Designing inclusive learning environments

Issue: Volume 96, Number 18

Posted: 16 October 2017
Reference #: 1H9fRN

The Ministry of Education has updated its guidance for schools on Universal Design for Learning, a research-based framework that can help educators realise the vision of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Our schools are diverse. Each student brings a unique set of experiences, abilities and interests, and differences in how they learn.

How can teachers respond to this difference and plan for all students to have access to learning in ways that work for them?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based framework that helps teachers plan learning to meet the diverse and variable needs of all students. It supports schools to realise the vision of The New Zealand Curriculum: that no-one will be left out or discriminated against.

UDL supports educators to design respectful, inclusive environments where everyone is learning and achieving and diversity is seen as a source of strength. It is based on three principles that connect teaching and learning with three primary networks of the brain – the affective network, the receptive network and the strategic network.

Applying these principles helps schools move away from the one-size-fits-all approach that can be a barrier for learners. For all students to be successful, we need to be flexible and deliberately plan a range of supports and options for our students based on sound knowledge of what we know works for them.

  1. Engagement is the WHY of learning – learners differ in what motivates them to learn or keeps them engaged. So the learning environment needs to stimulate and maintain motivation.
  2. Representation is the WHAT of learning – learners differ in the ways they perceive and comprehend information that is given to them. So the learning environment needs to allow for teachers to present content in a range of ways.
  3. Action and expression is the HOW of learning – learners differ in the way they can navigate their learning environment and express what they know. So the learning environment needs to give students options and choices for how they share what they’ve learnt.

When these principles are applied at the outset, our students can access, participate and engage in learning in ways that work for them.

Further reading

A range of resources introducing UDL can be found online. These include general guidelines and information, as well as video demonstrations of the UDL principles in action around the country.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 16 October 2017

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts