Every learner has favored methods for obtaining, comprehending and retaining information. Some people are auditory learners, some are visual learners, and some are kinesthetic learners – most learn best through a combination of the three. In modern teaching environments, a real effort has been made to implement the Universal Design for Learning. UDL is a plan for teaching which, through the use of technology and adaptable lesson plans, aims to help the maximum number of learners comprehend and retain information by appealing to all learning styles. Though UDL is commonly discussed in relation to teaching those with disabilities, the fact is that UDL principles are applicable and beneficial to all learners. So, how does Universal Design for Learning work, and how does it help all types of learners?
- Presentation Customization – UDL advocates the presentation of information through a variety of means in order to reach the most learners. Instead of simply supplying the learner with a text and expecting them to comprehend the information through reading, educators are encouraged to present information through visual, auditory and hands-on means. When information is presented through text, the text will ideally be interactive and adjustable. Technologies such as e-readers and tablets allow for the presentation of richly interactive texts that can be adjusted in size to make reading easy. Textual presentations are also often accompanied with visual elements that bring the information to life, and present a different method for the learner to comprehend the information. For visual and auditory information, a simple way to enhance customization is to present the information in video or mp3 format, so that learners can comprehend the information at their own pace.
- Auditory and Visual Alternatives – Many people learn best by hearing information, which is why, even though it has been modified and enriched to appeal to more types of learners, the lecture is still staple for any educator. As with texts being accompanied by pictures, graphs, and interactive features in order to make information easier to comprehend and retain, the ideal lecture will present information in multiple ways at the same time. One popular method for lecture enhancement is the use of text-to-speech technology, which allows text information to be presented in a way that appeals to auditory learners. Accompanying a lecture with text-to-speech technology, or integrating a slide-show which presents video, text, charts, and photographs that reinforce information, makes the information presented much easier for the student to learn.
- Background Information and Big Ideas – One of the best ways to enhancing learning is to make the information relevant and interesting to the learner. Instead of presenting information simply as a series of facts, UDL principles call for the educators to connect the information through patterns and big ideas. By providing background information, the educator can show the learner why the information is important, thereby increasing learner engagement and interest. With proper context provided and big-picture reinforcement of information, all learners will be more likely to retain information.
Many Universal Design for Learning concepts may seem obvious or commonplace in the modern educational environment, but that is because they are highly effective. Whether teaching a group of students in a classroom or a workplace seminar, UDL concepts enhance the experience for all learners by making the information taught more understandable. Everyone learns best in different ways, which makes UDL integration a beneficial endeavor for educators of all types of learners.
Image Credit: Giulia Forsythe