Educators and researchers, including my colleagues at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), have rushed to meet the challenge of helping teachers create personalized learning environments by, well, personalizing the learning experience.

CAST’s contribution to the field is the development of the UDL framework, which identifies three brain networks related to learning:

  • Affective networks that evaluate and set priorities (the “why” of learning);
  • Recognition networks that receive and analyze information (the “what” of learning);
  • Strategic networks that plan and execute actions (the “how” of learning).

Taking these brain networks into account, UDL recommends the design of flexible, option-rich curriculum that offers learners:

  • Multiple means of engagement (affective),
  • Multiple representations of content (recognition), and
  • Multiple means of action and expression (strategic).

These three principles for personalized learning—a “whole brain” approach, if you will—recognize that not all individuals learn in the same standardized ways.

UDL designing for personalized learning

As any teacher or instructional designer knows, there are four components in designing lessons—goals, assessments, methods, and materials. When designing from a UDL perspective, all of these components are equally important. Any that are poorly designed can thwart personalized learning. Just as the three UDL principles work together to address the brain’s learning networks, so too do the curriculum components work together as a system.

Let’s look at them more closely and see how Universal Design for Learning can help with embedding personalization in the instructional design process.

Next page: Goals, methods, materials, and assessment