Questions to Ponder for Effective Lesson Plans

Universal Design for Learning or UDL is not a new concept. In fact it's been around for quite awhile. Developed by CAST , it evolved out of the idea developed by the late Ron Mace from North Carolina State University. Mace pioneered the idea of Universal Design in architecture. Instead of making accommodations for disabled individuals after the fact, why not design a building from the beginning with these considerations already made? It's cheaper and makes more sense. For instance, if you take a trip to your local mall, you walk through automatic doors, which are helpful to people who don't want to open doors, pushing strollers, or navigating a wheelchair.

In the same way, accommodations should be made to our curriculum before students with or without different learning challenges enter our classrooms. According the UDL, curriculum should be flexible, so that students can access it and it does not become a barrier. What makes it even more challenging is, that the way we learn is as different as our DNA, finger prints, and social security numbers!

"UDL focuses educators on developing flexible curricula that provide students with multiple ways of accessing content, multiple means for expressing what they learn, and multiple pathways for engaging their interest and motivation. This, in turn, allows teachers a multidimensional view of their students as learners, and offers teachers unique insights into assessing student’s knowledge, interest, and understanding (Howard, 2004)."

In other words, we should think about the way that we represent material within our lessons. By tapping into our student's senses and learning styles, we create authentic learning experiences. We should also think about the way we have our students express what they have learned, which often motivates and recruits the interests of our students. Although not always possible, it may be plausible.

So what do I want to leave you with? Well, as you are designing your lessons, think about the following questions as stated by Howard (2004): 

1.  What is the basic idea that the students need to learn?
2. What are different ways to learn this idea: demonstration? games?  shared experience?
3.  If there is reading involved, do they have to read it by themselves, or can they use other tools and strategies to get the information?

When you think about assessing your students:

4.  Is a test the best way to find out whether students learned the information?
5.  In what different ways can students show their understanding? Which will be meaningful for them?

For more information on Universal Design for Learning, check out:


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