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UDL Flowchart – Moving Beyond Choice

Katie Novak
Katie Novak
January 17, 2019

Provide multiple means of engagement. Provide multiple means of representation. Provide multiple means of action and expression. At a glance, it is easy to interpret the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for what they are: offering options to students. It seems like a simple feat.

But offering choice is just skimming the surface of full-scaled UDL implementation. When UDL is done well, its efforts result in expert learners: students who are purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgable, strategic and goal directed. When you examine this – the end goal of UDL – it’s clear that you will need to go far beyond offering choice in order to fully implement UDL in your classroom.

At its heart, UDL is a standards-based framework. This means if your students don’t meet a standard – whether that standard is a content standard or methods standard – then you haven’t done enough to remove barriers to learning in your lesson design.

UDL isn’t a framework you can implement overnight. It takes time, patience, and continued practice to eliminate academic, behavioral, and social emotional barriers that prevent all students from learning at high levels. Even the most experienced teachers can sometimes struggle with universally designing learning experiences, but that’s okay. Struggle isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re sustaining effort and persistence as you work toward a goal that matters. Sometimes, like students, educators need the option to access scaffolds, rubrics (see the UDL Progression Rubric), exemplars, and graphic organizers to help self-assess, monitor progress, and set goals for continuous improvement. That is what this UDL flowchart is here for. It’s a visual that helps you to imagine what a lesson would look like if you eliminated all barriers to student learning. Now, of course you may be implementing aspects of the framework all the time. But if you’re looking where to grow, consider this tool as your map to UDL-topia.

When you design a learning experience, and you want to determine if you have in fact, considered all the barriers that prevent students from learning, take a moment to look over the UDL flowchart. Have you addressed how you will provide options for motivation, ensure there are options for students to sustain persistence, and help students cope when things get difficult? Have you provided a variety of materials and supports to assist students with comprehension? Have you allowed students to take ownership of their education and choose the way that they express to you what they have learned as they work toward a standard? And finally, have your students met or exceeded that standard or goal?

It’s a lot to think about, no doubt, and we’d love to hear your feedback on how the tool helps you get closer to universally designing your lesson plans at an expert teacher level and determine where barriers may be that are preventing full implementation of universally designed principles in your classroom. And don’t get discouraged. I promise you that when I was first universally designing lessons, I didn’t even get past the first step, but it gave me something to shoot for. You got this!

UDL Flowchart

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