Universal Instructional Design (UID)
Part of getting to know your students is also being attune to the differences in student learning needs and expectations. One way that we can reach our students where they are is to use the principles of universal instructional design (UID) when developing courses. UID aims to maximize the usability of all aspects of the course, as much as is possible, and to enhance inclusion of everyone thereby minimizing the need for accommodations. The TATP guide Fostering Accessible Learning: A Guide for Teaching Assistants lists the seven principles of universal instructional design. UID should be 1) accessible and fair, 2) flexible, 3) straightforward and consistent, 4) effective and clear, 5) supportive of the learning environment, 6) minimize unnecessary effort, and 7) provide appropriate and adequate space. The Fostering Accessible Learning guide also includes some guidelines for how to put UID into practice including considerations for before the course begins, during the course, and preparing the classroom; common scenarios and frequently asked questions about accessibility and accommodations; and further resources. We do recognize, however, that accommodations will still be necessary for some students. For more about accommodations at the University of Toronto, see section 5.4 of this guide.
UID is especially helpful once we realize that students learn best when presented with varied strategies that will include multiple students in various ways. This means creating a learning environment in which there are 1) multiple means of representation, 2) multiple means of action and expression, and 3) multiple means of engagement. The Universal Design for Learning Guidelines provides a description, examples, and benefits for each of these three parts of UID. You might find UID a bit unfamiliar at first, but once you get into the habit of teaching for diverse engagement it will become much more intuitive. Two more resources that will help you to develop your UID instruction are available online: 1) Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction and 2) Universal Design of Instruction (UDI): Definition, Principles, Guidelines, and Examples.