The UDL Framework Part 2 - Action and Expression 'The HOW of Learning'




Welcome back to those of you who read our first blog in this series on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). As promised, we have delved into this first principle and we have value to share! If you didn’t read the first blog, you feel left out and you want to know what this UDL blog series is all about, don’t worry we have your back, all you need to do is click here. 

Let’s get into our findings on the UDL principle of ‘Action and Expression’, which focuses on the ‘how’ of learning.

As learners we are all different in how we plan and perform tasks as well as organise and express our ideas. This means that each learner will differ in how they express what they know. One learner may be great at tests or knowledge checks whilst another learner may be better at demonstrating their knowledge through a spoken presentation. If one learner does better on a test compared to another learner, does this mean that they know the content better or was it the fact that the format of the assessment suited their style of expression?

“In reality, there is not one means of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for action and expression is essential.” (CAST, 2018).

This blog explores the parts of the ‘Action and Expression’ principle that we believe will add significant value to our projects and most importantly yours! We have included visual examples to support your understanding as well as practical takeaways. We suggest picking one or two practical takeaways to action rather than becoming overwhelmed (small steps to success is the way to go!).

Let’s get into it.

1. Use Multiple Media for Communication [Checkpoint 5.1 from the UDL Guidelines]

It is important that you incorporate a variety of media into your eLearning with the intent to meet a variety of learner preferences. Each and every one of us has different preferences in how we like to learn, whether it’s through video, audio or even written text. We live in a media-rich world (CAST, 2018) with tools that can provide a flexible and user friendly toolkit for learners and this should be utilised to its full potential.

Practical takeaway
  • Deliver information in a range of ways such as through text, speech, illustrations, videos, music, social media, comic strips, discussion forums and animations (CAST, 2018). 


Best eLearning example: Multiple means of media.

2. Use Multiple Tools for Construction and Composition [Checkpoint 5.2 from the UDL Guidelines]

When you are designing a learning experience, it is important that you focus on using contemporary tools over older traditional tools (CAST, 2018). Using older traditional tools does not prepare the learner for the future and may also restrict their ability to express their knowledge (CAST, 2018). Current tools provide a more flexible toolkit where a wider variety of learners can take part in the learning experience. Unless the learning is focused on obtaining a specific skill such as spelling, don’t hesitate to provide the learner with tools to make their life easier, such as a spellchecker.

Practical takeaways
  • If the learner is required to type text, provide them with a spellchecker, grammar checker and word prediction software (CAST, 2018).
  • If math equations are involved (and the learner being able to calculate them manually isn’t related to the learning outcomes), provide the learner with a calculator (CAST, 2018). 
3. Guide Appropriate Goal-Setting [Checkpoint 6.1 from the UDL Guidelines]

The UDL Guidelines suggest that it cannot be assumed that learners will set appropriate goals to guide their work (CAST, 2018). It also suggests that you shouldn’t force goals onto learners. What is most important is that learners develop strategies to set their own goals. You can support your learners in setting their own goals by providing prompts and scaffolds to estimate their effort against the level of difficulty of the module (CAST, 2018).

Practical takeaways

  • Guide appropriate goal-setting through progress bars or the collection of medals (like collecting coins in Mario).
  • To tap into intrinsic motivation, ask reflective questions that enable the learner to see how they can use their learnings in the real world. For example, “Using the information you have learnt in this course, reflect on how you could improve your approach to managing your team.”

Best eLearning example: An example Belvista Studios module using diamonds and coins to track progress.

4. Facilitate Managing Information and Resources [Checkpoint 6.3 from the UDL Guidelines]

When delivering learning content it is important to consider the short term memory of the learner. This is where the learner stores chunks of information to support them in comprehending content and undertaking problem solving (CAST, 2018). We each differ in how well we can store information in our short term memory and it is important to consider learners with cognitive and learning challenges. 

Practical takeaways

  • Support learners with memorising and storing chunks of information by providing graphic organisers and templates for data collection (CAST, 2018).
  • Prompt learners to write checklists and notes at appropriate times throughout the learning experience (CAST, 2018).
Best eLearning example: An example Belvista Studios module prompting the learner to write notes.

5. Enhance Capacity for Monitoring Progress [Checkpoint 6.4 from the UDL Guidelines]

You may already know that feedback is critical to a valuable learning experience. Without feedback it is hard to know whether you are performing correctly or how you could potentially improve. Incorporate consistent feedback in your eLearning module so that learners are able to monitor their progress and perform effectively, in turn having an ability to guide their own effort (CAST, 2018).

Practical takeaways

  • Ask the learner reflective questions.
  • Show representations of progress (e.g. progress bars).
  • Encourage peer to peer feedback.
  • Reinforce why the decision the learner made is right or wrong (using instant or delayed feedback). 
(CAST, 2018).

Those were our findings for the ‘Action and Expression’ principle from the UDL framework. We hope that you gained value from what we found (it sure added value to us). Remember, have a go at picking out one or two practical takeaways and applying them to one of your projects.

If you want to delve deeper into the UDL framework, checkout the guidelines here.

We are going to love you and leave you to start delving into the next UDL principle on ‘Engagement’. Bye for now and keep an eye out for the next blog in the series!

If you would like to discuss the UDL in more detail, contact our passionate founder, Kim Tuohy via kim@belvistastudios.com or on LinkedIn. 

                                                                                         References

Alberta Education. (2015). [Alberta Education]. (2015, January 30). Making Sense of Universal Design for Learning [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOUdmzaZrc8

CAST. (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

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