5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Phillip Schlechty (2011) theorized that the highest levels of learner engagement require learners' full attention and commitment. While some learners may exhibit "ritual compliance," simply meeting minimum expectations without true investment, educators strive to cultivate a deeper level of engagement. Building on Schlechty's (2011) framework, which emphasizes both attention and commitment, the goal is to guide learners toward a state of high engagement where they are actively involved and deeply invested in the learning process.

Learner engagement is paramount to learning. When learners are engaged, they are not passively receiving information but actively participating in the learning process through asking questions, making connections, and applying what they have learned. This deeper involvement leads to better understanding and retention. Educators can design a curriculum and learning environment that effectively cultivates both affect and cognition by providing Multiple Means of Engagement,

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Imagine that you have noticed a gradual decline in student engagement and participation as an educator. To create a dynamic learning environment, you are ready to modify your approach with a few new strategies:

Learner Profiles: Using a learner profile can be an effective way to understand the interests, strengths, challenges, preferences, and needs of your learners. This knowledge can help you design a curriculum that is engaging and tailored to their needs, and ultimately help them grow as learners.

Relevance: Making learning relevant and culturally responsive is an essential aspect of education. When educational materials lack relevance and fail to resonate with learners' cultural backgrounds, engagement becomes challenging. Aligning the curriculum with students' diverse perspectives cultivates active participation and advanced cognitive skills. For example, are there ways to connect math problems to student interests? Do you provide materials and resources that offer different perspectives? Are there opportunities to connect student’s native languages and backgrounds to learning?

Flexible Options: Providing learners with autonomy and choice leads to increased engagement. Find ways to give learners flexible content, materials, and assessment options. For example, can learners have options for learning content through digital and printed materials? Can learners have options for how they demonstrate their understanding or skills? Do learners have helpful scaffolds and supports such as templates, video tutorials, hyperlinks, speech-to-text technology, etc.?

Learner-Centered Approach: A learner-centered approach prioritizes student ownership of their learning, shifting from a teacher-centered approach. This approach fosters autonomy and gives students a deeper role in the educational process, which leads to increased engagement and a more meaningful learning experience. Teachers can act as guides to students by providing them with personalized support they need to succeed.

Social Emotional Learning: Teaching Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills can help learners handle learning challenges, manage emotions, develop relationships, and collaborate effectively with others.


Engaged learners are motivated and interested in the topic because they are curious, eager to learn more, and willing to put effort into the required material. In addition, research consistently shows a positive correlation between learner engagement and academic achievement because engaged learners perform better on tests, have higher grades, and are more likely to graduate. We can make a tremendous impact by providing learners with options for engaging in learning and in the learning environment. 

Matt Bergman (2024)

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5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Phillip Schlechty (2011) theorized that the highest levels of learner engagement require learners' full attention and commitment. While ...