraordinaire, for always pushing me to look for ways to improve our shared practice.
  • Thanks to Julie Spang, our district’s Technology Specialist, for getting me hooked on these visuals.
  • Thanks to HyperDocs for making these templates online, even if we didn’t use them as designed.