Students benefit when a curriculum is designed to be delivered in a variety of methods which can be adapted according to individual learning goals, styles, needs, and types of learners. Without customizable learning experiences, students are forced to struggle as they work at the pace the educator chooses, rather than their own. When a student’s education is personalized, they are better engaged, and academic achievement usually increases.
Encouraging students to take an interest in their education is crucial as it has beneficial outcomes for their grit and academic achievements. In their paper “Personalized Education to Increase Interest”, Reber, et al, detail study after study discussing this educational truth. UDL builds on personalized curriculum and extends it to the presentation and expression of education, to describe a truly personalized education. It incorporates many educational best practices, including cognitive load theory, educational scaffolding, active learning, and diagnostic assessment to determine fundamental skill gaps and strengths.
The benefits of Universal Design for Learning are numerous, including improved learner motivation, increased engagement in the learning process, greater understanding of material, increased self-direction in acquiring knowledge, improved collaboration among peers, better critical thinking skills as well as enhanced problem-solving abilities. Ultimately, UDL encourages educators to customize their instructional methods based on individual student needs for a more inclusive education system.
UDL seeks to create an environment of inclusion by utilizing flexible learning environments, curriculum, instructional methods, and technologies that are accessible to all students regardless of their learning styles or abilities. UDL utilizes graphic organizers and concrete suggestions to help teachers design their lessons in a way that accommodates different types of learners, from expert learners to beginners. By utilizing UDL strategies, teachers can provide meaningful learning experiences for each student, as well as cultivate an inclusive classroom environment where everyone feels supported. Incorporating UDL principles into instruction is a key step toward helping every student reach their maximum potential in the classroom.
In addition to its applications in the general student population, UDL offers the best set of guiding principles for teaching students with disabilities and special education needs, and is in fact specifically identified in The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990. UDL helps people with disabilities, as well as English language learners and other student populations with specific academic needs. The Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning notes that instruction should be “designed with consideration for appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulations, and use regardless of a student’s body size, posture, mobility, and communication needs.”