You might kind of know the definition of Universal Design of Learning (see here) or you might fully grasp the UDL framework but have trouble explaining it to your students or colleagues. Well, trust us - you are not alone. Which is why I am excited to share an analogy to help explain the difference between UDL and a one-size-fits-all approach.
Mr. UDL's Busy Market
Why does everybody shop at his store?” Ms. Oneway wonders as she stares across the street at Mr. UDL’s busy market. Always they come, walking by her store entrance where she sits complacently behind the counter. And always they go, crossing the street to Mr. UDL’s store.
Ms. Oneway doesn’t know that Mr. UDL has a secret.
Mr. UDL is hard at work long before the shoppers come. He researches upcoming holidays and events. He takes the time to connect with and get to know the people that live in the neighborhood. He works to understand what the shoppers are interested in.
Then, once the shoppers are in the area, he recruits their interest with signs in multiple languages that appeal to them, and questions on his marquee that create curiosity, and decorations that honor their identity and culture. Music plays from the shoppe windows. Customers love to request their favorite songs.
There are many ways into Mr. UDL’s shop. A short set of stairs providing a direct route to the door, a wide path that accommodates wheelchairs and strollers. There is even a place to park near a side entrance for those who really need it.
As the customers enter Mr. UDL, greets them with a welcoming smile. He quickly learns the names of his repeat customers and they share updates on happenings since their last meeting.
Once inside there are many options for the customers. They have many choices, allowing them to select the product that best suits them. They are easily able to make sense of what they need and what is available to them. And, if he doesn’t have it, he allows the shoppers to order what they need directly from him on the spot.
When it is time to pay, Mr. UDL provides for many methods of payment, cash, credit, debit, PayPal, Venmo, bitcoin, you name it!
Mr. UDL believes the customer is always right. He always asks the customers to reflect on their experience so that he can be better prepared to support them when they come back next.
Back across the street Ms. Oneway sits at the counter near the register where she only accepts cash, behind the single door entrance, at the top of the steps to her shop that only sells a textbook and a test, wondering why everyone wants to shop at Mr. UDL’s busy market.
Mr. UDL has another secret.
This story is not at all about shops across the street from each other, but about classrooms across the hall from each other and the teachers within them.
It’s time for you to learn more about UDL!
- Explore online courses (we recommend starting with UDL Now!)
- Get certified in Universal Design for Learning
- Review UDL resources
- Find the right professional learning opportunity for you and your team