6.3: UDL for EDI

In post-secondary education, challenges related to EDI can result from assumptions related to unconscious bias and lack of recognition of positionality, and how an individual’s multiple identities intersect to form privilege and oppression.

When policies, processes, and instruction are developed without examining these fundamental components of EDI, systemic barriers and inequities can result. An objective of UDL is to reduce or eliminate learning barriers for all learners, so that students can gain knowledge the best way they can and then demonstrate that knowledge the best way they can.

The UDL on Campus (2015) video, Innovations at the Margins [1:07], outlines how UDL has the capacity to support all post-secondary students to become masterful learners who are fully included in all aspects of post-secondary education.

Here are some examples of how UDL can support EDI in our post-secondary context:

Develop Content for Inclusion

Applying UDL starts when you begin to design and develop your content. Designing and developing for inclusion means asking yourself: “Who am I designing for? Who will see themselves in the materials I’ve selected for this course? Who will feel included? Do my teaching materials feature certain groups to the exclusion of other groups?” Here are some UDL tips for designing and developing for inclusion:

  • Create content and select images and videos that show diversity in gender, race, skin colour, body size, abilities and other attributes.
  • Avoid images and descriptions of people and groups that foster stereotypes (e.g., images depicting the concept of a family, poverty, disability)
  • Include content warnings for potentially sensitive or offensive content.

Use Instructional Strategies that Value Diversity

Applying UDL principles to instructional strategies supports diversity by recognizing that there are multiple ways of learning and there are multiple ways of knowing. Here are some UDL tips for teaching that supports diversity:

  • Include captions and transcripts in all media, recognizing that these learning supports are widely used by students with and without disabilities, in a variety of ways.
  • Acknowledge any biases reflected in course content; for example, is the research and scholarship founded on dominant worldviews? Are other ways of knowing recognized, even if they are not taught?
  • Check your assumptions about technological resources (e.g., bandwidth) available to students
  • Provide opportunities for varied learning styles by using mixed-methods evaluations (choice of presentations, research papers, exams, etc. to meet the same learning outcomes, when possible).

Provide Assessments and Feedback that Value Equity

Applying UDL in assessments includes not only developing assessments that are equitable, it also means grading and providing feedback in ways that value equity. The following UDL tips support equity in designing and grading assessments:

    • Consider potential biases and barriers to participation when creating assignment and assessment instructions.
    • When possible, prompt students to consider how their positionality shapes the way they approach the topic under study.
    • When possible, grade anonymously to eliminate the influence of unconscious bias.
    • Use inclusive language when providing feedback on assessments.

For other examples, read this Key Guiding Questions (Doc)(downloads document)

Activity 3: Case Study and Brainstorming

In the case studies presented in this Activity 1 of this module, there are a few indicators of unconscious bias at work – can you spot them? As well, we invite you to consider these questions related to EDI:

  1. What are the essential requirements of the course?
  2. Where is there flexibility in how essential requirements are demonstrated? Is there, for example, an alternative pathway for a learner who has strong written communication skills vs. oral language skills?
  3. What are the potential assumptions that instructors might be making about students? How might these assumptions hinder student success?
  4. What practices can instructors use to disrupt unconscious bias, for example, that contributes to systemic barriers?
  5. How can instructors prompt students to examine their unconscious biases and positionality in relation to the course content?
  6. What campus resources can the instructors turn to for support?
  7. Brainstorm all of the different ways UDL can address the most challenging or most common EDI concerns for teaching and learning in post-secondary environments.

If you are not sure how UDL might support EDI, the content and learning activities from Module 1, 2 and 4 will be useful.

You are invited to brainstorm in the way that works best for you, which may include writing, drawing, creating an audio or video file, mind map or any other method that will allow you to reflect and refer back to your thoughts.

Alternatively, a text-based note-taking space is provided below. Any notes you take here remain entirely confidential and visible only to you. Use this space as you wish to keep track of your thoughts, learning, and activity responses. Download a text copy of your notes before moving on to the next page of the module to ensure you don’t lose any of your work!


UDL on Campus. (2015, Oct 6). Innovation at the Margins [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/4yUYQgcWGGA