Myth 1: UDL is another word for differentiated instruction, right?

Differentiated instruction is just one component of UDL. Tomlinson (2001), declares that differentiated instruction is the intentional application of specific lesson planning and multiple learning approaches to support all learners. The key difference between differentiated instruction and UDL is that differentiation is a strategy that supports instructors in addressing each student’s individual levels of readiness, interest, and learning profiles (Nelson, 2014). UDL in comparison is an overarching educational framework that addresses the learning environment as a whole. This includes, both the physical learning environment as well as the lessons, units, and/or curriculum. When the whole environment is addressed first, it removes physical, mental and psychological barriers so all students have full access in the classroom, regardless of their needs and abilities. (The Inclusion Lab)

Myth 2: UDL is only for learners with disabilities.

UDL aims to remove barriers to learning and supports inclusive institutional and teaching practices that reach all learners. As many post-secondary institutions must support large student populations and students usually participate in large class sizes, UDL practices ensure that a large, diverse student body still has access to learning in ways that support their individual needs. Therefore instructors and instructors still need to consider using UDL in their pedagogy, even if they do not have learners with disabilities in their courses. It is important to remember that those students who vary in age, gender, cultural background, first language and abilities will also benefit from UDL

Myth 3: Incorporating UDL into pedagogy lowers academic rigour.

UDL does not replace regular program, course and assessment objectives. UDL practices simply support the use of multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression and multiple means of engagement to support all learners in meeting these objectives. It may be argued that academic rigour increases, as students are expected to express materials in multiple ways, limiting options for memorization and increasing the likelihood of deep learning.

Myth 4: UDL has no research behind it.

UDL research has been conducted in many fields, by varying researchers with the support of numerous institutions. Its framework resulted from thorough research in the fields of cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology and neuroscience. UDL guidelines and practices were a direct result of intensive research and investigation both supported by experimental and quantitative evidence as well as scholarly reviews and expert opinions. A compilation of the past 10 years of UDL research can be located on the National Center of Universal Design for Learning website. (The Inclusion Lab).

Myth 5: To make UDL work, you have to use technology.

It is true that technology can effectively support learning in today’s classroom and can play an important role in the implementation of UDL.  However in order to support UDL and apply it effectively, technology is not a requirement if it is not available. . Instructors can still support student learning with no-tech or low-tech options as UDL classrooms focus on flexible learning methods to support learning not just technological ones. The following resources provide some low/no tech UDL classroom options:

  1. Example of a Technology-less lesson by Rose, Gravel, & Domings (2010)
  2. Technology-less options according to UDL principles by Prince George County Public Schools

Myth 6: UDL is just good teaching.

UDL does not automatically assume or result in good teaching. The term “good” is often judged subjectively and therefore not an ideal term for academic discussion. UDL principles, guidelines and checkpoints provide a clear framework that informs intentional teaching practices. Effective teaching will support opportunities for BOTH instructors and students to assess learning meaningfully and frequently in an inclusive physical and intellectual environment. However, unless an instructor is referencing the UDL framework and applying the UDL principles in order to make decisions, assess and/or inform, they are not implementing UDL.  (The Inclusion Lab)

Myth 7: If you purchase a UDL product, then you’re doing UDL.

UDL is a framework supported by research, with a specific set of principles and guidelines. These are used to make decisions that support a variety of learning styles and needs. Therefore UDL is not something you simply “do”, it includes a process that considers the learning environment as well as its learners.   UDL-aligned products and strategies can be valuable tools, but they are only a part of the process toward UDL implementation (Nelson, 2014). (The Inclusion Lab)