Accurate and Informative for All: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the Future of Assessment

  • David H. Rose
  • Kristin H. Robinson
  • Tracey E. HallEmail author
  • Peggy Coyne
  • Richard M. Jackson
  • William M. Stahl
  • Sherri L. Wilcauskas


The goal of assessment in a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach is to provide the kinds of information that will improve instruction for each learner. Whereas traditional tests and diagnostics tend to focus on identifying weaknesses and disabilities in the individual learner, diagnostics in a UDL approach focus much more on identifying weaknesses and barriers in the design of the learning context itself, making it possible to probe whether a different set of options, a different path, or a different design might lead to better learning for any given learner. A UDL approach to assessment assumes the fundamental centrality of emotions as part of the anticipated variability among all learners and asserts that when we place emotions front and center in assessment, we obtain more accurate and meaningful assessment results. In addition, a UDL approach incorporates recurring and flexible assessment throughout instruction to provide ongoing, actionable feedback to educators and students before failure takes place, when taking action can make a real difference for all. Teachers, students, parents, administrators, and assessment designers/developers all need accurate assessments and timely results to use as feedback to inform next steps. Instructional approaches with a foundation in UDL will reduce the inadvertent barriers to learning that many students currently face, making the assessment of progress toward expertise more accurate, informative, and useful, and enable the mosaic of all learners to become masters of learning itself.


Universal Design for Learning Assessment Formative assessment Actionable feedback Expert learners 


  1. Bakia, M., Mislevy, J., Heying, E., Patton, C., Singleton, C., & Krumm, A. (2013). Supporting K-12 students in online learning: A review of online 1 algebra courses. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, R. S. J. d, Gowda, S., Corbett, A., & Ocumpaugh, J. (2012). Towards Automatically DetectingWhether Student Learning is Shallow. Proceedings of the International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems, (pp 444–453).Google Scholar
  3. Bondy, A., & Frost, L. (2012, May/June). Teaching children to understand changes in routines. Autism Asperger’s Digest.Google Scholar
  4. CAST. (2011). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.Google Scholar
  5. Cavanaugh, C., Repetto, J., Wayer, N., & Spitler, C. (2013). Online learning for students with disabilities: A framework for success. Journal of Special Education Technology, 28(1), 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science, 313, 1307–1310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Daley, S., Hillaire, G., & Sutherland, L. A. M. (2014). Beyond performance data: Improving student help seeking by collecting and displaying influential data in an online middle-school science curriculum. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(1), 121–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.Google Scholar
  9. Every Student Succeeds Act, E. S. S. (2015). Pub. L. No. 114–95 § 114 Stat. 1177.Google Scholar
  10. Farah, M. J. (2000). The Cognitive neuroscience of vision. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Gordon, D. T., Gravel, J. W., & Schifter, L. A. (2009). A policy reader in universal design for learning (pp. 209–218). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.Google Scholar
  12. Guthrie, J. T., & Davis, M. H. (2003). Motivating struggling readers in middle school through an engagement model of classroom practice. Reading &Writing Quarterly, 19(1), 59–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hall, T. E., Meyer, A., & Rose, D. H. (2012). Universal design for learning in the classroom: Practical applications. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  14. Ivcevic, Z., & Brackett, M. A. (2014). Predicting school success: Comparing conscientiousness, grit, and emotion regulation ability. Journal of Research Personality.
  15. Jamieson, J. P., Mendes, W. B., Blackstock, E., & Schmader, T. (2010). Turning the knots in your stomach into bows: Reappraising arousal improves performance on the GRE. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(1), 208–212.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Marino, M. T., Gotch, C. M., Israel, M., Vasquez, E., Basham, J. D., & Becht, K. (2014). UDL in the middle school science classroom can video games and alternative text heighten engagement and learning for students with learning disabilities? Learning Disability Quarterly, 37(2), 87–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. National Center on the Use of Emerging Technologies to improve literacy achievement for students with disabilities in middle school. (2016).
  19. Nelson, L. L. (2014). Design and deliver: Planning and teaching using universal design for learning. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Novak, K. (2014). UDL now!: A teacher’s monday morning guide to implementing the common core state standards using universal design for learning. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.Google Scholar
  21. Prometric. (2016). Best practices in item development for online testing. Accessed 5 Dec 2016.
  22. Rappolt-Schlichtmann, G., & Daley, S. G. (2013). Providing access to engagement in learning: The potential of universal design for learning in museum design. Curator: The Museum Journal, 56(3), 307–321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rappolt-Schlichtmann, G., Daley, S. G., Lim, S., Lapinski, S., Robinson, K. H., & Johnson, M. (2013). Universal design for learning and elementary school science: Exploring the efficacy, use, and perceptions of a web-based science notebook. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 1210–1225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Reich, C., Price, J., Rubin, E., & Steiner, M. (2010). Inclusion, disabilities, and informal science learning. A CAISE Inquiry Group Report. Washington, DC: Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education.Google Scholar
  25. Rose, D. H., Hall, T. E., & Murray, E. (2008). Accurate for all: Universal design for learning and the assessment of students with learning disabilities. Perspectives on Language and Literacy, 34(4), 23.Google Scholar
  26. Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Google Scholar
  27. Rose, D. H., & Gravel, J. W. (2013). Using digital media to design student-centered curricula. In R. E. Wolfe, A. Steinberg, & N. Hoffmann (Eds.), Anytime, anywhere: Student-centered learning for students and teachers (pp. 77–101). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.Google Scholar
  28. Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Stahl, W. M. (October, 2006). Personal discussion.Google Scholar
  30. Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American psychologist, 52(6), 613.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African-Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797–811.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2015). Ed tech developers guide. Washington, DC.
  33. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Future ready learning: Reimagining the role of technology in education. Washington, DC.
  34. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. In L. Vygotsky (Ed.), Mind in society (pp. 79–91). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David H. Rose
    • 1
  • Kristin H. Robinson
    • 1
  • Tracey E. Hall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peggy Coyne
    • 2
  • Richard M. Jackson
    • 1
  • William M. Stahl
    • 1
    • 3
  • Sherri L. Wilcauskas
    • 1
  1. 1.CASTWakefieldUSA
  2. 2.Lexia Learning SystemsConcordUSA
  3. 3.National Center on Accessible Educational MaterialsWakefieldUSA

Personalised recommendations