Archive for June, 2021

    Equity in Education: How UDL Fosters an Accessible Learning Environment for All

    Jillian Archer (GU ’24), Rebecca Bullied (GU ’21), Caroline Fisher (GU ’21), Daniela Mateo (GU ’23), Megan McCrady (GU ’21), Quynh Pham (GU ’22) June 15, 2021

    Books, world glob and graduation hat

    So, what is UDL?

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that optimizes learning for all individuals based on scientific research into how humans learn. The way people learn is as unique as their fingerprints; curriculums must be designed with the diversity of the classroom in mind. UDL attempts to minimize barriers and maximize the learning of all students. To understand UDL further, let’s break down the three elements of UDL.

    1. The “Universal” component in UDL represents the idea that the curriculum accounts for the vast array of strengths, needs, backgrounds, and interests that students bring to the classroom.
    2. The “Learning” element of UDL recognizes that learning is not unary and that everyone learns differently. UDL emphasizes the three components of learning: recognition, the “what” of learning, skills and strategies, the “how” of learning, and caring and prioritizing, the “why” of learning.
    3. The “design” portion of UDL emphasizes that the curriculum design should accommodate all types of learners.

    Broadly, the aim of UDL is to create goals, methods, materials, and assessments that function for all learners. Teachers employing UDL should first determine what their learning goals are: what do they want their students to know and care about? And then determine how to circumvent the barriers preventing students from achieving these goals using the three principles of UDL (UDL At a Glance, 2010).

    How Does UDL Function in a Classroom?

    UDL operates in a classroom by following three principles:

    1. The first is representation: individuals differ in the ways they perceive and understand content. Some learners may have sensory disabilities, learning disabilities, or cultural and lingual differences. To account for this, information should be presented in multiple different media, such as visual displays, recordings, or a customizable presentation of information (UDL, 2018).
    2. The second principle is engagement. Individuals bring different interests and backgrounds to the classroom; therefore, the ways in which they can be engaged to learn vary markedly. Offering multiple means for engagement will fuel student investment and autonomy, allowing them to grow into successful learners (UDL, 2018).
    3. The final principle is action and expression. Students differ in the ways they can best express information. Individuals who struggle with organizational abilities or students with a movement impairment may need to approach tasks differently to best demonstrate their knowledge (UDL, 2018). Providing multiple options for expression often promotes learning and deeper understanding of the content and encourages students to use different means of action and expression (Lombardi).

    Who is UDL for?

    Simply, UDL is for everyone. The accommodations some students may get in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) could be used for all students as needed. Universally available accommodations may reduce the stigma around accessing them (Understood, 2020). There is no one ‘typical’ student. Offering multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression is an advantage to all students. UDL creates solutions that address limitations in learning environments rather than in individuals, which may increase students’ confidence in their learning abilities. Addressing accommodation and access issues on a universal basis, while still providing for individual student’s needs, will benefit all students in the long-term (Rose et al, 2006).


    Lombardi, P. (n.d.). Ch. 13 Universal Design for Learning. Instructional Methods Strategies and Technologies to Meet the Needs of All Learners. 2/.

    Rose, D. H., Harbour, W. S., Johnston, C. S., Daley, S. G., & Abarbanell, L. (2006). Universal design for learning in postsecondary education: Reflections on principles and their application. Journal of postsecondary education and disability, 19(2), 135-151.

    UDL. (2018, January 12). mp;utm_campaign=none&utm_content=aboutudl.

    Understood. (2020, April 17). The Difference Between Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Traditional Education. Understood.

    YouTube. (2010). UDL At A Glance.

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    Expanding Child Tax Credit

    Annie Foley (GU ’22) June 01, 2021

    While listening to a podcast the other week, I was intrigued to hear about the expansion of child tax credit included in the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill, and the implications that this will have on millions of families living in the US. Put into simpler terms, this expansion essentially provides a guaranteed income for families with children, a proposal that seemed improbable in the US, especially after the government’s former cash assistance program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, was abolished in 1996 (Davies, 2021). Thanks to this new piece of legislation, individuals with an income up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 are eligible to receive $3,000 annually for each child that they have ages 6 to17, and $3,600 for each child under 6 (Leonhardt, 2021). This expanded credit will affect 27 million children, about half of which are Black and Latino, and move 9.9 children above or closer to the poverty line (Trisi & Floyd, 2021). Unlike other forms of government aid that are targeted, the money received by families can be used however they choose. Additionally, as opposed to receiving their benefits annually, families eligible for this tax credit will begin to receive monthly checks as a way of providing more financial stability (DeParle, 2021).

    Passed to relieve the financial toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on many American families, particularly families of color, this expanded child tax credit has only been approved for a single year. While the financial situation of families has definitely worsened, the poverty that affected children before COVID, and will continue to long after, would, no doubt, benefit from the continuation of this credit. The effects that this economic security program will have on reducing the hardships of many children growing up in poverty could prove to have meaningful, long-lasting impacts on their lives. Additionally, aside from the impacts that this aid could have on the lives of children, the continuation of these monthly checks would be a massive stance for the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world, to take on its staggering poverty rate. Only time will tell what the country decides to do in the long run, but it will be promising to see the effects that this expanded credit will have on the lives of children and families this year.


    Davies, D. (2021, April 01). New Guaranteed Income for Families with Children Is 'Stunning,' Poverty Expert Says. Retrieved April 02, 2021, from

    DeParle, J. (2021, March 07). In the Stimulus Bill, a Policy Revolution in Aid for Children. Retrieved April 02, 2021, from

    Leonhardt, M. (2021, March 11). Here's Who Qualifies for the New $3,000 Child Tax Credit. Retrieved April 02, 2021, from Trisi, D., & Floyd, I. (2021, March 01).

    Benefits of Expanding Child Tax Credit Outweigh Small Employment Effects. Retrieved April 02, 2021, from

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