UDL planning always starts with the students and assumes that learner variability is the rule rather than the exception. If we plan for the “average” student, our lessons will not work as well as they could for all of our students. Planning pro-actively for diverse needs removes potential curriculum barriers, allowing more students to succeed. Architects no longer have to retrofit buildings with ramps and elevators because these supports were planned at the point of design. Similarly, the essence of UDL is to intentionally plan for diverse needs instead of providing accommodations remedially.
In order to plan for diverse needs, we must know our students well. Student profiles and class reviews are tools that help educators learn about the abilities and needs of their students. Students also need to develop an understanding of their own learning strengths, preferences and needs.
Creating the kind of emotional and physical classroom environment in which your students can flourish is vital to a UDL approach. Students need to feel that your classroom is a safe place to express their individuality, take risks and learn from mistakes. The physical design of your classroom can also affect students’ ability to learn.