UDL and Learner Variability: Teacher Variability / Student Variability (UDL #2)

This year , Universal Design for Learning has totally consumed by every thought!

My most demanding question that I have on loop is: Why should educators bother with UDL? I have never met an educaotr against the idea of inclusion and equity but with every other fabulous "program / frame/ lense " winging its way to our colleagues classroom and learning spaces, do they need to bother with UDL?

Has anyone noticed that UDL resources talk about learner variability? According to Grant and Perez (2018), the best way to address learner variability is through flexible design. In their book they offer ‘pause and reflect’ questions to support teachers to design for flexibility. The questions are fantastic and the UDL resources available on tki are gold, however, I have a niggling thought. Where is the explicit mention of adult / educator variability? As most of us would agree, educators encapsulate the definition of variable! So how do we design for educator variability?

I would argue, and it is taking me some time to think this through, but we do not talk about the variability of adults or working and designing for this variability as often as we could and I am wondering why we don’t.

To introduce a conversation about Learner Variability educators, I have been triying an activity that focussed on adults. The activity is called: Walk in my shoes - Adult Learner. (I have attached a link to this template below). The activity involved the teacher thinking about what conditions and or strategies they use to achieve each task on the sheet. When I recently did this activity with a group of educators, the educators chose one task on the list, they chose - Welcoming a visitor to school assembly speaking te reo Māori - and together they talked about all the different strategies they would need to use to achieve this. It was a totally magic moment in the staff meeting because the understanding of designing for variability for themselves and their own students was a serendipitous moment.

I’m really excited about approaching professional development from the UDL lense because I have this hunch that we may (as educators) experience this weird kind of thing where we need to homogenise into a particular way of thinking, acting and doing. An example is a ‘good teacher sounds like… a good teacher looks like…” UDL offers an opportunity to literally smash through such ridiculous cookie cutter thinking and explicitly identify and recognise each others creativity and variability and design and work with it.

I’m wondering, is anyone else explicitly using the UDL framework / principles to design professional development with our colleagues and if so what have your experiences been?


Grant, K.,& Perez, L. (2018). Dive into UDL Immersive Practices to Develop Expert Learners.

Portland, Oregon : International Society for Technology in Education

Ministry of Education (2019) Inclusive Design. Guide to Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved from https://www.inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/universal-design-for-learning/

Walk in my shoes adult learner

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