UDL Starts with the WHY

Barbara Bray
3 min readMar 22, 2021
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) starts with the WHY of learning. This post is an overview of UDL, the three UDL principles, the Learner profile, and the Personal Learning Backpack

Universal Design for Learning (UDL), developed by David Rose and Anne Meyer from CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology), provides suggestions on how learners can reduce barriers and maximize their learning. When I first learned about UDL, the principles started with the WHAT. After 2014, Rose, Meyer, and David Gordon co-authored “Universal Design for Learning: Theory and Practice,” demonstrating why UDL starts with engagement. This made so much sense to me, so I updated my materials to represent the changes. I believe UDL can support learners of all ages who want a framework for learning and who want to define their WHY for learning.

The three UDL principles:

  • Multiple Means of Engagement = The WHY of Learning
  • Multiple Means of Representation = The WHAT of Learning
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression = The HOW of Learning

I love that UDL starts with the WHY especially when learners are motivated to want to learn. The WHY is about what learners are interested in and passionate about. I like the idea of being curious about who we are as learners. Why not ask ourselves WHY we would want to learn in the first place?

Why are we engaged or not engaged in learning?
Why do we need to be motivated to want to learn?
Why would we want to become independent and self-directed?

UDL Guidelines

The UDL Guidelines at http://udlguidelines.cast.org/ based on scientific insights into how humans learn provides a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people. Learn more about the Universal Design for Learning framework from CAST. Below is a shortened version of the structure from CAST’s website organized both horizontally and vertically. Vertically, the Guidelines are organized according to the three UDL principles starting with Multiple Means of Engagement.

Horizontally, the options scaffold from “Access” to “Build” and then to “Internalize” to develop “Expert Learners” who are resourceful and knowledgeable, strategic and goal-directed, purposeful…



Barbara Bray

Story Weaver ~ Podcast host ~ Author “Define Your WHY” ~ Co-author 2 books on Making Learning Personal ~ Author "Grow Your Why" ~ New Podcast "Real Talk"