IDEA 2004 and the No Child Left Behind legislation has turned a spotlight on that fact that standard curricula does, indeed, leave some learners behind. This has opened the necessary doors to a general acceptance that not all children learn in the same way, including learning disabled as well as non-disabled students.
Curriculum, using the language of UDL has the four components of instructional goals, methods by which these instructional goals will be met, materials to be used in the process of achieving the instructional goals, and some form of assessment to determine whether the goals have been met.
Universal Design for Learning is based on a framework that implements flexibility in the teaching and assessment of educational curricula. Acknowledging that students learn through different learning styles and preferences, the model promotes multiple means of representing the material to be learned, multiple means of student expression of what she or he has learned, and multiple means of engagement that motivate and appropriately challenge the different skills sets that are part of being an individual learner.
Interestingly enough, the concepts and the language of UDL was actually inspired by the universal design movement in architecture! The idea of the movement was to design and construct buildings and homes (as well as other products) in such a way that they include and accommodate the widest spectrum of people who will choose to buy or use the building or product. Following that line of thought, UDL bases itself on the idea that any particular curriculum should be designed so as to attract and accommodate the widest spectrum of learners.
In 2006, about 25 education and disability organizations in the United States formed the National Universal Design for Learning Taskforce to investigate this idea more thoroughly, and to raise awareness about UDL in general. The list of organizations includes the National School Boards Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Easter Seals, the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and the National Association of the Blind.
A number of books have been published on the subject of Universal Design for Learning. These include:
• Learning to Read in the Digital Age (1998) by Anne Meyer and David H. Rose. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
• Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning (2002) by David H. Rose & Anne Meyer, with Nicole Strangman and Gabrielle Rappolt. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision & Curriculum Development;
• The Universally Designed Classroom: Accessible Curriculum and Digital Technologies (2005), edited by David H. Rose, Anne Meyer, and Chuck Hitchcock. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
• A Practical Reader in Universal Design for Learning (2006), edited by David H. Rose and Anne Meyer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.