UDL School Implementation & Certification Criteria (UDL-SICC)

School Culture and Environment

Element 1: The school community designs a culture that supports inclusion and equity.

To ensure that all members of the school community are included in and benefit from learning opportunities, the school community commits to design equitable and inclusive learning experiences and environments. Learning experiences and environments have been designed to consider the variability of the whole learner, including dimensions of cultural, social, emotional, cognitive, perceptual, physical, and sensory variability. When a school community views individual and school-wide decisions through a person-centered lens, every member of the learning community is valued.

The school community designs a culture (which includes beliefs, processes, activities, and procedures) that supports inclusion and equity by:

  • committing to design for the variability of all members, including cultural, social, emotional, cognitive, perceptual, physical, and sensory variability;

  • using a design process to resolve school culture issues related to inclusion and equity;

  • actively fostering a sense of belonging for every member of the school community; and

  • actively fostering meaningful relationships within the school community.


Leading with Access & Equity

Panorama Equity and Inclusion Survey

Element 2: The school community designs a culture that supports expert learning.

To ensure that the school community sets high expectations for all, learning environments and experiences are intentionally designed so all members become resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, goal-directed, purposeful, and motivated learners. By designing a learning environment that aligns with the UDL framework and promotes a “learning how to learn” perspective, all members can become self-directed, expert, lifelong learners.

The school community designs a culture (which includes beliefs, processes, activities, and procedures) that supports expert learning by:

  • setting high expectations for all community members as evidenced by the school’s language, environment, processes, activities, and procedures; and

  • making expert learning a priority, as evidenced by the school’s language, environments, processes, activities, and procedures.


Got a Minute? Expert Learning

UDL Practices of Expert Learners

Element 3: The school community communicates in ways that reflect a commitment to UDL.

Strategically planned and regularly monitored communication helps to unify the school community around the commitment to UDL. It serves to forge strong partnerships among members and provides open channels for reflective feedback to ensure the effective implementation of UDL. Communication should occur in multiple modalities and across multiple platforms.

The school community intentionally designs communications that:

  • have a specific purpose/goal in mind,

  • anticipates variability within the school community,

  • ensures content is accessible, and

  • includes content that builds an understanding of UDL throughout the school community, shares evidence of UDL implementation outcomes, and promotes expert learning throughout the school community.


School Communication

Element 4: The school community designs school spaces to support variability.

School spaces are intentionally designed to respond to the anticipated learning variability of the school community (including cognitive, physical, perceptual, sensory, social, emotional, and cultural variability). Community, classroom, and digital spaces are designed, adopted, or adapted to be accessible, flexible, goal-oriented, and welcoming. Design can include either reducing barriers to existing design constraints where possible or proactively designing newly renovated/adopted physical and digital spaces with the principles of UDL.

With a focus on access, expert learning, inclusion, and equity, the school community intentionally design school spaces (including appropriate district curriculum, technology, and/or physical spaces) that:

  • improve accessibility and ease of use;

  • address the social, emotional, and cultural needs of the school community; and

  • promote expert learning.


Learning Spaces - Different spaces and their purposes

The Space: A Guide for Educators

Research and Reference for School Culture and Environment

Carpenter, D. M. H., Flowers, N., Mertens, S. B., & Mulhall, P. F. (2004). High Expectations for Every Student. Middle School Journal, 35(5), 64–69.

Connor, D. J. (2015). Assembling All the Jigsaw Pieces Together: The Critical Work of Dorothy Lipsky and Alan Gartner’s Inclusion and School Reform. Foundations of Inclusive Education Research 6, 169–185.

Damşa, C., Nerland, M., & Andreadakis, Z. E. (2019). An ecological perspective on learner‐constructed learning spaces. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(5), 2075–2089.

Hinde, E. R. (2004). School culture and change: An examination of the effects of school culture on the process of change. Essays in Education 11.

Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., & Walker, J. M. (2002). Family-school communication. Elementary School Journal, 106(2), 105-130.

Könings, K. D., Seidel, T., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (2014). Participatory design of learning environments: integrating perspectives of students, teachers, and designers. Instructional Science, 42, 1-9. doi:10.1007/s11251-013-9305-2

Louis, K., & Marks, H. (1998). Does Professional Community Affect the Classroom? Teachers' Work and Student Experiences in Restructuring Schools. American Journal of Education, 106(4), 532-575. Retrieved May 22, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1085627

MacNeil, A. J., Prater, D. L., & Busch, S. (2009). The effects of school culture and climate on student achievement. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 12(1), 73–84. doi:10.1080/13603120701576241