universal design for learning books

Goodwin University educators’ new book challenges assumptions on higher ed learning

UDL University offers first-person accounts of innovations that lead to greater student success

Universal Design for Learning (UDL), the innovative educational philosophy embraced by Goodwin University, is now reaching an even wider audience thanks to a recently published book by Goodwin faculty. UDL University: Designing for Variability Across the Curriculum is a collection of short, first-person narratives in which instructors describe how they applied UDL to their teaching across a range of disciplines, from nursing to history, from welding to writing, and from certification programs to graduate programs.

The premise of UDL is that educational environments, materials, and strategies should be designed so that all students have the tools and support they need to succeed. While UDL principles originally found success in K-12 settings, a growing number of post-secondary institutions, including Johns Hopkins and Harvard, have been introducing this philosophy into higher education.

Since 2017, Goodwin has been working on implementation with CAST, the nonprofit education research and development organization that created UDL. As faculty cohorts go through UDL training, they rethink their classes, reimagine assignments, and redesign instructional resources in ways that challenge traditional assumptions of what college education looks like.

While the primary audience of UDL University may be educators in a post-secondary environment, the benefits of UDL can certainly be more widely appreciated. The stories are personal, accessible, and provide practical examples of the many ways UDL-informed ideas can transform teaching and learning.

“Since the book is composed of engaging first-person narratives, it is accessible to anyone regardless of their previous familiarity with UDL scholarship or theory,” explains Dr. Randy Laist, one of the book’s editors along with Nicole Brewer and Dana Sheehan. “Each chapter is followed by an autobiographical ‘How I Got Here’ narrative in which contributors recount their journeys to higher education, rooting their UDL stories in their own personal life-stories.”

Spreading the word on how UDL is changing traditional thoughts on learning is very much at the core of the University’s mission and strategic plan. “At Goodwin, we position ourselves as thought leaders in education,” offers Dr. Diana J. LaRocco, Dean of the School of Applied Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “By incorporating UDL principles into our curricula and giving students additional ways to demonstrate their mastery of information, we dramatically aim to support student success in school and beyond.”

UDL University offers specific examples of lessons and techniques that can be adapted to any classroom, as well as inspirational advice for educators at any level who aspire to deepening student engagement in their classes. The variety of viewpoints enhances the book’s appeal to readers. “Since each chapter approaches the topic from within a particular disciplinary context, readers can pick and choose the chapters that are most relevant to their interests and concerns,” adds Laist.

“The Goodwin community has done a remarkable job of putting UDL in action — a clear sign of the university’s commitment to improving equitable learning, engagement, and success for students and educators alike,” says David Gordon, CAST Professional Publishing’s managing director. “In their work and in this book, the editors and contributors blaze a trail for more inclusive post-secondary education.”

UDL University is available through CAST Professional Publishing as well as online booksellers.

UDL University will be the basis for an upcoming CAST webinar and will be featured on several upcoming UDL-oriented podcasts. Learn more about UDL implementation at the Goodwin University Institute for Learning Innovation webpage. Additional inquiries can be directed to Dr. Randy Laist at rlaist@goodwin.edu.