Planning with Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Planning and reviewing your teaching

The templates below are there to help you to use UDL when you plan your teaching. Download them and fill them in either on your own, or alongside your colleagues:

Reducing barriers for students

A UDL approach intentionally anticipates, identifies and addresses barriers up front to ensure learning environments are equitable and free from discrimination and bias.

Below you will find examples of things you can do in the design of learning to reduce barriers for ākonga. They have been adapted from Getting started with Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

They are organised using the three UDL Guidelines, which are grounded in the concept of neuro-variability. Read more about UDL and the Learning Brain.

Reducing barriers for students to help support engagement

A drawing of a brain with the central section shadedEngagement: Supporting motivation, interest, identity and self regulation

What barriers to engagement might ākonga experience in the design of my lesson?

  • The teacher makes all the decisions about what we study.
  • There is no opportunity to connect my language, culture, identity and experience to the learning.
  • The teacher just talks about boys and girls, I don’t fit.
  • It’s so noisy in here I can’t think.
  • I’m scared to ask for help.
  • This doesn’t relate to my life, when will I ever need to know this.

Supporting Examples:

  • Ask ākonga about their interests, strengths and needs. Use this to guide lesson design.
  • Connect learning to culture and identify
  • Create opportunities for students to use their first language
  • Offer headphones and provide flexibility on where ākonga can work.
  • Offer multiple ways for ākonga to seek support.
  • Make authentic links to why the learning is valuable.

Reducing barriers for students to help support representation

A drawing of a brain with the middle section shadedRepresentation: Supporting access to information, creating flexible content and building understand

What barriers to accessing and understanding information might ākonga experience in the way I communicate and present information (instructions, content and materials)?

  • I can’t hear the video and there are no captions.
  • The teacher is using a whole bunch of words I don’t understand.
  • I can’t relate to any of the examples or stories the teacher provides to support my understanding.
  • Often instructions for assignments or assessment require heaps of reading.

Supporting Examples:

  • Select videos with accurate captions, turned on.
  • Provide multiple opportunities to support new vocab and concept building.
  • Model using glossaries in multiple media.
  • Ensure analogies and stories are relevant and connect to ākonga experiences and their cultures, languages and identities.
  • Present instructions succinctly using text, image and video.

Reducing barriers for students to help support action and expression

A drawing of a brain with the front section shadedAction and expression: Supporting access to learning materials, personal organisation, expressing thinking and learning

What barriers to participating and demonstrating learning might ākonga experience in the design of my lesson?

  • I feel held back by having to read when I understand the concepts.
  • The teachers can’t read my writing
  • What I’m supposed to be doing.
  • How do I get started?
  • All the resources are online and we have no wifi at home.
  • We are given options for how to present our learning but no support on how to make the best choice to demonstrate my strengths and knowledge.
  • Am on the right track with this assessment?

Supporting Examples:

  • Model the effective use of digital tools e.g. text-to-speech, online research, illustrated glossaries.
  • Provide access to keyboards.
  • Provide sentence starters, graphic organisers, planners
  • Ensure ākonga have equitable access to the tools they need to be successful.
  • Discuss with ākonga the pros and cons of presentation options, and how to make the best choice.
  • Ask ākonga what check-in options will be useful, provide a range of options e.g. check point template.

Resources - find out more about UDL

   Websites and tools:

Interactive UDL Thinking Cycle:

An image of the interactive UDL Thinking Cycle

Universal Design for Learn: Inclusive Education Guides for Schools:

Screenshot of Inclusive.Education web page

CAST: The UDL Guidelines:

Screenshot of CAST webpage showing the UDL guidelines

Universal Design for Learning (UDL): A teacher’s guide:

Screenshot of web page

How to break down barriers to learning with UDL:

Screenshot of web page

CAST: Until learning has no limits

The international home of Universal Design for Learning

a screenshot of the homepage for



Learn the fundamentals of UDL:

Allison Posey.

Screenshot of YouTube video

Universal Design for Learning and the New Zealand Curriculum:

Screenshot of UDL and the NZC video

Where has UDL come from?

Screenshot of YouTube video


Where is UDL heading?

UDL Must Address Barriers to Equitable Learning | Cracks in the pavement

Screenshot of Cast.Org web page

Cross-pollinating culturally sustaining pedagogy and universal design for learning Waitoller F. R._ King Thorius K. A. (2016) 


CAST: UDL and the Learning Brain


Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation


< return to the UDL home page