Universal Design and Student-Centred Learning

Universal Design and Student-Centred Learning provide the foundations of an inclusive approach to teaching.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

The term ‘Universal Design’ was originally borrowed from the field of architecture where its aim was to inform the design of products and environments to make them usable by ‘all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design’ (The Centre for Universal Design).

In the field of education, Universal Design for Learning provides a set of principles that aims to give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. Universal Design helps address learner variability by suggesting flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that empower educators to meet these varied needs.

This video from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning explains Universal Design for Learning at a glance.

Student-Centred Learning

In a student-centred learning approach, students are active participants, placed at the core of the learning process. This model replaces the teacher-centred transmission model (teacher as “expert”) where there were few opportunities for active student engagement.

Teaching students to be meta-cognitive or 'active' learners has consistently been shown to have a large effect on achievement. Active learners are constantly setting study goals, selecting appropriate study techniques to help them achieve those goals, monitoring progress towards goals, and reflecting on the strengths or weaknesses of particular approaches. All such meta-cognitive strategies can be taught and embedded into courses.

In a student-centred learning environment the role of the teacher is to:

  • Draw and build upon students’ prior knowledge and experiences
  • Facilitate the learning environment so that the student plays an active and inquiring role in their own learning
  • Create a learning environment that stimulates and challenges learners, and fosters critical thinking and the process of knowledge construction
  • Provide opportunities for knowledge to be constructed through authentic learning and links to real world situations
  • Promote opportunities for collaborative learning
  • Recognise individual differences in approaches to learning by offering learners a variety of choices in terms of learning activities and assessments.

This video from the New Learning Institute provides an introduction to Student Centred Learning.