Home FlipTech Conferences Flipped Learning and UDL (Universal Design for Learning)

Flipped Learning and UDL (Universal Design for Learning)

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8527950743

Many of us try to make lessons that are fun, differentiated, hands-on, realistic, and a thousand other things. But no matter how amazing we think these lessons may be, in a class of 20 or more we are bound to have some students who think it’s too fast, too slow, or who already knew some of the information, are simply not interested, and so on. The best way to meet all their needs every day is to allow our students more freedom and choices in their learning. That is what Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is all about. It is not about cooking 20 different meals for 20 different students, but rather UDL is about thinking ahead and presenting a buffet of carefully-selected options.

There were at least 20 participants in the classroom for my session, representing a variety of course subjects, grades levels, and UDL experience. Most of all, I wanted to show everybody that flipping lessons is not the end goal, but rather a means for allowing all students to have choices and ownership of their learning. I started the session by dividing the teachers into small groups to plan a barbecue dinner party for our neighborhood. The ‘guest list’ included neighbors who like spicy food, have a gluten allergy, and a 4-year-old who “needs ketchup on pretty much everything.” What are 8 or 9 items that you would make sure to provide at the food/drink table?

This thinking process parallels UDL, and it was a fun way to introduce the concept. Whether planning a party or a unit, we think about who is coming and what their needs are; then we make sure to have options to meet their needs. When the small groups reported their decisions, everyone could see they had made many similar decisions without too much time and effort. (Sriracha sauce, salads, and red wine were popular selections.)

Next, I shared strategies from my 7th grade science class. I provide “choice days” where students have access to the video, but also hands-on activities, reading options, games, and other tasks that are calculated to appeal to learners. They can choose what they want whenever they are ready for it. A main premise of UDL is that what’s good for one may not be good for all. If we can provide carefully thought out options for students, it will increase engagement as well as retention.

For the remainder of the session, I gave opportunities for teachers become a student in a UDL classroom. They watched videos, played games, assessed their knowledge, asked questions, etc. That was the best way to demonstrate what a UDL-based classroom can look and feel like. You can see some of the videos and options I provided at https://flippedwithchoice.weebly.com.

When recorded lessons are one of the main options for learning, this gives students complete control over pace and location. It allows students to review the material whenever they feel the need. That is a quality of all recorded lessons. Applying elements of UDL allows students more choices beyond the flipped lesson to learn the material. Flipping isn’t the total answer; it is a vehicle for you to accomplish your goals for your students. I highly value choice, so this allowed me to get closer to that goal. Others may use flipped learning for completely different instructional settings. Regardless of the context, the end goal is the same for everyone: we all want to allow students to access curriculum more effectively and ensure that they enjoy themselves along the way.


Kyle Niemis has been a middle school science teacher in South Brunswick, NJ since 2006. He earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees at The College of New Jersey, Ewing Township, NJ. Kyle’s ultimate goal has always been to create a classroom where every student is not only able to learn but actually enjoys it. Flipped learning and UDL are the primary vehicles for his efforts to accomplish this goal. In his teaching, Kyle provides multiple pathways for students to develop and show mastery, providing many choices along the way.


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