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DOVP Week: Bob Hughes on Evaluating Universal Design for Learning

My name is Bob Hughes, and I’m an Associate Professor of adult education at Seattle University.  I’ve been researching and evaluating Universal Design for Learning since 1995.  I find UDL to form a critical framework with which to frame my other research interests in preparation of instructors, professional development, providing equitable learning for diverse populations, and the uses of technology in learning.

Hot tips:

  • UDL is expanding to other arenas. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an increasingly popular model of developing and delivering instruction in P-12, adult, and post-secondary educational systems. Although UDL began as a model for serving special needs populations, its use has expanded widely.
  • UDL intends to create flexibility to meet learning needs.Because UDL synthesizes multiple educational aims and tools, it offers an interesting challenge for evaluators. UDL identifies three principles that ensure access to learning:
    • multiple means of representation of any idea
    • multiple means of expression and action to show learners’ mastery
    • multiple means of engagement to ensure that all learners connect to the content.

This lean toward flexibility underscores UDL’s intent to serve all populations. While UDL implementations are proliferating, models for evaluating UDL have not concurrently emerged.

  • Evaluation of UDL includes multiple categories. I propose that an evaluation of UDL implementation must include the following categories of information:
  1. Connection to the three principles of UDL
  2. Connection to theories of learning (i.e., brain research)
  3. Relation to larger fields of study
  4. Well defined student outcomes
  5. Well defined teacher outcomes
  6. Well defined institutional outcomes
  • Each of the above elements is interrelated. A model for UDL evaluation cannot look at these as linear elements that can be developed in isolation from one another.  Instead, the model must allow each of these to inform the other in the development and implementation of the evaluation.  Each of these elements generates a focus point with which to inform and shape the others.

The first of the six elements above offers an example.  In considering the ways in which the principles of UDL are implemented, a UDL project needs to look at how those concepts connect to other models of learning, how these elements relate to understandings of how the brain processes information, what specific student and teacher outcomes the implementation seeks, and how the institution will support the implementation.  Similar relationships exist for each of the six categories.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the Disabilities and Other Vulnerable Populations TIG (DOVP) Week. The contributions all week come from DOVP members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluator.

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