Design learning universally

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a philosophy of teaching that presupposes the inclusion of all students and aims to meet the needs of each, by first thinking about the barriers that courses may present and the ways to mitigate them.

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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a philosophy of teaching that presupposes the inclusion of all students and aims to meet the needs of each, by first thinking about the barriers that courses may present and the ways to mitigate them. 

Disabilities diagnosed, unidentified or temporary… all are obstacles available to students for learning. What if we offered to everyone, at all times, diversified means of receiving information, but also of reporting on their skills to promote their commitment? It is one of the foundations of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Mélanie Vermette and Christian Leblanc, respectively assistant director and director of educational services at Collège Durocher-Saint-Lambert, explain to us. 

Thinking about barriers to learning

“Universal design for learning (UCL) is a teaching philosophy, not an educational strategy”, announces Mélanie Vermette at the outset. Indeed, the AUC as a whole presupposes the inclusion of all students and aims to meet the needs of each, by first thinking about the barriers that lessons may present and ways to mitigate them. 

Here is an example of barriers: one morning, the pupils have a long text to read in order to prepare an activity. The length of the text can be a barrier for dyslexic students, but also quite simply for those who are tired or cold. To help all students in such a situation, the teacher could make the text available on a digital platform, which would allow those who so wish to use text-to-speech to facilitate their access. Those who do not need it are not penalized.

Diversify the means of expressing the mastery of a skill

Christian Leblanc gives another example of the AUC in action: when we want to measure the degree of achievement of a competence in a student, imposing a means of expression on him can make it so that he will not succeed in the to prove. And yet, it will not necessarily be because he does not master it, but perhaps because the means to demonstrate it does not suit him. 

Here's an example: Have students present a concept in front of the whole class for 3:30 min. There is both a time barrier and a structural barrier in this task. If the student had instead filmed or presented in front of a small group, he would be quite able to account for his competence. 

It is therefore a question of offering students diversified means of receiving information, but also of reporting on their competence to promote their commitment. It is one of the foundations of the AUC.

Often, Christian Leblanc recalls, the most disabled student in the class is not the one we think. For example, a student who is ill, in mourning or whose parents are separating is not willing to learn like everyone else. The AUC makes it possible to come to consider these temporary handicaps in the same way as those which are identified and diagnosed. In the interview, Mélanie Vermette and Christian Leblanc talk about the conditions for setting it up.

For them, in the end, the most important thing is to create a healthy and safe environment, but also caring, which increases the happiness index of each student. “There is nothing like seeing a student engaged in a task, happy and proud to hand over his work to the teacher,” concludes Mélanie Vermette. And for that, the CUA is the path that institutions like the Durocher-Saint-Lambert College, among others, choose to take.

Also: Teachers in Quebec and French-speaking Canada benefit from CADRE21's free online training on the universal learning design.

Produced with the support of Carrefour Education.

Carrefour éducation

Text by Audrey Miller

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About the Author

Stephanie Dionnehttp://ecolebranchee.com/famille
Stéphanie Dionne is director of development and partnerships, facilitator and speaker. It contributes to the influence of players in the education sector and its ecosystem. In addition, it supports parents, teachers and workers in a mentality of co-education in order to allow young people to become fulfilled citizens in the digital age.