Universal Design in Instruction

A professor points to something in a tank in front of a group of students.

By incorporating principles of universal design, instructors can teach in ways that reach a variety of learners and learning styles. The result? Improved educational outcomes.

How to Incorporate Universal Design in Your Teaching

  1. Promote a welcoming class climate. Adopt practices that reflect high values with respect to both diversity and inclusiveness. 
  2. Make learning interactive. Encourage regular and effective interactions between students and the instructor and ensure that communication methods are accessible to all participants. 
  3. Pay attention to the physical environment and course materials. Ensure that individuals with physical, cognitive and sensory impairments can access facilities, activities, materials and equipment.
  4. Consider employing multiple delivery methods to access content. When possible, allow students to choose from multiple options for learning. Consider lectures, collaborative learning options, hands-on activities, Internet-based communications, educational software, field work, and so forth.
  5. Ensure that information resources and technology are accessible, and provide them in multiple formats. For example, share a syllabus electronically in both Word and PDF formats, in addition to distributing paper copies.
  6. Provide feedback to students on a regular basis. For example, break up larger projects into manageable sections and provide feedback along the way to ensure students are on track.
  7. Regularly assess student progress using multiple accessible methods and tools. Ensure that you provide accommodations for students who have presented you with an accommodation memorandum. Remember that some assessment tools, such as clicker quizzes, can pose challenges for students with physical, cognitive or sensory impairments.
  8. Provide accommodations. Even with universal design, there may be students who still require accommodation to access course materials, or to ensure that assessment tools measure the students' knowledge rather than their impairments. Contact the Office of Accessibility Resources if you have any concerns about a student with a disability, or if you suspect that a student’s disability is impacting their performance.