To Marry or Not to Marry? Differentiated Instruction (DI) and Universal Design of Learning (UDL): Turning Adversaries into Allies in Distance Learning

Do you believe that UDL and DI are incompatible frameworks? Or can these approaches to instruction complement one another in a marriage of sorts?  I believe that UDL and DI represent different approaches to instruction, but they have some core similarities that support curriculum design in distance learning environments that strive to enhance access to higher education. In fact, I think it makes sense to include both in the distance-learning context.

The most notable similarity between the two approaches is that that they share a common end goal:  to account for student variability in the classroom. However, the two approaches differ a bit in the ways in which they go about achieving this (just like spouses in a marriage). While DI is based on retrofitting and modifying instruction on the back-end, UDL anticipates student’s diversity and builds in multiple forms of representation, engagement and expression from the outset. A clash in pedagogical approach?  Or just a bump in the road? Neither, if you work on the strengths of each approach in a way that complements the core goal that both frameworks support: student variability. If we continue focusing of the differences between the two approaches, we will be unable to turn adversaries into allies.

Join my session at the upcoming conference where I will showcase how the flexibility of the online classroom can be monopolized to create a customized learning experience for each student by incorporating elements of both approaches. I will also present a working prototype of how UDL applications of DI have been applied to a Business Communications course in a distance learning setting by altering the three elements of DI (product, process and content) in the provision of the three UDL principles (multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement), which I will demonstrate to the audience.

Author Bio

Ashiya Abdool Satar is an academic in the Department of Communication Science at the University of South Africa (Unisa). She has diverse research interests that mirror her educational pursuits in the areas of organizational communication, media studies, inclusive education, and Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) in the Higher Education sector. Ashiya is currently involved in projects focusing on active youth citizenship, social justice, media identity and representation, public sector communication, and inclusive education, with a particular focus on the universal design of learning (UDL) approach. Ashiya is also co-editor of an upcoming book related to social media theory and research.

%d bloggers like this: