How can teachers at Sycamore Middle School meet the educational needs of all of their students?

Page 2: UDL Principles

Students with their hands upMany teachers use a traditional instructional approach that often addresses the learning needs of some, but not all, of their students. Because one of its primary objectives is to challenge and engage all students, UDL stipulates that teachers present information in a variety of ways, allow students options for learning and demonstrating their knowledge, and incorporate practices that maximize student engagement. In this way, UDL enables students with a range of abilities to access the content and skills taught in the general education classroom.

The researchers at CAST have developed three guiding principles for teachers to consider when designing lesson plans. The table below summarizes these principles and makes suggestions for how teachers can address each of them.

Principle 1
Action and Expression
Principle 2
Principle 3
Presenting information and course content in multiple formats so that all students can access it Allowing students alternatives to express or demonstrate their learning Stimulating students’ interests and motivation for learning in a variety of ways
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  • Provide alternatives for accessing information (e.g., visual, auditory)
  • Provide or activate background knowledge in multiple ways (e.g., pre-teaching concepts, using advanced organizers)


  • Provide options for responding (e.g., keyboard instead of pen to complete a writing assignment)
  • Provide options for completing assignments using different media (e.g., text, speech, film, music)


  • Provide options that increase the relevance and authenticity of instructional activities (e.g., using money to teach math, culturally significant activities)
  • Provide options that encourage collaboration and communication (e.g., peer tutoring)

By using these three principles when they design their lesson plans, teachers can reduce or eliminate barriers that may interfere with students’ learning or with their ability to demonstrate their learning.

David Rose
CAST founder; Chief Scientist,
Cognition & Learning

Most often, but not always, UDL utilizes technology as a primary method of offering flexible ways for students to access instruction and demonstrate their learning. Listen as David Rose discusses the role of technology in UDL (time: 0:49).

View Transcript

For Your Information

  • It may not be reasonable or possible for teachers to incorporate all three of the UDL principles into every lesson plan. Rather, they are intended to guide instruction over time.
  • Even when teachers apply the three principles, some students may need additional support. Consequently, teachers will sometimes have to make accommodations (e.g., allow the use of a spell checker) to meet an individual student’s needs.


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