4.1 Universal design for learning

It is important that we design our teaching, learning and assessment practices with all students in mind. This intent is articulated in various quality and governance frameworks and policies including specific references to inclusive learning environments. Designers of inclusive learning experiences recognise that every learner is different.

Inclusive design, as conceptualized by the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC), is:

design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.”

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a common framework used in education settings worldwide that is based on knowledge about how people learn and is used to guide the design, improvement and optimisation of teaching and learning (including assessment, learning outcomes, teaching approaches) for all learners.

We are all diverse in terms of our background experiences, heritage and culture, languages we speak, knowledge and skills, interests, preferences, and the way in which we learn. As educators, we have a responsibility to ensure that the teaching and learning approaches we design and implement are done so in a way that the curriculum can be used and understood by all students.

Let’s find out a little more about what UDL means using an ice cream truck analogy.

UDL Ice Cream Truck Analogy – Dr. Katie Novak, AHEAD Start


As outlined in the slides and video above, there are three (3) core UDL principles that, when applied to the design and implementation of teaching, enable greater flexibility for learners to use and understand the curriculum.


  1. Multiple modes of student engagement that tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.
  2. Multiple methods of representation give learners a variety of ways to acquire information and build knowledge.
  3. Multiple means of student action and expression provide learners with alternatives for demonstrating what they have learned.

For more information about UDL including strategies for how you can design teaching and learning aligned with the three core principles, please visit CAST (Centre for Applied Special Technology).

Additional Resource

  • ADCET (Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training).  ADCET have excellent inclusive design resources and run regular free webinars.
  • Universal Design for Learning in Tertiary Education is a free online course released in late 2021. This course is for educational staff working in higher education and has been designed in collaboration with ADCET, the National Disability Coordination Officer Program, and the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. There are 4 modules and you can work through these modules at your own pace (approx 90mins in total).

UDL Worksheet Activity


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